Virginia Tech Magazine
News & Research -|- Summer 2006


tablet PC College of Engineering requiring tablet PCs for freshmen -|- The College of Engineering announced that it will require its approximately 1,250 incoming freshmen to purchase convertible tablet PCs. This type of PC has all the functionality of a laptop, along with the capability to act as a notebook for pen-based input. Students can write notes and sketch equations onto the tablet portion and save them as digital text on the computer. Faculty using the tablet PC in the classroom will have additional flexibility to implement active learning techniques.

Cowgill Hall wins Test of Time Award -|- Cowgill Hall, the main facility for the School of Architecture + Design and the administrative offices of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, received the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Test of Time Award, awarded to a building or group of buildings that has functioned in essentially the same manner as originally designed for at least 25 years. Designed in the modern style by Henry V. Shriver (building design '52; M.S. architecture '54) and completed in 1969, Cowgill Hall is named for Clinton Harriman Cowgill (1897-1975), the founder of Virginia Tech's Department of Architectural Engineering, which developed into today’s architecture program.

Cowgill Hall

Brian Skinner

Undergraduate named Goldwater scholar -|- Selected from 1,081 applicants nationwide, Tech senior Brian Skinner of St. Anthony, Idaho, is among 323 undergraduates awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for the 2006-07 academic year. Goldwater scholars are selected for academic merit and are awarded up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. Skinner, who is double majoring in physics and mechanical engineering, is Virginia Tech's 33rd Goldwater scholar since the program’s inception in 1986 to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering.

Michael Willemann Graduate receives Fulbright grant for research -|- Michael Willemann of Manassas, Va., who in May graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering and a minor in German, was awarded a Fulbright grant for graduate studies and research in Germany. The College of Engineering's Outstanding Senior, Willemann will attend the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, one of Germany's most respected science and engineering schools, and will conduct research at the Institute of Thin Films and Interfaces at the Forschungszentrum Jülich. The scholarship will cover Willemann's travel, living expenses, and tuition for the academic year abroad. Established in 1946 by Congress and sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the Fulbright grant program is the country's largest international exchange program.
Amber Copley

Tech junior in Miss USA -|- In April, junior Amber Copley, the current Miss Virginia USA, competed for the Miss USA title in Baltimore. A native of Abingdon, Va., Copley, who is majoring in communication, took the semester off to concentrate on the competition, ultimately won by Miss Kentucky. Miss Virginia has not held the Miss USA title since 1970. For more information about the competition, go to

Miss Virginia USA
Amber Copley

Gift to help Virginia Cooperative Extension
revitalize communities
Extension services

An anonymous gift of $1.5 million to Virginia Tech will help revitalize Virginia Cooperative Extension's community development services -- which suffered deep state budget cuts in the early 1990s -- and will strengthen the collaboration between the university and local communities. The funds will also create in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences the Chair of Excellence for Community Viability, the cornerstone of a renewed investment in such programs as the new Innovation Communities initiative. The gift honors three long-time community resource development Extension personnel: Doug McAlister, retired director of program development and continuing education; Michael Chandler, professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics; and Don Lacy, former associate professor of agricultural and applied economics. To learn more about the community viability initiative, go to

Honors student's film wins national competition
Tim Leaton
Tim Leaton filming in Uganda in June 2005
Tim Leaton
Tim Leaton with HeathCliff Rothman, founder
of the Film Your Issue competition

Senior Tim Leaton's one-minute film, "Orphans in Africa," was among the five winners of the Film Your Issue competition, a national initiative to encourage young Americans from ages 18 to 26 to engage in social issues. Selected from 35 semifinalists, the winners of the competition were determined by a 50-50 public-jury vote. The public cast their votes online at, which drew a record 88,638 responses; the jury included George Clooney, Walter Cronkite, the Dali Lama, and Brian Williams, among others. Receiving 13 percent of all online voting -- the second-highest vote-getter -- Leaton's winning entry is a shortened version of a longer film he made while in Uganda with his church's mission team. Leaton presented his film at the awards ceremony at the United Nations in late June; in addition, the film will be shown at next year's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. From the five winners, Leaton was also selected to receive an eight-week paid internship at Disney Studios in Los Angeles, where he will work on editing "Santa Claus III" and on the sets of other ongoing productions. For more information about the contest or to view the film, go to To learn more about Leaton's work, go to

Latham gift to support academic research
William and Elizabeth Latham

The William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Agriculture and Natural Resources Building
William and Elizabeth Latham
William and Elizabeth Latham

At a ceremony held in April at The Inn at Virginia Tech's Latham Ballroom, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger announced a $5 million gift to the university from William (agriculture '55) and Elizabeth Latham of Haymarket, Va., that will establish an endowed fund supporting academic research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). In recognition of the Lathams' life-long service and philanthropy to the university, the board of visitors unanimously approved the naming of the agriculture and natural resources research building, which will house state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, as the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Agriculture and Natural Resources Building.

The Lathams, who in 1973 founded Budget Motels Inc., currently serve as co-chairs of the CALS Campaign Steering Committee. Their many contributions to Virginia Tech include funding for the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Histopathology Laboratory in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital; the William C. and Elizabeth H. Latham Scholar-in-Residence Endowment for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies; and enhancements to CALS, the livestock teaching arena, and the Northern Virginia 4-H Center. Among his many leadership roles at Virginia Tech, Bill Latham served two terms on the board of visitors. The dedication of Latham Hall is scheduled for September.

Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech
dedicated in June

After more than two years of renovation, the Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech -- which winds along 2.5 miles of the New River between Blacksburg and Radford, Va. -- was formally dedicated in June.

William (mechanical engineering '62) and Alice Goodwin of Richmond, Va., secured the services of renowned golf architect Pete Dye and covered the cost of the design and construction of the new course arrangement.

In addition, a turf-care center/maintenance building will house a teaching facility/locker room for Tech’s golf team, adjacent to the new practice area.

The course is a daily-fee public facility offering individual and family memberships.

To visit the course online, go to

Alumni honored during commencement celebration

Four alumni were honored during Virginia Tech's 2006 commencement celebration on May 12.

Floyd W. "Sonny" Merryman Jr. of Rustburg, Va., received Virginia Tech's most prestigious honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal, which recognizes notable and distinguished service to the university. For more than 30 years, Merryman, a member of the class of 1946, has supported Virginia Tech with such contributions as the Merryman Center athletic facility, the Sonny Merryman Inc. Endowed Professorship in the Pamplin College of Business, and the Sonny Merryman Inc. Endowed Scholarship, which benefits four students. Merryman, the son of Floyd W. Merryman Sr. (Class of 1924) and father of Floyd Merryman III (management '81), is chair of the board of Sonny Merryman Inc., one of the state's largest transportation distributors.

VT football team

Football team's graduation rate
among nation's best

Virginia Tech is among 24 Division I-A institutions cited in the American Football Coaches Association’s annual Academic Achievement Awards data for graduating 70 percent or more of their football student-athletes. The study, which tracked the freshman class from the 2000-01 academic year, reported an overall graduation rate of 58 percent and a median graduation rate of 57 percent for the 104 schools that responded to the survey. Nine institutions in the ACC were honored, more than in any other conference.

Evaleen Jones (human nutrition and foods '83)
the Virginia Tech Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award, which honors personal and/or professional achievement of enduring value to society. A family practitioner and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, Jones is nationally recognized for her work with underserved populations and international health issues, volunteering significant time and leadership to the International Health Medical Education Consortium. As a medical student, Jones helped establish a free mobile surgical facility in Ecuador and a "recovery program" that sends unused, recycled prescription medications overseas. Jones also founded Child Family Health International, which sends medical students abroad and donates more than $1 million in medical supplies and grants for health projects.

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association also honored two alumni with the 2006 Alumni Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service to the university and the association.

Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Hampton University Calvin Jamison (health and physical education '77; M.A. student personnel services '81; Ed.D. '88) previously served as city manager of Richmond, Va., and held faculty and administrative posts at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech, dedicating years of service and leadership to Tech's Black Alumni Organization. Jamison has served as chair of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, as president of the Arts Council of Virginia, as a board member of Leadership Metro Richmond, and on the board of directors of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the Pamplin College of Business Advisory Council.

A leading authority on boxwoods, Paul M. Saunders (agricultural engineering '54) of Piney River, Va., owns Saunders Brothers Nurseries Inc., which began as a partnership between five brothers in 1915. A past president of the Alumni Association, Saunders has served on the agriculture alumni board of directors, the College of Agriculture and Life Science's Leadership Council, the Regional Campaign Committee, the Virginia Tech Foundation Board, and the Class of 1954 Reunion Committee. A member of the Ut Prosim Society, Saunders has seven sons, all of whom graduated from Virginia Tech.


Students earn fellowships for environmental research -|- Six Virginia Tech graduate students interested in environmental research have been awarded $5,000 Waste Policy Institute (WPI) Fellowships. The students are Jose Manuel Cerrato, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering whose interests include working with international organizations on water supply and quality and improving sanitation and health in developing countries; Philip K. Lehman, a Ph.D. student in psychology who seeks to encourage environmentally responsible behavior and is studying factors contributing to environmental activism; Krista Lynn Rule, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering who is working to develop a biosensor to detect in drinking water the protozoan Cryptosporidium, which can be fatal to the young, old, or immuno-compromised; Cristina Marie Siegel-Issem, a Ph.D. student in forestry whose studies include root growth as a predictor of forest soil productivity; Amy Villamagna, a Ph.D. student in fisheries and wildlife sciences who is examining the impact of nutrient pollution and water hyacinth on water quality and sustainability in Mexico's Lake Chapala; and Eva Pantaleoni, a Ph.D. student in crop and soil environmental science who is the first person to use soil and elevation data, remote sensing, and GIS to identify wetlands and to develop a statistical model to predict their location. A not-for-profit corporation affiliated with Virginia Tech from 1989 to 2005, WPI provided environmental science and engineering services and established an endowment whose interest is still used for student support.

One of nation's largest wireless research groups created -|- Wireless communication research, which has long flourished at Virginia Tech, has become a major focus with the creation of one of the country's largest wireless research groups, Wireless @ Virginia Tech, or W@VTech. The new center, which encompasses eight Tech centers, groups, and laboratories, brings together 27 faculty members and more than 100 graduate students. Jeff Reed, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of W@VTech, reports that the center will continue the university's role as a pioneer in wireless research and will educate the next generation of wireless engineers. To learn more about W@VTech, including how faculty patents have advanced the telecommunication industry nationwide, visit

New center to help protect military personnel and equipment -|- As low-weight, high-performance polymeric materials and composites have replaced heavier metals and metallic alloys, new applications have ranged from biomaterials and electro-optical devices to alternate energy sources and nanotechnology. Now, Virginia Tech has been selected by the Army Research Laboratory to establish the Multilayered Technologies for Armored Structures and Composites Materials Center of Excellence to develop polymer-based materials that can protect military personnel and equipment. At the center, Tech researchers -- who will team with personnel at the Army Research Lab Weapons and Materials Research Directorate -- will develop structural materials with chemical resistance, thermal stability, and fracture resistance; transparent materials that are self-healing with anti-reflection and anti-abrasions surfaces; and efficient manufacturing processes to create multifunctional, multilayered materials. The center will also offer graduate student and postdoctoral scholar mentorship and undergraduate research programs.

Clinical psychology Ph.D. program among most productive -|- In a study conducted by the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University, Virginia Tech's clinical psychology Ph.D. program was ranked seventh in research productivity and 19th in overall research among 157 such programs nationwide. In addition, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Thomas Ollendick was ranked the 10th most frequently published core clinical faculty member. The study, which evaluated the programs based on their number of faculty publications and citations, ranked Tech’s program ahead of programs at such notable peer institutions as Duke, University of Virginia, Rutgers, and Penn State. Richard Winett, the Heilig Meyers Professor of Psychology, noted that most rankings are based on reputation: "This study was the first that we know of that used quantifiable measures in the evaluation process."

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