Virginia Tech Magazine
Alumni Association News
Fall 2008

Holtzman Alumni Center

Tribute to a giant among Hokies: William E. Skelton '40 (1919-2008)

The late William E. Skelton '40 and his wife, Margaret Groseclose Skelton
The late William E. Skelton and his wife, Margaret Groseclose Skelton

One can say about the late William E. Skelton (agricultural economics '40) that his life was blessed with good health and a commitment to extraordinary service as embodied in the university's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). His life touched those of millions -- yes, millions -- of people around the world. Skelton's career spanned 39 years of providing leadership to Extension programs. When he retired in 1979, he was named dean emeritus, although his "retirement" years were anything but. For nearly 30 years, he continued to serve the university, the projects, and the programs he loved so dearly with compassion and energy. Skelton was 89 when he passed away in August.

A few have said with a smile that Skelton was "building Virginia Tech" even in his student years. Having entered college in the post-Depression era, he helped pay for his education working several student wage jobs, including construction labor on one of Tech's new buildings. After graduation, he worked as a Cooperative Extension agent before earning his doctorate from Cornell University. Skelton then joined the university's faculty and eventually served as dean of Extension, his creativity and service-oriented values guiding and shaping the future of Tech's outreach efforts through Extension and 4-H programs for youth.

William E. Skelton meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
William E. Skelton meeting with
President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Skelton showed his love and loyalty for his alma mater by serving as a volunteer fundraiser, reunion organizer, leadership board member, and campaign chair. His vision for 4-H centers around the state led to the establishment of many state-of-the-art youth and training centers. His leadership as chair of the alumni and conference center campaign helped secure the resources to build a magnificent complex unmatched by any other in the nation. This was truly the most important initiative in the 130-year history of the Alumni Association, and it is appropriate that the conference center bears the Skelton name.

Equally impressive was his service to Rotary International, serving as its international president from 1983-84, and visiting more than 100 nations and speaking with world leaders. Rotary Foundation programs also support higher education with scholarships and fellowships, including those for international students at Virginia Tech. Skelton's passion for each organization he served undoubtedly will continue to be complemented by that of his wife and partner in service, Margaret Groseclose Skelton, an honorary alumna of Tech.

In July, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the nation's leading advancement society, presented Skelton with the 2008 Ernest T. Stewart Award for Alumni Volunteer Involvement, the highest honor given by the organization to an alumnus volunteer. At the award ceremony, John Skelton (general business '71) and Jean Skelton Montague (English '69) emphasized that with their father, "it has always been about helping others rather than about material things or about himself.... The real significance of this award for him is the recognition it brings to Virginia Tech."

The Alumni Association honors this giant among Hokies for his 70 years of unparalleled service to his alma mater.

also in this issue ...

. Summer Around the Drillfield

. Virginia Tech's legendary leadership team

. 2008 university and Alumni Association awards

. VTAA events

. Virginia Tech Alumni Association chapter awards

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