Corps of Cadets header illustration


by Shay Barnhart

Although David E. Lowe ’63 and Air Force Gen. Thomas C. Richards ’56 followed two different paths, the routes led each to a successful career and included a strong commitment to community service.

Both were honored this spring with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ first-ever Distinguished Alumni Awards.

David E. Lowe

David E. Lowe

Lowe built a career with the C&P Telephone Company of West Virginia, which became Bell Atlantic and eventually, Verizon. Richards is the first four-star general among the corps’ alumni and illuminates the idea of selfless service.

The Distinguished Alumni Award formalizes the corps’ long tradition of honoring the men and women who graduated from its ranks and are the inspiration and mentors to current cadets, said Col. Patience Larkin ‘87, the corps’ alumni director.

Corps alumni can make nominations to honor living alumni who were enrolled in the corps for a minimum of two years (four semesters or eight quarters).

“These two recipients epitomize both the Military-Leader Track and Citizen-Leader Track that our corps provides today’s generation of cadets as they become the kind of global, ethical leaders that are needed now, more than ever,” said Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, commandant of cadets.

In addition to his career in the telecommunications industry, Lowe served in the U.S. Air Force and has a history of leading community, educational, and economic development activities that bring untold benefits to the places he calls home.

He does the same for Virginia Tech, where he champions long-range and strategic planning efforts and is a guiding force on the board of directors of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni Inc.

Lowe organized and chaired the operating board for the Pete Dye River Course from 2002 to 2014, guiding the facility from an idea to the signature course it is today. He is an honorary lifetime board member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association. The Class of 2013 honored him as its class ring namesake, and he was awarded Virginia Tech’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

Air Force Gen. Thomas C. Richards

Air Force Gen. Thomas C. Richards

“His passion for community, his critical thinking skills, and his character and ethics provide a shining example of what leadership is all about for today’s cadets,” Larkin said.

Richards amassed more than 4,700 flying hours, including 624 combat missions in Vietnam and went on to command positions with the Air Force Academy, the Basic Military Training School, 8th Air Force, and Air University.

He earned his fourth star as deputy commander in chief of the U.S. European Command in Germany and, after retirement from the military, went on to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 1990, Virginia Tech awarded him the University Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Class of 1992 dedicated its class ring collection to him.

“[Richards’] command assignments and leadership allowed him to shape future military leaders, and his experience continues to inspire our cadets today,” Larkin said.

Shay Barnhart is the communications director for the Corps of Cadets.

David E. Lowe

Air Force Gen. Thomas C. Richards