Virginia Tech Magazine
Making a Difference
Summer 2008

Florence Price Kinnear: Her first 100 years
by Amy Boyce

While major gifts tend to make the biggest splash, the success of any campaign is dependent upon regular and consistent giving. Gifts of all sizes can make a critical difference to the university.

Florence Price Kinnear knows the importance of that type of giving, and she also recognizes the fundamental importance of higher education. Every year she contributes to the Duncan Lyle Kinnear Scholarship, which assists students who wish to pursue their career and licensure in science education. The scholarship is named for Florence's late husband, Duncan Lyle Kinnear, a professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and author of the definitive work of Virginia Tech' history, The First 100 Years.

Florence Kinnear will celebrate her first 100 years later this year. She was born in Prices Fork on Oct. 2, 1908, as a descendant of one of the Price brothers whose immigration to the area from Germany predated Blacksburg's founding by nearly 50 years. After their arrival, the brothers founded Prices Fork, a small village that lies about five miles west of Blacksburg. Prices Fork was so small, in fact, that for many years, it had neither a school nor a church. Kinnear's grandmother almost refused her future husband's proposal of marriage--until he promised to build both in the village. After building their house in the 1860s, her grandfather made good on the promise to his wife by building a school for the family's children. He followed up in 1878 by building the village church.

Supported by her family's belief in the value of education, young Kinnear left her home in Prices Fork to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College, graduating in 1929. Following that, she did graduate work at both the University of Virginia and Columbia University in New York. "I didn't particularly like New York," she says in her lovely Southern drawl. "They made fun of the way I spoke."

Former Kinnear Scholarship recipient James D. Forester (M.S. education '07) reads to children during the Virginia Tech
Literacy Corps Reading Day.
Former Kinnear Scholarship recipient James D. Forester (M.S. education '07)

Her first teaching job was at a private school in Washington, D.C., but she missed her home, and after just one year, she returned to Southwest Virginia to teach in Floyd County. It was there that she got a reputation for being adept at dealing with difficult students. That reputation finally led her to a job in the place she really wanted to go--home. She taught Latin and English at Blacksburg High School for 25 years.

Though Kinnear retired from teaching in the 1950s, she stays busy. She still lives in Prices Fork in a home built for her widowed mother in 1913. She writes the bi-monthly newsletter for her church--the very same church her grandfather built all those years ago--and plays piano there every Sunday. In the acknowledgments of The First 100 Years, Lyle Kinnear thanks her for giving him "unflagging encouragement and assistance at every stage in the preparation of the manuscript."

It was Florence Kinnear's love of teaching and her admiration for her husband, whom she calls "a wonderful person and an excellent teacher," that led her to make her gift of scholarships to the School of Education at Virginia Tech.

Amy Boyce is publications editor for development communications.

A building for construction by Albert Raboteau

Team projects and face-to-face interaction with professors, the hallmarks of Virginia Tech's building construction program, are easier to realize now, thanks to Bishop-Favrao Hall.

The 31,600-square-foot facility opened this year on Perry Street near Cowgill Hall. Thanks to significant donor support, which made up a majority of the building's funding package, Bishop-Favrao Hall is the first permanent home for a construction program that was founded in 1947 and has grown dramatically in recent years. The Department of Building Construction shares the building with the recently created Myers-Lawson School of Construction; both are part of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

At a May celebration of the building's opening, Yvan Beliveau, who headed the building construction department until he became director of the Myers-Lawson School, said one of the new building's highlights is a third-floor studio where students work on group projects. Another advantage offered by Bishop-Favrao Hall, Beliveau added, is that professors and students can all work out of the same building. Last year, some of the program's faculty members were in an off-campus office building, while others worked in Burruss Hall.

"In an academic environment, it's important that students are close to faculty, that they have an opportunity to interface," says Beliveau, who also is the Georgia Anne Snyder-Falkinham Professor of Building Construction.

Associate Professor Walid Thabet, the current building construction department head, points out the advantage of having a building designed with construction students in mind. Unlike a traditional academic building, Bishop-Favrao Hall has no drop ceiling. Exposed pipes, their purposes labeled, also run along many of the hall's walls. While the interior might look unfinished to an uninformed observer, that is hardly the case.
Students celebrate the May 2008 opening of Bishop-Favrao Hall.
Students in front of bishop-Favrao Hall

"Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing [systems] are very hard to visualize on plans," Thabet explains. "No matter what you do, it's hard to see for the beginner. One of the reasons this building was built this way, without a false ceiling, is to allow students to understand the complexity of the construction of these elements, to realize the coordination that needs to happen when multiple trades need to come in and install [systems].

"One of the things we teach," Thabet continues, "is not how to construct these, but how to coordinate, how to manage, how to work with many teams."

Indeed, the building "has been a huge teaching device," says Sheila Matarazzo, a rising senior from Lovettsville, Va. "We've had multiple assignments that have been [to] look at the first floor, second floor, third floor and explain what's going on."

The building construction program, founded by William Favrao, prepares students for leadership roles in the construction industry. Alumnus Richard Bishop (building construction '67), who founded a successful building company, gave the lead gift for the hall, asking that the building also be named for Favrao, who died in 1977. Many other donors contributed to the building, and private support made up $5.75 million of the building's funding package, compared to $3.55 million from the state. Construction began in November 2006 and was complete by the end of 2007. Students started using the building in the spring 2008.

Among the hundreds of people who gathered at the building for its opening celebration toward the end of that semester were Favrao's daughters, Anne McCracken of Baltimore and Sarah Favrao of Annapolis, Md.

"I just keep saying how astonished he would be," McCracken said of her father. "Thirty-one years ago, it was beyond his wildest imagination that this would happen."

She added that if he were there, her father "would be puffing his pipe and looking up at that name in such wonderment. And he would be so proud--as we are."

Bishop said he wanted Favrao's name on the building because "something about the guy, I always respected him. He was tough, but he was fair. He started that program, and he fought to keep it going over the years."

Cecil Maxson (building construction '52), who also attended the building's opening, recalled, "We were in one room on the third floor of Patton Hall. That was it. Seven people [were] in my class. I've been watching [the program] grow for 56 years. It's amazing."

Bishop-Favrao Hall interior
Unlike a traditional academic building, Bishop-Favrao Hall has no drop ceiling. Exposed pipes, their purposes labeled, also run along many of the hall's walls. While the interior might look unfinished to an uninformed observer, that is hardly the case.
Bishop-Favrao Hall has four levels. The first floor features a construction lab for experimenting with materials. The second floor has classrooms and a lobby. The third floor offers studio space. The fourth floor contains administrative offices and space for graduate students.

Beliveau says that the first-floor lab will help the university's programs keep pace with technological developments in construction. "Industry is moving really fast now, and with building information modeling, automatic prototyping, and digital imaging, as well as numerical control machines, construction is not going to stay the same," he said. "And so we're investing in much of that equipment as well."

Retired building construction head Vince Cilimberg (building construction '50) taught in the construction program from 1976 to 1995. After the opening ceremony, he called the building "magnificent."

"It's something that I think a lot of building construction graduates would not have imagined that we would have been able to get," Cilimberg noted. "It's something that Yvan [Beliveau] and Richard Bishop have worked so hard for, and now it's come to fruition. It's just outstanding. I'm so happy for the program."

Though Bishop-Favrao Hall opened this year, officials and supporters have been working to bring it about since the late 1990s. Since then, the number of students studying construction has increased faster than expected. Bishop-Favrao Hall was designed with a 300-student program in mind, but the combined enrollment of the building construction department, the Vecellio Construction Engineering Program, and the Myers-Lawson School is already greater than that, Beliveau says.

Jack Davis, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, says that the university is seeking private support to provide additional space for the construction programs.

Albert Raboteau is a writer for University Development.

Virginia Tech