Virginia Tech Magazine
Philanthropy -|- Fall 2006

A Hokie family tradition
by Alexandria Marder and Amy Boyce M.A. '97

Before Bill Grossmann (aeronautical engineering '58; M.S. '61; Ph.D. '64) arrived at Virginia Tech as a first-year student in 1954, the nation witnessed an important moment in history when the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education. That decision was soon to have a direct impact on Grossmann's life: When he reached campus, he learned that he would have to make space in his dorm room for a fellow student to store his corps gear. That student was Charlie Yates (mechanical engineering '58), Virginia Tech's first black graduate, who needed the space because he was not allowed to live on campus. The friendship that the two students developed became an invaluable part of Grossmann's Virginia Tech education.

One of five Grossmann men to attend the university, Bill followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle, and in turn was followed by his brothers Bob Leigh (biology '60) and Jim (business '63). Natives of Petersburg, Va., the three brothers were competitive swimmers in high school and later swam for Virginia Tech, with Bill leading the team to its only conference swimming championship in 1957. Bill and Bob Leigh Grossmann are currently the only brothers to have been elected into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. And there is a third-generation Grossmann alum: Bob's daughter, Dietlind (English '93).

The Grossmann brothersThe Grossmann brothers:
Bill '58, '61, '64; Bob Leigh '60; and Jim '63.
Although the three brothers always were and have remained close, they went their separate ways at Virginia Tech and afterward.

After earning his degrees in aeronautical engineering, Bill went on to work at the NASA Langley Research Center and then New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences as a research professor. He later became vice president and chief scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and today serves as SAIC's director for business development for Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and lives in Heidelberg, Germany.

Bob Leigh went on to graduate from the Medical College of Virginia's dental and orthodontic schools and, though he is now retired, had a successful career as an orthodontist. He was board-certified in orthodontics and was a member of the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Orthodontics, an honor few orthodontists can claim.

Post-Tech, Jim served as an officer with the First Infantry Division in Vietnam. His military experiences in Asia inspired him to earn his M.B.A. from the Thunderbird School of International Business in Phoenix, Ariz., which he followed with a successful career in international development and business. Jim has served on several boards of international organizations and companies, one of which he helped take public on Nasdaq. He also serves on the board of the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, one of the leading organizations focusing on cancer prevention and education.

While each brother chose a different path, they all agree on the importance of giving back to their shared alma mater. Perhaps it is not surprising that their philanthropic giving has been as varied as their academic interests.

Jim, for example, gives to further the causes he feels passionately about, such as education. His professional experiences worldwide showed him firsthand just how important it is for Virginia Tech graduates to understand the global economy. As a result, he has created an endowment so that the Pamplin College of Business can grow its programs in international business. "Knowing how to work in a multicultural environment is important and I like Virginia Tech's international focus," says Jim. "I wish it had been that way when I was a student."

For Bob Leigh, competitive swimming was the inspiration for his support of Virginia Tech. "Competitive swimming made an impression on me," he says. "It taught me discipline and perseverance and it taught me to appreciate victories and survive defeat." This experience led Bob Leigh to create a scholarship for today's student swimmers to provide them with the same wonderful opportunities that he had at Virginia Tech.

Having supported the Department of Ocean and Aerospace Engineering for many years, Bill most recently made a gift based on his friendship with Yates. "I learned what it was like growing up for Charlie and we became friends even though we had different backgrounds," Bill recalls. Their friendship inspired Bill to endow a scholarship in Yates's name. Although it is not a race-based scholarship, Bill hopes that it will honor the historic contribution Yates made to Virginia Tech. The first student to be awarded the Charlie L. Yates Scholarship for Leaders in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering will be announced soon.

All three brothers are pleased with what they see at the modern Virginia Tech. "It's obviously bigger and the physical infrastructure is impressive. Tech's ranked business school and international focus are impressive. We've come a long way," observes Jim.

Bill says he is impressed with Virginia Tech's faculty and would like to see the university's engineering school ranked in the top 10 in the nation. He thinks Virginia Tech should be at the same level as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Berkley, Princeton University, and others.

All three brothers would like to see Virginia Tech continue to grow and improve, and they are optimistic about the future. As Jim says, "We're moving in the right direction."

Amy Boyce is publications editor and Alexandria Marder is special projects editor for the Office of University Development.

Her tribute touches the future
by Judith Davis

Corps of Cadets
Cadets today learn the same values
as did Dal Simmons '34.
Corps of Cadets
Today, more than 70 years after Dal's graduation,
the scholarship that honors him helps to train tomorrow's leaders.
Dal Simmons (chemical engineering '34) will be remembered at Virginia Tech in perpetuity because he met a girl named Jane.

Leon Dalmain "Dal" Simmons of Richmond--who also met President Franklin D. Roosevelt and received the General Pershing Medal from the great John J. "Black Jack" Pershing himself--was a varsity football player, an honor student, class president, and president of the V.P.I. Corps of Cadets. And Simmons's leadership clearly had an impact: he was voted "best senior officer," "most popular," and "most likely to succeed."

Dal's list of successes included winning the heart of fellow Richmonder Jane Farinholt, who later extended his impact into the next century and beyond when she endowed the Leon Dalmain Simmons Memorial Corps of Cadets Scholarship "in loving memory" of her husband.

During Dal's career with duPont, the couple relocated often but maintained contact with Dal's alma mater and with classmates. The Simmonses had no children and, although she was not a Virginia Tech alumna, Jane said she considered Virginia Tech to be her family.

Following Dal's death in 1990, Jane established the Simmons scholarship with a gift through her trust. She continued to make additions to the fund during her lifetime, and when she died in 2005, Jane’s $500,000 bequest further assured a generous annual endowment income that awards Simmons Scholarships through the Emerging Leader Scholarship program.

Today, more than 70 years after Dal's graduation, the scholarship that honors him helps to train tomorrow's leaders. And because it is endowed, the scholarship will continue to assist generations of Virginia Tech cadets, accomplishing Jane's goal of forever honoring her husband's memory by supporting the university and the corps he loved. This fall, the Simmons Memorial Scholarship is assisting 20 new cadets, or 8.9 percent of the corps' 224 freshmen.

Previous Simmons Scholarship recipients include last year's regimental commanders: Cadet Col. Christina Royal (sociology '06), recognized as Virginia Tech's Outstanding Student Leader of the Year, and Cadet Col. Phillip Schupp (political science '06), leader of the Ranger Challenge Team invited to participate at Sandhurst's international military skills competition. Both alumni are now on active duty, Royal with the Air Force and Schupp with the Army.

Cadet Regimental Sgt. Maj. Rob Mason (electrical engineering '08) also earned a Simmons scholarship, which he calls "an investment in another 'great generation.'"

"I am honored and humbled," says Simmons Scholarship recipient Cadet Color Sergeant Krista Beernink (chemistry '08).

Corps Alumni Relations Director Col. Rock Roszak (business management '71) agrees. "[Our donors'] generosity in funding the Emerging Leader Scholarship program is the primary reason our corps of cadets is healthy today." He hopes that the continued creation of new scholarships will offset the rising cost of education and guarantee the same opportunities to future generations.

Jane Simmons would be gratified to know that her legacy serves as a fitting tribute to her husband by strengthening the university and helping the corps train more leaders.

Dal Simmons, described by classmate and author Harry Temple (industrial engineering '34) as "one of the most modest men on campus," couldn't have said it better.

To learn how you can use an estate gift to endow a memorial scholarship or provide other charitable support to Virginia Tech, call the Office of Gift Planning at 800.533.1144 or e-mail Sample bequest language for a will or trust gift can be found at

Judith Davis is publications editor for the Office of Gift Planning.

Virginia Tech