Alumni Shorts

Digitizing Arlington

Bill Hume

Bill Hume '92

"To map out a course of action and follow it to an end," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs."

From the looks of it, Air Force veteran Bill Hume (architecture '92), founder and president of Roanoke, Va.-based Interactive Design Group (IDG), has that courage and then some.

When Hume learned of plans to automate Arlington National Cemetery's records, he figured that IDG, which specializes in technology integration, database development, architectural design and development, and 3-D computer modeling and animation, could create a virtual tour of the cemetery. "The automation plan was in its infancy," Hume says, "which allowed us to capitalize on this effort." They capitalized so well that Hume and company were one of the primary contractors on a recently completed pilot project for the cemetery.

The project first called for a Geographic Information System (GIS), an electronic, interactive map to show the exact location of some 243,000 gravesites, 39,000 columbarium niches, 8,000 trees, various underground utilities, and just about everything else on the 600-acre property. IDG, along with its GIS partner, The Timmons Group, successfully furnished the pilot, providing a vision of how the system could integrate technology into the cemetery's day-to-day operations, including facility maintenance, customer service, and Web presence.

To replace the cemetery's paper trail, IDG also assisted in the development of a system that could scan burial records and grave cards--which include such information as location, depth, and number of persons in each grave, where up to five family members can be interred. If the system is approved, "this project will integrate more than 600,000 paper documents--potentially including photographs of each headstone and columbarium niche--and will then place this information into a database for an account of all individuals buried at the cemetery, as well as an actual number, which is presently unavailable," Hume explains.

Now that's mapping out a course of action--into the digital age.

For more information about IDG, go to To visit Arlington National Cemetery online, go to

Triathlon honors "angels"

When 15-year-old Brittany Groover was killed in a car accident in late 2002, her father, Tim Groover (civil engineering '79, M.S. '80), sought the comfort of family and friends.

Particularly significant was a gathering with family members Geb and David Broman and family friend Mick Gunter, whose mother, Karla Bolen, had also died in a car accident. "Geb, David, and Mick were talking about how devastating Brittany's loss was," explains Groover. "Compounding this was Mick's realization that he had never felt a sense of healing after his mother's death. The three of them realized that there must be lots of people feeling similar pain and they wondered what they could do to help our small group heal, as well as give others an opportunity to honor their lost loved ones."

The result was the Angels Race Triathlon, an annual event since 2003 in Lynchburg, Va., and now in Winston-Salem, N.C., Gunter's hometown.

Angels Race Triathlon

Tim Groover '79 (far left) with the race's
organizers in Lynchburg, Va.

Each race is dedicated to honoring the memory of participants' family and friends, along with raising money for the Angels Foundation, which supports programs that encourage students, teachers, and organizations to be a positive force in children's lives.

The foundation's primary beneficiaries are the Brittany Groover Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Karla Bolen Memorial Fund, both of which promote educational opportunities. The Groover Fund provides financial support to church- and community-based youth camps and conferences and to selected graduating seniors from Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, Va., where Brittany was a sophomore at the time of her death. The Bolen Fund awards grants to teachers to recognize excellence in the classroom and to enrich the existing curriculum.

Although the race organizers decided on a triathlon because of their own athletic pursuits, they didn't plan on the event becoming a fundraiser. "The raising of money was far down the list when the race was first conceived," says Groover. "If it broke even but had the right 'feel,' we'd keep doing it. If it raised tons of money but started to feel like just another race, we’d stop immediately."

From the start, the Angels Race has undeniably had the right feel. In its inaugural year, it attracted some 100 participants and broke even. This year, the Lynchburg race in April drew nearly 400 participants and raised $7,500 for each fund and $2,000 for the YMCA.

For more information about the race or to make a donation to the foundation, go to

Horticulturist climbs to the top

Bob Haines

master arborist
Bob Haines '77

Bob Haines (horticulture '77) spends many a day up a tree--and as a master arborist, he's very near the top.

Last summer, Haines was invited to take the exam to become one of fewer than 50 board-certified master arborists, the latest designation offered by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the industry's highest.

Besides the new title and the professional recognition, Haines admits that the certification hasn't brought much immediate change. He hopes, however, that the master arborist designation will eventually be used as other certifications commonly are--as a requirement for professional jobs and contracts and as a standard measurement of knowledge in the field.

Involved in the ISA's activities for many years, Haines was one of the first members of the Midwestern chapter to become a certified arborist, which ultimately standardized qualifications for arborists. "Today, there are more than 17,000 certified arborists and this designation is written in many contracts, job descriptions, and recommendations," notes Haines, who directs the Midwestern chapter and previously served as its president.

Forest the FoxFor the record, a certified master arborist does a bit more than just play around in the woods. The city forester of Overland Park, Kan., for 15 years, Haines is the go-to man for citizens' tree concerns, including removal and pruning, and he supervises the city's forestry staff in planting and caring for trees on public property, as well as consults and trains other departments and agencies.

And Haines' work branches out, too. The master arborist works with Overland Park's Legacy of Greenery Committee, a volunteer group that promotes environmental awareness of trees and plants. The committee has helped Overland Park win the National Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA for the past 26 years and earn the Tree City USA Growth Award for the past 14 years.

In 1997, Haines also participated in creating a mascot--Forest the Fox (pictured at right)--to encourage children's involvement in and awareness of tree-related activities and values. "Forest has a story and a song, distributes trading cards with tree tips on the back, and makes appearances at various city activities. He has become pretty popular around here," says Haines.

To learn more about the ISA, go to

The best-laid plans

The Coiners

Stuart '74 and Marsha '74 Coiner
and their daughters

At a time when many baby boomers have begun contemplating retirement, Stuart Coiner (electrical engineering '74) and Marsha Coiner (biochemistry '74), along with their teenage daughters, Melanie and Lisa, packed up for Africa to pursue new work--teaching Ugandan children essential life skills.

Becoming missionaries wasn't exactly what the Coiners had planned. For starters, both had long-standing careers in the states. Stuart had spent much of his professional life in the automotive manufacturing industry. Marsha was a research chemist with AlliedSignal and had received at least one patent for her work. "I didn't particularly have a missionary's heart," Stuart notes, "and Africa was the last place in the world that I wanted to live. But dissatisfaction in your life can often spur you on to change."

And change they did. For the past five years, the Coiners have worked with the Rafiki Corporation, a San Antonio-based nonprofit organization that builds model training villages in African countries severely impacted by AIDS. Stuart is the building manager and Marsha the assistant center director of the Rafiki village in Kampala, Uganda's capital.

In the village, the Coiners run an orphanage and a girls training center and, with other missionaries, take in local orphans up to six years old. These children, welcomed into the Rafiki family for life, are given a competitive education and take the same examinations that qualify all Ugandan students for government scholarships and higher education placement. In July, Stuart reported that the Kampala orphanage, which has room for 180 children, had taken in its 31st child. "The growth continues, slowly but surely," Stuart says, "and we remain amazed at the dreams of Rafiki, which include impacting as many as 40,000 children at a time in Africa."

The girls training center provides opportunities for teenage girls, often whose only hope is laboring in the fields or entering into a relationship with an older man. Girls who live within walking distance of the Rafiki center can interview to participate in its three-year program that teaches essential skills, including English and personal hygiene. One special class teaches the girls how to weave in order to make items that are sold to help offset the cost of schooling, uniforms, and meals.

"I can honestly say that these past five years have been the best, most fulfilling years in my life," Stuart says. "We truly believe we were 'called' to be here."

For more information about the Rafiki Foundation, go to

Alumnus receives national award

Aaron Barr

Aaron Barr '05

In recognition of his outstanding volunteer service and leadership while at Virginia Tech, Aaron Barr (engineering science and mechanics '05) received the 2005 Spirit of Service Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which sponsors such programs as Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.

Tech's 2005 Man of the Year, Barr established several campus recycling and clean-up programs and founded the 800-member Environmental Coalition, as well as the Advisory Council for Environmental Sustainability, which seeks to make Tech a stronger environmental steward. Barr also worked with Scottie's Place, a West Virginia therapeutic wilderness camp for homeless children and their families, where he and fellow engineering students built a renewable energy system for the camp.

"Aaron Barr has gone above and beyond the call to serve his community and nation," said David Eisner, CEO of the corporation. "Not only does he give his own time and talents, but he inspires others in the community to volunteer and give of themselves."

General "graduates" from high school

Gen. Thomas Richards

Thomas Richards '56

It's in the books. After more than half a century, four-star Gen. Thomas C. Richards (business administration '56), a former commandant of the Air Force Academy, deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, and head of the Federal Aviation Administration, has officially received his high school diploma.

Richards--who dropped out of school in 1947 to join the Army and completed his General Educational Development equivalency while recovering from combat wounds--was presented his sheepskin from Hampton High School, Va., in June. Arranged by Maj. Gen. Tommy Thompson (agricultural and applied economics '56), the diploma presentation was held at Hampton City Hall in conjunction with a ceremony dedicating a new Korean War memorial.

The diploma genuinely moved Richards, who recalls going to see his high school principal after he'd been accepted to Tech. "I said it would be great to have my high school diploma. His reply was 'Get the hell out of here.' That was a pivotal event in my life, and I've never looked back."

Richards is Virginia Tech's highest ranked alumnus.