McAllister challenges alumni to thank Tech for leadership lessons

by Sherry Bithell

Leadership, says Bill McAllister (engineering mechanics '65), is "having the vision to recognize what needs to be done and convincing people to share your vision."

And what he learned about leadership at Virginia Tech while pursuing a bachelor's degree in engineering mechanics played a major role in his future success. That's why McAllister issued the Bill McAllister Participation Challenge to alumni of the College of Engineering last fall.

"With all our priorities, it seems there is never a 'good' time to give," he says. "But when we are students, tuition covers only a fraction of a Virginia Tech education. For generations, alumni and friends have helped support faculty members and extracurricular activities. I realized it was my turn."

And give he has. By issuing the challenge, in which he matched new gifts of $100 (and any $100 increase in gifts) designated to the College of Engineering during fiscal year 1998-1999, he has created the William C. McAllister Engineering Scholarship Fund. Scholarships will be awarded to first-year engineering majors based on academic merit and demonstrated leadership ability. Recipients will be known as McAllister Leadership Scholars.

"This very significant gift is helping us attract other donations and will support outstanding students and promote leadership," says Bill Stephenson, dean of the College of Engineering.

McAllister has also endowed a second scholarship for the college and made a significant deferred gift that will support the college and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

As a junior, McAllister realized Tech was providing him more than an academic education, but also valuable leadership experience. Prominent in the corps, he served on the Regimental Staff and was voted "Best All Around" in the Corps Hall of Fame as a senior. He was also president of the Cotillion Club and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership fraternity.

"The college teaches you problem solving skills that can be applied to many challenges in life," he says. McAllister strongly encourages people to define in writing what they want to do. "The sooner you understand and quantify your motivation, the sooner you can achieve what you want."

McAllister earned a master's degree in engineering management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He then worked a year at Boeing, three and a half years in the Army, and one and a half years at the Trane Company. In 1972, he founded Colonial Mechanical Corp., a Richmond-based mechanical contracting firm. Today, it is one of the top 40 mechanical contractors in the country. The company, which McAllister recently sold to FirstEnergy Services Corp. of Akron, Ohio, now has approximately 650 employees and annual sales of more than $70 million.

His next goal? McAllister, who plans to retire this year, wants to ensure the university has the continued capacity to teach other students the valuable lessons he learned outside the classroom.

And if it's mapped out on paper, there's no doubt it's a goal he will achieve.

Sherry Bithell is a writer in the office of University Development.

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