Virginia Tech has named five members of its Class of 1969 who have been crucial to the success and transformation of the university during the past five decades as Alumni Distinguished Service Award recipients for 2019.

The awards, which recognize alumni for contributions to Virginia Tech, are going to Frank Beamer, Joe Meredith, Raymond Smoot, Charles Steger, and Tom Tillar. The awards are presented at University Commencement each year.

Frank Beamer
Frank Beamer

A first-ballot selection to the College Football Hall of Fame, Frank Beamer became the head coach at his alma mater in 1987 and went on to coach a school-record 238 wins in 29 seasons (1987-2015). The term "Beamer Ball" became synonymous with Virginia Tech's innovative approach on special teams as the Hokies rose to national prominence.

Beamer began his 35-year head coaching career at Murray State in 1981, coaching there through 1986. At Virginia Tech, his Hokies posted five top-10 finishes and became one of only six programs in college football history to go to a bowl game in at least 20-straight seasons. Beamer's Hokies were also one of just four teams in Division I history to produce 10 wins in eight or more consecutive seasons.

A five-time conference Coach of the Year, Beamer won three Big East titles and added four ACC titles in five conference championship game appearances. Overall, he coached 16 first-team All-Americans and two NFF National Scholar-Athletes. Arguably, his best season came in 1999, when he earned consensus National Coach of the Year honors after leading Virginia Tech to an appearance in the BCS National Championship.

Beamer's contributions went far beyond the football field. He has long embraced the university's spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and was named the 2018 recipient of the Paul "Bear" Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the game and his commitment to education and preparing student-athletes to be leaders in their communities.

Joe Meredith
Joe Meredith

Joe W. Meredith has been the president and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC) — which houses 180 high-tech companies and research centers that employ more than 3,000 people — since 1993. In 2010, the CRC was named Most Outstanding Research/Science Park in the United States and was named to Southern Business & Development magazine’s 2016 Best University Research Parks in the South.

In addition to managing the operation of the center, Meredith facilitates technology transfer from the university, increases the level of sponsored research at Virginia Tech, and markets the CRC to prospective tenants. Two subsidiaries of the CRC, VT KnowledgeWorks LLC and Tech Center LLC, report to Meredith.

Meredith holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech; a master’s degree in aeronautics, astronautics, and engineering science from Purdue University; and a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Tech.

Meredith is on the Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. Board of Directors, Lewis Gale Montgomery Regional Hospital Board of Trustees, and Virginia Tech Applied Research Corp. Board of Directors. He is a member of the Montgomery County Economic Development Commission, Valleys Innovation Council Board, and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Hall of Fame.

Meredith has received leadership or business awards from the Blacksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. He is a member of the College of Engineering’s Academy of Excellence, the Industrial and Systems Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni, and the Academy of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Excellence.

Ray Smoot
Ray Smoot

From the time of his arrival as an undergraduate in 1965 to his retirement as chief executive officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation in 2012, Raymond Smoot fully devoted his administrative acumen and passion for higher education to Virginia Tech. During the nearly five decades he spent with Virginia Tech, Smoot served in several vice presidential roles managing the university’s real estate, facilities, buildings and infrastructure development, administrative operations, investments and endowment, and a stint as interim athletic director.

Smoot simultaneously served as chief administrative officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation. When he first became administrator in 1977, the endowment stood at $4 million and total Foundation assets were $11 million. When he retired in 2012 the Foundation was a diverse enterprise with an endowment of nearly $600 million and assets valued at more than $1.21 billion.

Along the way, Smoot’s vision led to the creation and development of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, the acquisition and redevelopment of Hotel Roanoke, and the development of permanent facilities for the university’s growing presence  in Northern Virginia in Alexandria, Falls Church, and Arlington. Smoot’s dual roles at the Foundation and as a member of executive committee of the board of Carilion Clinic assisted with the advancement of the partnership which led to the Virginia Tech Carilion School and Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. Throughout his career he worked to establish expanding relationships between Virginia Tech and the Roanoke and New River Valleys.

Following retirement from Virginia Tech, Smoot continues to serve the university and Commonwealth in education, business, and community roles as Chairman of Union Bank, chair of the Go Virginia Regional Council, and a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Along the way, Smoot’s vision helped lead to the creation of the European Studies Center, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, as well as the reopening of the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. Smoot’s dual roles at the foundation and as a board member at Carilion Clinic also put him in position to help in the partnership that led to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

Even in retirement, Smoot continues to serve the university and the region in education, business, and community roles.

Charles W. Steger
Charles W. Steger

The late Charles W. Steger devoted most of his career to Virginia Tech, rising to become the university’s 15th president (2000-14) during a period of unprecedented and historic growth into one of the nation’s leading research universities. He also led the institution through drastic reductions in state funding for public higher education and the unimaginable tragedy of April 16, 2007.

During Steger’s presidential tenure, Virginia Tech grew in enrollment from 28,000 to 31,000, increased graduate enrollment by 12 percent, raised more than $1 billion in private funding, formed a school of biomedical engineering, created a public-private school of medicine, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, and constructed the Moss Arts Center and the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington.

To enable Virginia Tech to react quickly to emerging intellectual trends, Steger embraced a business model that invested in seven large, centralized research institutes. The university built 40 major buildings under Steger, adding more space during his tenure than that of any other president in the university’s history. Steger also championed the arts while investing in the liberal arts and arts programming.

Steger earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. at Tech, and at the age of 33 took over as dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. There, he pushed the university to establish its first overseas campus, in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, now named the Steger Center for International Scholarship.

In addition to serving as a faculty member and a college dean, Steger was acting vice president for public service and then vice president for development and university relations before becoming president. He died in May 2018.

Tom Tillar
Tom Tillar

Tom Tillar began his Virginia Tech career in 1971 in what is now the Division of Student Affairs. In 1975, he joined the Virginia Tech Alumni Association staff. He held several positions in alumni and development, including director of alumni chapter programs, director of corporate and foundation support, director of alumni annual giving, and director of alumni relations, before being appointed vice president for alumni relations in 1995.

While leading the university’s alumni engagement initiatives, Tillar established staffing for college and constituency programs and incorporated student-class-officer leadership into alumni relations. The number of active alumni chapters nearly doubled between the start of Tillar’s Virginia Tech career and when he announced he was stepping down as vice president in mid-2015, and the number of living alumni expanded from 40,000 to 240,000.

Tillar also helped plan, design, and raise funds for the Holtzman Alumni Center, and in 2007, at the request of then President Charles Steger, formed and chaired the committee that oversaw creation of the April 16 Memorial on the Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall.

In 2015, President Tim Sands called on Tillar to serve as interim senior vice president for advancement during a reorganization that combined the Office of Development, University Relations, and Alumni Relations into a single Division of Advancement. Tillar is now special assistant to Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast and is involved with planning and preparation for the Global Business and Analytics Complex.

Tillar’s exceptional dedication to higher education advancement was recognized in 2017 with the Frank L. Ashmore Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Tillar is also the Ring Namesake for the Class of 2019.

Written by Richard Lovegrove