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Founders Day Speakers

Keynote speakers were introduced at the first Founders Day in 1972 and continued until 1995, when the format was changed to accommodate the installation of President Paul E. Torgersen. Initially, noted speakers provided a highlight to the university awards presented at the event. Because of the growth in the number of university awards, the practice of having a speaker was discontinued in 1996. In 2000, the special event was changed, with university awards moved to the fall and only the William H. Ruffner Medal and Alumni Distinguished Service Awards presented during the Founders Day ceremony. At the same time, speakers were reintroduced to the event. Since 2005, when the university began presenting the Ruffner and service awards in conjunction with spring Commencement, speakers at the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets spring lecture series, known as the Cutchins Distinguished Lecture, have been considered official Founders Day speakers.

1972 John G. Veneman, undersecretary of the U. S. Health, Education, and Welfare Department, read from a speech prepared by HEW Secretary Elliott L. Richardson, who had to cancel his visit because his presence was requested at a Senate hearing
1973 Marshall Hahn Jr., president of Virginia Tech
1974 Christopher C. Kraft, class of 1945 and director of NASA’s manned spacecraft center at Houston
1975 Daniel E. Marvin, director of Virginia’s State Council of Higher Education
1976 John D. Wilson, vice president for academic affairs at Virginia Tech, formerly president of Wells College
1977 G. Burke Johnston, C. P. Miles Professor emeritus of English, Virginia Tech
1978 J. Wade Gilley, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
1979 T. Marshall Hahn, president emeritus of Virginia Tech
1980 Laura Jane Harper, dean, College of Home Economics, Virginia Tech
1981 William E. Lavery, president, Virginia Tech
1982 T. Marshall Hahn Jr., president emeritus of Virginia Tech and president of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation
1983 Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
1984 John Warner, U.S. Senator from Virginia
1985 Peter Hackes, NBC news correspondent
1986 Caspar W. Weinberger, U.S. Secretary of Defense
1987 Bernard Shaw, Washington anchor for Cable News Network
1988 G. Burke Johnston, C. P. Miles Professor Emeritus of English
1989 Kocheril Raman Narayanan, Minister of State for Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Space, Electronics, and Ocean Technology for the Government of India
1990 Robert M. O’Neil, president of the University of Virginia
1991 T. Marshall Hahn Jr., chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Georgia-Pacific Corporation
1992 John T. Casteen III, president of the University of Virginia
1993 Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly (U.S. Army, retired), director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Desert Shield and Desert Storm
1994 Hunter B. Andrews, state Senate majority leader
1995 Installation of Paul E. Torgersen as president, with remarks on the presidential installation by the Honorable Thomas W. Moss Jr., speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates
1996 None
1997 None
1998 None
1999 None
2000 Inauguration of Charles W. Steger Jr. as president, with remarks by David Rozelle, president of the University of Delaware and former Virginia Tech provost, and an inaugural address by Dr. Steger
2001 Alfred Defago, Swiss ambassador to the United States
2002 Charles W. Pryor Jr., president and CEO of Westinghouse
2003 Barbara Pendergrass, Virginia Tech dean of students
2004 Robert W. Goodlatte, U. S. Congressman
2005 Mary Matalin and James Carville, political strategists
2006 George Stephanopoulos, political commentator
2007 Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, author, and TV commentator
2008 Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and anchor of “Face the Nation.”
2009 Michael Beschloss, presidential historian
2010 Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and best-selling author
2011 Bill Bradley, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate
2012 Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary
2013 Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor
2014 William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, host of the nationally syndicated “Morning in America” radio show, and author
2015 Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
2016 David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author
2017 Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University, bestselling author, and presidential historian for CNN