• Spring 2014

    Volume 36, Number 3

    Virginia Tech Magazine, spring 2014

  • From enrollment and rankings to research funding and endowment market value, Virginia Tech may well look to Purdue University for inspiration. Not coincidentally, Tech has tapped Purdue Provost Timothy D. Sands to become its 16th president.

  • Press conference, Dec. 6, 2013

    View the press conference in its entirety [34:40] »

    From the heart

    For someone so new to campus, Timothy Sands was remarkably in tune with Virginia Tech when he was introduced at a press conference—so much so, in fact, that he spoke eloquently with only the briefest of outlines.

    When Sands stepped up to the podium at the Dec. 6 press conference, he pulled out a napkin onto which he'd scribbled his notes. Cliché, right? He thought so. Still, his impressions of Virginia Tech were spot on.

    napkin used by Timothy D. Sands

    "I had quite a bit of time over a couple of months before Dec. 6 to get to know the institution, so [the speech] really was from the heart. I didn't feel like I had to do a lot of preparation. What happened is I had jotted out some notes. It might've been a page of notes. Right before we left [for the press conference's room], I had 10 or 15 minutes by myself, and I thought, 'You know, I don't want to take a big piece of paper up on the podium.' The closest thing to me was a napkin. I thought, 'Well, this is kind of ridiculous; that's cliché.' But I just grabbed it, and wrote a few things down. I don't remember if I looked at it."

    "That was how I used to study when I was a student. I would write detailed notes, and then I would condense them and condense them and eventually I would have three words on a page or three lines—and then I wouldn't use it."

    "When I've been in a role like this before, starting an administrative position with a new organization, it's taken a while to get the pulse of the organization. The thing that was different this time was that I felt so connected to the institution. Even without having spent time on campus, I just felt like I knew what it was to be a Hokie, based on all the interactions I'd had with the search committee and what I'd read, so it was a natural process of saying what I thought was important."

    Virginia Tech Magazine's full recap of the press conference »
  • Timothy Sands


    B.S., highest honors, in engineering physics, University of California, Berkeley


    M.S. in materials science, University of California, Berkeley


    1984: Ph.D. in materials science, University of California, Berkeley


    Industry fellow and postdoctoral fellow, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory


    Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), Red Bank, N.J.: director, Nonvolatile Memory Research Group, 1992-93; director, Thin Films and Interface Science Research Group, 1990-91; member of technical staff, 1984-90


    Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley


    Chair, executive committee, Applied Science and Technology Graduate Group, University of California, Berkeley


    Director, Integrated Materials Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

    2002 to present

    Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering in the School of Materials Engineering and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University

    Timothy Sands at Purdue

    Sands, with Purdue University's Engineering Fountain in the background; photo by Mark Simons, Purdue University


    Director, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University


    Fellow of the Materials Research Society


    Fellow of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers


    Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    July 2012-January 2013

    Acting president, Purdue University

    2010 to present

    Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Purdue University

    Chaired or co-chaired

    the advisory committees for 25 Ph.D. students (with two more in progress) and 22 master’s degree students


    more than 250 papers and granted 16 patents in the areas of metal/semiconductor contacts, heteroepitaxy, thermoelectric materials, ferroelectric and piezoelectric materials and devices, semiconductor nanostructures, laser processing, and heterogeneous integration

  • Sands' favorite invention

    Timothy Sands

    Working with a colleague and student at Berkeley, Sands developed a process to use powerful excimer lasers to separate thin films of a material called gallium nitride from a sapphire substrate, and the process turned out to be a key step in making white LEDs, or solid-state lighting. "The reason I like that one was even though I had bigger contributions on the scientific side, I was able to go out and buy a TV that had a piece in it that I helped make. As an engineer, that's the ultimate—to feel like you had an impact on a lot of people, even if they don't know it."
  • Laura Sands

    Laura Sands at Purdue

    Laura Sands in Purdue's student union

    • Katherine Birck Professor of Nursing and director of research, School of Nursing, Purdue University

    • Fellow, Gerontological Society of America

    • B.A. psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 1981

    • M.A. biostatistics, University of California, Berkeley, 1985

    • Ph.D. quantitative psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 1986

    A collector of stories

    Laura Sands' lifelong dedication to optimizing the health and wellbeing of older adults has roots in her family's Sunday suppers in a little California town called Healdsburg.

    Her aunt Hazel lived there, and Sands remembers her for her stories. So too with another aunt in Oakland and her grandmother. All were fascinating, progressive women who told "tremendous stories that really intrigued me," Sands said. "I haven't stopped listening."

    Born in Salem, Ore., Sands was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., about 60 miles north of San Francisco. When selecting her dissertation topic at the University of California, Berkeley, she was interested in how health affects older adults' cognitive functioning. She was able to study a unique data set in which people were interviewed throughout their lives. "I could understand how their health at age 40 affected their cognitive functioning at age 64," she said.

    Sands' work continues today, and she'll bring two National Institutes of Health grants to Virginia Tech. One looks at the post-operative outcome of delirium, an acute state of confusion in surgical patients age 65 and older that leads to longer hospital stays, declines in functioning, and a higher risk of nursing home placement.

    Sands' latest set of papers examines self-reported unmet needs, which are prognostic of future healthcare needs, hospitalization, and onset of mortality. "An ounce of prevention is like a pound of cure because we find that these people with unmet needs have very expensive outcomes," she said.

    Walking around the Purdue campus, Sands delighted in telling stories about the campus, its buildings, and its history. In a library, she described the concept of active-learning centers—and demonstrated her quick wit while passing a student who sat upright in a lounge chair and slept soundly in the early afternoon. "Sleeping is a very important part of the study process—renews the brain, allows for more-efficient learning," Sands said, without skipping a beat.

    At Virginia Tech, Sands will have a half-time appointment as a researcher in the Center for Gerontology. Because her schedule as first lady will likely discourage a regular classroom commitment, she plans to lecture when needed and mentor students in an informal teaching role.

    In her role as first lady, Sands looks forward to hearing campus lore. "I want to hear people's stories about Virginia Tech. It goes back to why I was interested in gerontology. I want to hear stories because that helps me understand how we promote the [university] at large."
  • The Sands children

    Amanda, 28, is finishing her dissertation in nutritional epidemiology at Harvard's School of Public Health. Her undergraduate degree from Purdue is in nutrition science.

    KC, 25, graduated from Purdue's School of Management. He is now working for Goldman Sachs and taking M.B.A. classes at the University of Chicago.

    Kathryn, 23, earned her nutrition science degree from Purdue and will soon finish the accelerated nursing program to earn her second bachelor's degree.

    Haley, 20, is a junior at Purdue, studying political science with minors in psychology and forensics.


    Spring 2014

    Training Ground: The education of Timothy D. Sands, Virginia Tech's next president

    Flight Formation: Virginia Tech experts send drones skyward

    High-Tech Harvest: Helping eastern U.S. wineries find their niche

    Mining for Neutrinos

    Danielle Talamantes: Debuting on one of opera's biggest stages

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    Training Ground

    The education of Timothy D. Sands, Virginia Tech's next president

    by Jesse Tuel

    Timothy D. Sands

    Timothy D. Sands in the Torgersen Bridge; photo by Jim Stroup

    From within an expansive mural entitled "The Spirit of the LandGrant College," Abraham Lincoln presides over the stream of students who pass through Purdue University's Stewart Center.

    In Lincoln's hands is a document whose significance anchors the expansive piece: the Morrill Land-Grant Act. The mural's scenes tell the story of the establishment of land-grant colleges and the impact of higher education on American society.

    Like Virginia Tech, Purdue University evolved as the premier land-grant institution in its state, historically specializing in disciplines such as engineering. The parallels between the peer institutions are many, and in many instances—from enrollment and rankings to research funding and endowment market value—Virginia Tech may well want to look to Purdue's lofty numbers for inspiration and motivation.

    Ask around at Purdue, and you'll begin to uncover those parallels. Ask around some more, and you'll begin to understand why Purdue Provost Timothy D. Sands, after a dozen years at an ideal training ground, was tapped to become the 16th president of Virginia Tech.

    "When [Tim] told me he was looking at Virginia Tech, I thought, 'Well, that's a great fit,'" said Vic Lechtenberg, special assistant to the Purdue president and former vice provost for engagement, whom Sands regards as a mentor and credits with instilling in him the values of a land-grant institution. "It's an institution that's a lot like Purdue."

    As the presidential search unfolded in Blacksburg, the search committee and Virginia Tech Board of Visitors (BOV) felt the same. "Dr. Sands impressed many from the start and garnered even more support after our personal interviews," said Mike Quillen (civil engineering '70, M.S. '71), BOV rector, in a statement released at the Dec. 6 press conference announcing the selection. "He has stellar academic credentials and administrative experience from some of the nation's outstanding land-grant and public research universities. We were particularly impressed with Tim's sense of the modern research university's role in advancing American society and its economy."

    Land-grant mural at Purdue University

    A portion of a land-grant mural at Purdue University depicts a figure, representing education, leading society into the future.

    The transition

    On an unseasonably warm mid-March day, in West Lafayette, Ind., Laura Sands paused in front of the academic building where her husband spent his early years on Purdue's campus. Gesturing toward the Engineering Fountain, a 38-foot monument in front of Hovde Hall, the main administration building, she explained that Purdue students run through the fountain before graduation.

    From his office window in Hovde Hall, Timothy Sands—who will become the third consecutive Purdue provost to "graduate" into a university presidency—has an iconic view of the fountain and the Engineering Mall, a view that will soon be replaced by Burruss Hall windows framing the Drillfield. The transition is now in full swing. In mid-March, the incoming president had recently returned from Virginia Tech's National Capitol Region on his third orientation visit (a total of seven or eight are planned before he takes office on June 1).

    The Sandses' first orientation visit was in late January. They thought they had flown away from Indiana's brutal winter, only to spend their first day in a Blacksburg snow storm. In a jam-packed, five-day schedule, Timothy Sands was shuttled across campus for briefings that ranged from information-technology initiatives and research computing to development efforts and enrollment management. Meanwhile, Laura Sands, the Katherine Birck Professor of Nursing at Purdue, met with faculty members in Virginia Tech's Department of Human Development, of which she'll be a part, and interacted with a number of others.

    Timothy Sands said the orientation sessions were more about getting to know the people and the issues than remembering specific facts. By the time he takes office, Sands expects to have an understanding of where Virginia Tech wishes to go. And the sessions, spaced out over the weeks and month, allow the Sandses time to digest an onslaught of new information.

    Amid the beginning of a new chapter at Virginia Tech, the end of Sands' time at Purdue coincides with the usual hectic schedule for the provost: a busy spring semester, 25 direct reports, a speaking engagement per day, a search for a new provost—and packing. "I'm starting to be panicked about packing. Have I started? No, I haven't," Sands said with a laugh as he looked around his office.

    Two office mementos are certainly on his packing list: pictures of his grandfather, a researcher at International Nickel. One depicts him looking into a metallurgical furnace, and the other shows him in front of his lab. "It's the 1915 or 1920 version of what I do today," said Sands, who applies physical metallurgy principles to research in electronic materials. "Looking back on that history is something I like to do."

    The Californians

    Born in San Francisco, Sands grew up in East Bay and Hayward, Calif., nestled between San Jose and Oakland. His parents still live in the same house, and his younger siblings—a brother and a sister—both live in the Bay Area. As a youngster interested in art and science, Sands considered himself a "budding naturalist." "I spent most of my free time outdoors," he said. "If I had a chance to hop on my bike and ride 15 miles to the local marsh, I'd get up at a ridiculous hour and do that."

    As he approached his college years, his knack for building things pushed him toward engineering. Enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley, Sands soon found that he truly enjoyed his math and science courses, and he pursued a bachelor's degree in engineering physics.

    By way of a combination of scholarships and jobs, Sands paid his way through college. One of those jobs was as a house boy at a sorority, handling maintenance, repairs, and the like. As Laura Sands tells it, he was comfortable taking the job because he knew the women in the sorority and felt they weren't on his radar for anything beyond friendships. "And then I moved in," she said with a grin. "That wasn't part of his plan." Sharing similar interests, from jogging on the same trails around Berkeley to playing on the same intramural softball team, they found that their paths continued to cross, and they were married in the fall of 1981.

    By then, Timothy Sands was studying materials science and engineering on the graduate level, motivated by a driving interest in photovoltaics and inspired by an undergraduate summer internship at the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden, Colo., now known as the National Renewable Energy Lab. He finished a master's degree and Ph.D. at Berkeley.

    An industrious start

    Following several years as a fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Sands joined Bell Communications Research Inc. (Bellcore) in Red Bank, N.J., as a member of the technical staff and later as a research group director. There, one of his earliest and most influential mentors was Vassilis Keramidas, a division manager who oversaw about 50 scientists. The team had a service role toward other Bellcore groups, and Keramidas asked his team to balance that service with leadership. "[That] balance between leading and supporting is something that I will always remember, and I always apply it," Sands said. "If you have that balance, everyone's on the same level."

    Sands recognized a common denominator among his mentors over the years. "I think they're all true to themselves and honest. That has certainly shaped the way I approach problems and the way I approach people."

    Honesty and approachability are characteristics Sands possesses that will translate well to a presidency—those and overriding calmness, said David J. Williams, president of the Purdue University Senate and a professor of medical illustration. For decades, and to no avail, the faculty at Purdue had sought to place a faculty member on the university's governing body, the Board of Trustees. In February, the board voted to add a faculty member to its academic affairs committee as a non-voting, ex-officio member, thanks in part to Sands' "low-key, quiet" work behind the scenes, Williams said. "He was always so calm. 'Don't worry. I'm talking with [the board].' He would just say, 'This is going to happen.'"

    Sands has been drawn to the leadership styles of various university presidents he's observed, beginning with Chang-Lin Tien, the Berkeley chancellor from 1990-97 (Sands returned to Berkeley as a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 1993). Ever present at university events, Tien maintained his research group and was an energetic fundraiser, Sands said. "The one thing I've learned is there's no one style that works. You have to be yourself. You can't try to be like someone else. But you do pick up from each of those individuals traits and approaches that work."

    Sands values three leadership traits. "One of the most important things is being efficient at what you put energy into. There are 100 things that come across your desk as a provost or a president, and you just can't do them all."

    "Communicating more than you think you have to communicate" is the second key trait Sands has adopted, and "staying healthy and not pushing yourself to the brink all the time" is the third. At Virginia Tech, Sands plans to continue his regimen of early-morning pick-up basketball, and he and Laura—both raised around the California mountains—are thrilled to begin exploring the natural beauty of Southwest Virginia.

    East to West Lafayette

    Five Ph.D. students gathered in Birck Nanotechnology Center on a Tuesday afternoon in March, awaiting Timothy Sands, their faculty advisor. Home to one of the largest academic clean-room nanotechnology facilities in the world, Birck is the largest of 10 centers in Discovery Park, a hub that houses Purdue's large-scale interdisciplinary research efforts.

    About 12 years ago, Purdue came knocking as the university sought to bolster its nanotechnology capabilities, and the Sandses left California. In 2006, Sands was named director of Birck, which opened in July 2005. He was charged with transforming it into a smoothly operating research institute, defining and guiding its strategic vision, and building a community of researchers. Today, approximately 150 affiliated faculty members and 200 graduate students call Birck home.

    Whether or not Sands' students fully understood the role that their mentor had played in the creation of the center in which they sat, they laughed out loud to hear him described as an "administrator." To them, he's their reference point, their sounding board, for all things nano-tech.

    As a listener, Sands tends to lean back in his chair, relaxed, shifting his weight onto his left elbow and armrest. He clasps his hands and maintains eye contact, offering the speaker frequent "mm-hmm" affirmations. "He's a phenomenal listener. He has probably the best active listening skills that I've ever seen," said Morgan Burke, the long-time Purdue athletic director who has worked alongside Sands in the president's cabinet and under Sands when the provost served as acting president. "Even if he's not really enthused about the conversation, you won't know it. I think that's a beautiful trait."

    Timothy D. Sands leading a research meeting

    In mid-March in Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center, Sands met with his research group of Ph.D. students, including (from left) Amr Mohammed (leaning back), Amirkoushyar Ziabari (leaning forward), Bivas Saha, Meng Long Hao, and Yuefeng Wang.

    Opening the research group discussion, Bivas Saha, a Ph.D. student in materials engineering examining the growth, characterization, and plasmonic and thermoelectric applications of nitride metal/semiconductor superlattices, presented his most recent findings to Sands. As Saha spoke, Sands teased out the significance of an unexpected spike in the data and referred back to literature on the topic, grounding the students in what was known and how to prioritize the next steps. Sands encouraged Saha, saying that the student's findings likely represented a significant addition to the field's base of knowledge.

    Sands clearly cherishes his time with students, a feeling reinforced when he reentered the academic world after Bellcore. "It's great to be on the frontlines of discovery. It's great to build things that people can use. But in the end, the main reason you're doing this is to bring the next generation along. And that cannot be replaced. That's something that's very special," he said.

    Initially, Sands thought he would have give up a research group to take on a presidency, but his early conversations with Virginia Tech's nanotechnology experts have him reconsidering. "I still think it'll be a challenge, but I am going to try to stay in touch with my field."

    The "ignition point"

    Sands brought an industrial mentality to his role as director of Birck. At the time he left Bellcore, the CEO there emphasized that he wanted the researchers to be "market-savvy technologists," and it's a descriptor Sands has embraced: When discoveries have practical applications, pursue those applications. "A lot of institutions do … either problem-inspired research or curiosity-driven research. What I see at Virginia Tech is a great blend of the two," he said.

    Sands' experience with Birck reinforced the human element of research and how to create an environment for interaction among disciplines. "One of the successes of Discovery Park was getting faculty and students from 12 different disciplines together in the same building," he said. "You see them create new ideas, new research directions, just by bouncing into each other."

    Sands also found that graduate students, eyes wide open, are more willing to cross disciplines, whereas faculty members may worry about treading on another person's area. "Usually [the student interaction] was the ignition point for something new," Sands said.

    Mixing disciplines is at the forefront of the incoming president's mind. Said Sands, "I typically find myself reading books about science and entrepreneurship and connecting them to other fields in the humanities and the arts—which actually is interesting because that's the way I see Virginia Tech. It's very well connected between the disciplines."

    Sands' ability to unite people has lived on in the Birck center, said Al Rebar, the senior associate vice president for research and executive director of Discovery Park, who hired Sands into the director's role. "I think his greatest contribution to Birck without a doubt was not so much a tangible research focus as creating a community of researchers who were able to work together unselfishly," Rebar said. "And he's a consensus builder. He brings people together; he's able to lead discussions rather than arguments. I think he's very good at diffusing emotions with good common sense."

    When problems arose at Birck, whether in research direction or personnel, Sands relied on an analytic approach. "The first thing he'll do is take a step back rather than react," said Rebar. "He'll analyze and redirect. He won't shoot from the hip. And at the same time, he's not overly careful. His legacy is that he builds confidence—you have confidence that this is a person you can follow."

    The interdisciplinary collaboration, similar to the path pursued by Virginia Tech, has yielded tremendous growth in research dollars for Purdue. Rebar and Sands have been a part of a paradigm shift from single-investigator to multiple-investigator research grants. "Honestly, I think he'd tell you if you asked him why he came to Purdue, he saw that that was in the cards," Rebar said of Sands.

    The provost

    Sands' performance at Birck paid dividends. "That's really what gave him, frankly, the visibility and the credentials to be considered as a provost," said Lechtenberg, the special assistant to the president who reported to Sands as vice provost for engagement.

    Sands can sit atop an organization and see all of its inflection points. "He has the ability to conceptualize what appear to be different issues, different concepts, and all of a sudden say, 'Wait a minute, those four things in different quadrants of the university all connect; there's a synergy there. Does anybody notice that?' He'll do that a lot," said Burke, the athletic director.

    Dale Whittaker, Purdue's vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, noticed certain qualities in Sands' questioning and feedback. He has a "driving curiosity, and he's totally unpoliticized," Whittaker said. "When he asks a question, there is no second agenda behind it. It's a scientific question."

    Added Laurel Weldon, Purdue's interim vice provost for faculty affairs, "You don't feel like he's driving his agenda, even when he is driving his agenda. When you work with some people, you feel like they have a lot of ego invested, and it's hard to communicate with them. You can't critique their idea. I just never even think about that at all [with Sands]."

    Weldon said Sands offers "constructive and empowering feedback without squelching your idea. He never says just 'no.'"

    "He also almost never says 'yes,'" Whittaker added. "And what I mean by that is you always get a balanced view from him. He'll always support what he sees as the positives and bring up the what-ifs or the risks, and it's in a very diagnostic way."

    Describing Sands as "fact-driven," Burke said he always shared data with the acting president ahead of their regular meetings. "Particularly if there were spreadsheets, he'd remember the direction of the numbers and what it meant, and that [condensed] what might be a 20-minute conversation [into five minutes]. ... I didn't have to repeat things. A month went by, and I came back to a topic and," Burke said, snapping his fingers, "he'd remember what we talked about."

    In his time as provost, Sands led efforts to elevate student success that enhanced retention and graduation rates, initiated a move toward year-round use of facilities, led development of the university's first comprehensive assessment of all degree-granting programs, and launched an online teaching and learning platform that emphasizes interactive, computation- and simulation-rich learning environments. True to form, Sands' demeanor made politically sensitive topics—such as year-round teaching and the assessment program—manageable. "Whenever you embark on something like that," Rebar said of the assessment program, "obviously that's controversial. To be able to do that without causing a lot of friction within the university I think was a major accomplishment."


    Sands had been the provost for a couple of years when the search began for former Purdue president France Cordova's replacement, and for the first time it occurred to the Sandses that a presidency was a possible next step. Then the Board of Trustees asked him to serve as acting president from July 2012 to early January 2013, until President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. finished his term as Indiana governor. In the role, the Sandses "realized that we could have impact beyond our regular jobs in a role that was really rewarding," Sands said.

    Whereas the provost dealt more with internal audiences, they found the president's role to be outward-facing—and they really enjoyed it. Said Lechtenberg, "Both Tim and Laura are both very focused on others [and] what they can do to help the institution. He was very good at working with alumni, meeting with people, meeting with political leaders, and working with the external elements of the university."

    Meanwhile, serving as acting president rounded out Sands' professional credentials, giving him broader experience in the areas in which he had not had as much exposure—namely, fundraising, alumni relations, and athletics. Lechtenberg said Sands "became much more stump-comfortable" as a provost and then acting president, able to relate to all sorts of audiences.

    On the athletics front, Sands was fully engaged, from thriving in the pace of a home football weekend to working with Burke to replace a football coach. Burke noted that Virginia Tech and Purdue have similar attitudes toward the academic side of "student-athlete." "We take [academics] pretty seriously, and he likes that," Burke said.

    After returning to the provost's role, Sands led a study to develop a 10-year funding forecast for the university, allowing him to scrutinize the institution in its financial totality. "I think what it did is it showed him the overall blueprint," Burke said. "The 10-year plan exposed him to different aspects of the university from a cost-benefit ratio and then acting [as] president kind of rounded him out with these external functions.

    "If you were to draw up a training plan … it wasn't done by design, but it turned out to be pretty effective," Burke said.

    Choosing Tech

    Sands' stint as acting president gave him an extra measure of visibility. "People warned me," Sands said. "They said, 'Now that you've done this, search firms are going to come after you.' It happened a few months after I came back to the provost's position. … I remember getting a call from someone representing Virginia Tech, and that's where things started clicking."

    When he was introduced to the Virginia Tech community and members of the media at a press conference on Dec. 6, Sands got a laugh when he said the driving tour of campus during the secretive interview process—hiding him in a "tinted-window vehicle"—obscured how beautiful the campus was.

    Sands' intuition and insight into Virginia Tech was by no means obscured, however. At the press conference, he said that as he consulted with close friends and family members in order to make a decision, he found that the university's aims were resonant with his values and experiences.

    Sands was drawn to the purpose of the land-grant institution as first expressed in the 1862 Morrill Act: to prepare citizens from all classes of society to be active participants in our democracy and to prepare students to perform research and engage the community in order to advance economic prosperity. "Nothing's really changed," Sands said. "It's as relevant today as it was back in the 1860s."

    In championing those aims, Sands said, Virginia Tech took an unusual track. "Matter of fact, I only count six or seven institutions that went this route—and that was to maintain the strength of the engineering and science disciplines but to carefully balance them with the arts, the social sciences, and the humanities. If you really think back to the Morrill Act, you've got to achieve that balance. A lot of institutions really strayed along the way, at least in my view, maybe going one way or the other. Virginia Tech maintained that balance, and we're very well positioned.

    "If you look at what is needed in the community, what's needed in the commonwealth, what's needed in the nation, and also what the world needs, Virginia Tech is the kind of institution that you would create today for the 21st century. And I don't say that lightly. … When I look at Virginia Tech, I see the image of an institution that is exactly what is needed now."

    The Virginia Tech community may say the same thing about its new president.

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