Virginia Tech Honors and Awards

William H. Ruffner Medal

Ruffner Medal

In 1976, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors authorized the William H. Ruffner Medal to provide appropriate public recognition to individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university. The name of the medal honors a member of the university's first board who was instrumental in shaping the curricula of the fledgling college, then known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. Ruffner also was Virginia's first state superintendent of public instruction.

Although the criteria were drawn purposely broad to provide the board with freedom in considering "notable and distinguished" service of a proposed recipient, examples of such service would include the following:

  • Outstanding achievement in efforts devoted to the promotion, improvement, and development of the university's mission as a land-grant university.
  • Significant service on one or more of the official, informal, university-related, or otherwise designated advisory, counseling, volunteer, or action groups serving the university.
  • Extraordinary interest in and support-including material support-of the well-being of the university and its students, faculty, and staff in efforts to provide educational opportunities and research and public service programs on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth and nation.

No individual affiliated with Virginia Tech as a student, faculty or staff member, administrator, or trustee or anyone in a similar capacity would be eligible for the William H. Ruffner Medal. Individuals affiliated with the university in any of these capacities would remain ineligible for at least 12 months after ending such affiliation.

The first Founders' Day program was in 1972, the University's Centennial anniversary. The date when the legislation that created Virgina Agrucultural and Mechanical College (VAMC), 19 March 1872, was selected as the University's official birthday. However, March 19 usually falls during Spring Break, so the date of the Founders' Day ceremonies is set arbitrarily. Since its beginning in 1972, the program had grown to include presentation of the Outstanding Senior Awards, the Alumni Awards for Excellence in Research and Extension, the Alumni Distinguished Service Awards, and the William H. Ruffner Medal, with the Founders' Day Address concluding the ceremonies.

Nomination Procedures

Winners

2013 - Michele "Shelley" Duke - honorary alumna; second woman to win the Ruffner Medal; first female vice-rector on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors; served on its executive, academic affairs, research, nominating, and by-laws committees; currently owns and operates Rallywood Farm in Middleburg.

2012 - Samuel L. Lionberger Jr. - alumnus; serves on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the National Campaign Steering Committee of The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, the W. E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake Board of Trustees, the Virginia Tech Alumni Board, and the advisory boards of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the School of Building Construction; currently runs Lionberger Consulting LLC.

2011 - John W. Bates III - alumnus; served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, co-chair of the Richmond Regional Campaign Committee within The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future; member of the university's National Campaign Steering Committee; managing partner with law firm McGuire Woods LLP.

2010 - Garnett E. Smith - a Golden Hokie; a Legacy Society member; and a President’s Circle member of the Ut Prosim Society, the university’s most prestigious donor recognition society; retired from Advance Auto Parts as vice chairman of the board.

2009 - Gene Fife - alumnus; member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors and its executive committee; member of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society; retired partner and current board member of Goldman Sachs & Co.

2008 - James B. "J.B." Jones - alumnus; professor; head of the Mechanical Engineering department; member of the Ut Prosim Society; recipient of numerous awards and honors in his field.

2007 - William C. Latham - alumnus; served two terms on the Board of Visitors; active member of the William Preston Society; member of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society; founder of Budget Motels Inc.

2006 - Floyd W. "Sonny" Merryman Jr. - alumnus; chairman of the board of Sonny Merryman, Inc., a company based near Lynchburg, Va., one of the state's largest transportation distributors. Contributions have ranged from scholarships to renovations and construction of facilities on campus.

2005 - William E. "Ping" Betts Jr. - alumnus; co-founder of the Montague-Betts Company, a structural steel fabricator; served as director of the Virginia Tech Educational Foundation and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, served on the Lynchburg-Amherst-Nelson Regional Capital Campaign Committee and was a charter member of the Rowe Fellow Program. He is a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100 and serves on the Virginia Tech President’s Council Membership Committee for Lynchburg.

2004 - James E. Turner Jr. - alumnus; retired president and CEO of General Dynamics Corporation; served eight years on the Board of Visitors including three years as Rector, on the Engineering Committee of 100, and the Virginia Tech Foundation Board and Executive Committee.

2003 - Ralph G. Roop - alumnus; founder of Petroleum Marketers Inc., served as chairman of the board and CEO of the company from 1954 until retirement in 1987; financial supporter of the university; a member of the Legacy Socitey and charter member of the Ut Prosim Society

2002 - Christopher C. Kraft Jr. - alumnus; retired director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center; recipient of honors and awards from the president of the United States, NASA, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and numerous other universities; former member of the Board of Visitors; member of several campaign committees; financial supporter of the university; a member of the William Preston and Ut Prosim Societies

2001 - Cecil R. Maxson - alumnus; former member and three-time rector of the Board of Visitors; charter member of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Advisory Council; member of university, college, and department leadership committees; member of Ut Prosim, the William Preston Society, and the Legacy Society; recipient of awards from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Veterinary Medicine

2000 - John D. Wilson - former vice president for academic affairs and the university's first provost who recruited outstanding deans, instituted the university's core curriculum, championed the writing-across-the-curriculum movement, re-vamped the Honors Program, and formalized the faculty promotion and tenure review process; an early advocate for the creation of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, former president of Washington and Lee University, a leader in Virginia higher education

1999 - Henry J. Dekker - alumnus; former member and rector of the Board of Visitors; member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board; chairman or a member of numerous other committees: Campaign Steering Committee, Alumni Association, Old Guard, Corps of Cadets Advisory Board and its Campaign Committee, German Club Foundation, and the Pamplin Advisory Council; retired vice chairman and founder of Louis Feraud of America

1998 - William E. Skelton - alumnus; retired extension agent, director of 4-H Programs, director of the Cooperative Extension Service, dean, and dean emeritus of the Extension Division; one of Virginia Tech's most involved and active volunteers; former president of Rotary International

    (Special Citation - Richard Marshall Bagley, alumnus and a senior statesman of the Commonwealth of Virginia, who has played a prominent role in charting the course of Virginia's future for more than 30 years. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 20 years, and was named Virginia's first Secretary of Economic Development in 1986.)

1997 - Clifton C. Garvin Jr. - alumnus; former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Corporation; former member and rector of the Board of Visitors; vice-chairman of the Campaign for Excellence; co-chairman for the Campaign for Virginia Tech; member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board, College of Engineering's Committee of 100, and the Ut Prosim Society

1996 - G. T. Ward - alumnus; former member of the Board of Visitors; past president of the Alumni Association, Board of Directors for the Virginia Tech Foundation, Virginia Tech Athletic Fund, and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni; first chairman of the Advisory Council for the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; current president of the William Preston Society

    (Special Citation honoring Colonel Harry Downing Temple, alumnus, for preserving the history and traditions of the Corps of Cadets through the design of a Coat of Arms for the Corps of Cadets, a pictorial history of the uniforms of the Corps of Cadets titled Donning the Blue and Gray, and for writing The Bugle's Echo, a comprehensive, multi-volume history of the Corps from its inception.)

1995 - Clifford A. Cutchins III - alumnus; retired chairman and CEO of Sovran Bank; former member and rector of the Board of Visitors; president of the Virginia Tech Foundation; recipient of the 1974 Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award, the 1984 Distinguished Achievement Award, and, from the Pamplin College of Business, the 1991 Distinguished Alumnus Award

1994 - James D. McComas - president of Virginia Tech recognized for his role as a national leader and spokesman for higher education and for developing close ties with the city of Roanoke, promoter of academic quality and better campus life for students

1993 - William E. Lavery, president of Virginia Tech when it evolved as one of the nation's premier land-grant universities and Virginia's leading research university with nationally ranked programs, when it broke into the Top 100 National Science Foundation rankings, when the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center were established, when it conducted a successful first-ever capital campaign (raising $118 million); instrumental in creating the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center

1992 - Horace G. Fralin, alumnus, founding member of Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center Board, former president of the Virginia Tech Foundation, charter member of the Ut Prosim Society, member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100, member of Board of Visitors

1991 - Edward R. "Red" English, alumnus; major contributor to the baseball field, English Field; contributor to the university, memorial funds, and the Pamplin College of Business; lifetime involvement serving on numerous university councils and associations; recipient of the 1984 Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1984 and the 1979 Alumni Distinguished Service Award

1990 - Willis Sheridan White Jr., alumnus, former member and rector of the Board of Visitors, chairman and CEO of American Electric Power Company, member of the board of the Virginia Tech Foundation

1989 - G. Frank Clement, former rector of the Board of Visitors, an honorary Virginia Tech alumnus, a good friend of the university

1988 - Dan Henry Pletta, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, emeritus professor, head of the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics

    John W. Bates Jr., retired president and chairman of Harrison & Bates, an active and sustained supporter of the university

1987 - Lee C. Tait, retired senior vice president (chief operating officer) of the C&P Telephone Co. of Virginia, former member and rector of the Board of Visitors, member of the board of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

1986 - Parke C. Brinkley, former member and rector of the Board of Visitors

1985 - Charles O. Gordon Sr. ("Mr. VPI"), retired chairman of Gordon's Inc., former member and rector of the Board of Visitors, member of the Virginia Tech Foundation board

1984 - Robert O. Goodykoontz, retired vice president of Humble Oil and Refining Co., former member of the Board of Visitors, life-long member and former president of the Alumni Association

1983 - G. Burke Johnston, C.P. Miles Professor of English, Emeritus; former dean of Arts and Sciences; former dean of Sciences and General Studies, former dean of Applied Science and Business Administration

    Julian N. Cheatham, former executive vice president for export and corporate projects and former member of the corporate executive committee of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation

1982 - T. Marshall Hahn Jr., university president emeritus, chairman and chief executive officer of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation

1981 - Robert B. Pamplin Sr., former board chairman and chief executive officer of the Georgia-Pacific Corp., former member of the Board of Visitors, co-chairman of the Campaign for Excellence, major benefactor

    W. Thomas Rice, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Seaboard Coast Line Co., former rector of the Board of Visitors, president of the William Preston Society

1980 - John W. Hancock Jr., Virginia Tech alumnus, Roanoke business executive, former member of the Board of Visitors, member of the board of the Virginia Tech Foundation, major benefactor.

1979 - Lucy Lee Lancaster, Virginia Tech alumnus, emeritus assistant professor and assistant librarian, Carol M. Newman Library

1978 - Mr. C. Eugene Rowe, former rector of the Board of Visitors, former president of the Alumni Association.

1977 - Walter S. Newman, president emeritus

    Stuart K. Cassell, vice president for administration (posthumously)