Virginia Tech Magazine
Winter 2010
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Donations fuel high-profile projects by Albert Raboteau
When recruiting the best students and faculty, it's important to make a good first impression.

Donors are helping the university to do just that by supporting projects that will improve those areas of campus all visitors will likely see. Three recent examples are a new Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center, expected to open in 2011; an amphitheatre, which was completed last fall outside the Graduate Life Center; and a renovation to Carol M. Newman Library.

The Visitor and
Admissions Center

Currently, a first stop for most visitors is likely to be the small, vinyl-sided welcome center on Southgate Drive, often followed by the Undergraduate Admissions office on the second floor of Burruss Hall. But by May 2011, one stop will do.

Work is scheduled to begin in February 2010 on a new facility that will be more convenient and will make a stronger impression on visitors and guests. The two-story, 18,155-square-foot Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center will be constructed on land that was once part of the campus golf course but has not been in use since construction of the nearby Inn at Virginia Tech & Skelton Conference Center.

The new building will be constructed of Hokie Stone in the Collegiate Gothic style of many of Virginia Tech's best-known buildings. Features will include a tower and a two-story, glass atrium with views of the towers of Burruss Hall and Lane Stadium.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved plans for the new center in 2006. "We have a world-class university; therefore, we need a world-class visitor center," says Jim Severt, a member of the board who contributed $100,000 toward the project.

Larry Hincker, associate vice president for University Relations, will oversee the installation of interactive displays containing information on the university's history, the life of its students, and Virginia Tech's impact on the commonwealth in an exhibit hall of the new building. "We want to create not only a functional area where people go to get their parking passes and begin to understand how to get to whatever office they need to get to, but also to have a very special Virginia Tech experience," Hincker says.

Visitors will approach the information desk in an atrium that will occupy several thousand square feet, but Undergraduate Admissions will occupy a larger portion of the building. Hincker says it's natural for that office to be present in a visitor center. "Most visitors coming to campus are prospective students or their families," he explains.

The Graduate
Life Center

One of the busiest areas of campus has already been transformed by another project funded by donors. In October, university officials celebrated the opening of the Graduate Life Center Amphitheatre near the College Avenue entrance to Virginia Tech.

The $330,000 project features a small stage and fountain, both built of Hokie Stone. Between them is a seating area that will eventually be shaded by elm trees, a vast improvement over what was there before -- a below-ground brick fountain that had not been turned on for a decade. The amphitheatre lies in the shadows of the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown (GLC), Squires Student Center, and Newman Library.

The Class of '59 contributed the main gift for the project, which also received money from the Hokie Parents Fund and the Class of '09.

At a ribbon cutting for the amphitheatre, T.O. Williams, Class of '59 reunion chair, said that he and his classmates also earmarked class-gift money to undergraduate education and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, "but we wanted to do some sort of brick-and-mortar project, and we also wanted to do something to honor graduate students."

Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen DePauw says the amphitheatre will help her school continue to build a unique academic and social community centered at the GLC. But she also expects the amphitheatre to be used by undergraduates and the wider community.

Many of Blacksburg's arts institutions are within a short walk of the amphitheatre. Portions of College Avenue and Draper Road near the GLC are sometimes closed for cultural events, such as the university's International Street Fair and Blacksburg's annual street festival, Steppin' Out.

In theory, the amphitheatre can be used during events like those, as well as Graduate School functions, and it's expected to be a popular gathering place on ordinary days as well. "I envision that I am going to look out my window and I'm going to be able to see people out here all the time," DePauw said on the day of the ribbon cutting.

Newman Library

While officials were cutting the ribbon to celebrate completion of the GLC amphitheatre, construction was going on a stone's throw away at the university's main library. What used to be the reference-desk area is being turned into a café that will seat 90 to 100 people. The project is expected to be completed this spring.

"This is an exciting opportunity to provide students and faculty with a comfortable place to meet, study, and collaborate," says Eileen Hitchingham, dean of University Libraries.

Tom and Ann Clark of Las Cruces, N.M., parents of Erin Clark Henry (biochemistry '01) and Lisa Ann Clark (communication '04), made a generous donation that helped get the renovation project off the ground, and money from several class gifts and the Parents Fund will also help, Hitchingham says.

Tom Clark says that he and his wife wanted to support a "central academic institution" at the university. He believes that the café will help the library be even more appealing to students who have grown up in an era where bookstores typically have cafés and cafés routinely offer Internet access.

"If you want them to come to the library instead of sitting in their rooms on their computers, then there ought to be an environment at the library that draws them in," he says.

The visitor center, the amphitheatre, and the library renovation are just a few examples of how donations can, literally, build a better university. Visit for more examples.

Virginia Tech employees are inventing the future
Ray Myers is a professor emeritus of statistics. Carol Beasley is a retired member of the U.S. Navy who works for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. Like many current and former employees, they have made Virginia Tech a better place through hard work and philanthropy. All together, employees like them have donated more than $45 million since The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future began in 2003.

Beasley is an administrative assistant who works on the corps' scholarship ceremonies every year. But 2007 was different. One of the scholarships honored Douglas F. Beasley, her father, who had died the year before.

"He thought a lot of the corps and everything it stands for--and that I worked there--so I wanted to do something to honor him," Beasley says of her father, who had served in the Marines.

Her gift provided a scholarship to Jeffrey Enniss, who graduated with a civil engineering degree in May 2009. Shortly afterward, he entered the Basic School in Quantico, Va., a first step for newly commissioned officers.

Beasley, who retired from the Navy as a senior enlisted member, says she didn't know much about the corps or Virginia Tech when she started working here but has been inspired by what she's seen.

"It gives you hope for the future, that our future is going to be okay, because we have great leaders coming out of here that are going to make a huge difference."

Myers (chemical engineering '59, M.S. statistics '61, Ph.D. '63) grew up in Charleston, W.Va., where the chemicals industry was prominent. It made sense for him to get a degree in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech. But he graduated during tough economic times.

Myers was wrestling with the decision to attend graduate school when a chance meeting with Boyd Harshbarger changed his life.

"He liked chemical engineers," Myers recalls of the founder of Virginia Tech's statistics department. "He'd had some in his class. He said they had a fellowship in statistics, and my reaction was, ‘What is statistics?'"

Harshbarger made space for Myers in his graduate program even though the young man had never taken statistics. His belief in Myers proved justified.

Myers became a renowned expert in response surface methodology, an area of statistics that is widely used to develop new products, including pharmaceuticals. He has written six books that, combined, have gone through 16 editions and been translated into several languages.

After retiring in 1995, Myers returned to teach from 1997 until 2001 and again in 2006 and 2007. He has been the research advisor to more than 40 Ph.D. students but says he still feels compelled to do more for students entering his field. With that in mind, he recently endowed the Raymond H. Myers Fellowship Award to support graduate students in the area of statistics he helped pioneer. Liaosa Xu is the first recipient.

"By giving back, I have a chance to help give current students a chance like I had," Myers says.

"I think everybody should give back, but I felt like I owed a lot."

ALBERT RABOTEAU is a writer for University Development.

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