Virginia Tech Honors and Awards

William H. Ruffner Medal

Cutchins always willing to help alma mater

By David Nutter

Virginia Tech Spectrum, April 6, 1995

Although Cliff Cutchins has retired as chairman of the board of Sovran Financial Corporation, he still takes time to help his alma mater.

That willingness to lend a hand, to share with his university insights gained over 40 years in the banking business, are just some of the reasons why Clifford A. Cutchins was chosen as this year's Ruffner Medal winner.

"Cliff Cutchins has always been willing to help," said Charles Steger, vice president for development and university relations. "His counsel is sought after because he commands such enormous respect. His keen judgment and thoughtfulness have been invaluable to the university."

In recognizing Cutchins' loyal service to the university, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors noted that "his life is a testament to the qualities of friendship, citizenship, and leadership."

The former bank president has always been active in the civic and cultural life of his community. In previous years he was a trustee of the Science Museum of Virginia and a director of the Business Consortium for Arts Support.

Even in retirement, he continues to serve as a director of The Norfolk Forum, the National Maritime Center Foundation, and is a trustee of the Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Retirement System.

If that isn't enough to keep him busy, Cutchins also serves on the board of the Virginia Tech Foundation and is an honorary member of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

In previous years he was a national leader for the university's highly successful fundraising drive, the Campaign for Excellence. He has been equally generous in establishing the Clifford A. Cutchins Endowed Scholarship and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Scholarship Endowment.

Cutchins says that he's had a special feeling for Virginia Tech since he was 17 years old. "I fought very hard to stay there. Virginia Tech shaped my life. I am just glad that I am able to help some."

A native of Southampton County, Cutchins was supposed to be a member of the Class of 1944. Like many young men of that period, national service interrupted his education, and he returned to campus to finish his degree in accounting in 1947.

After graduation, Cutchins returned home to stand behind the teller window at Vaughan & Co. Bankers, a small community bank in Franklin his grandfather established in 1886. Over the next 13 years he worked his way up the ranks, becoming president of the bank in 1960.

Shortly afterward he negotiated a merger with two local banks to create Tidewater Bank and Trust Co. That bank then merged into Virginia National Bank, and by 1969 he had moved up to president. By 1980 he was elected chairman and chief executive officer of the holding company, Virginia National Bankshares Inc.

Over the years, Cutchins engineered a number of acquisitions and mergers, and in 1983 Virginia National merged with First & Merchants Corp. to form Sovran. In 1989, Sovran again merged to form NationsBank.

Throughout his career, Cutchins made Virginia Tech a priority in his life. He served on the Board of Visitors for 14 years. He was first appointed in 1965, serving until 1976. He was reappointed to board in 1987, and served as rector from 1989 to 1991.

As an example of his willingness to lend a hand, Cutchins recently hosted a luncheon for President Paul Torgersen to meet with Tidewater business executives. "When Cliff Cutchins calls, people take notice," Steger says.

Cutchins' deep interest in higher education took a new direction this year when he agreed to serve on the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, a group of the state's business leaders united in preventing the further erosion of state support for higher-education funding.

The council is credited with helping to restore millions of dollars in state support to the state's colleges and universities during the 1995 session of the General Assembly.

"One thing is certain," said Steger, "Virginia Tech is a better institution today because of Cliff Cutchins."