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Ruffner Medal

Ruffner Medal, a bronze medal with an image of William Ruffner, on a red and white ribbon
This is the Ruffner Medal, awarded by the Board of Visitors to individuals who have rendered unusually distinguished services to Virginia Tech.

In 1976 the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors authorized the William H. Ruffner Medal to recognize individuals “who have rendered unusually distinguished services to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.” The medal is named in honor of William Henry Ruffner, Virginia’s first superintendent of instruction, who had taken a stand as early as 1856 for a practical system of agricultural education. In his role as state superintendent, he served on Virginia Tech’s first governing board for a decade. He also chaired a committee that planned the organization and instruction of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, the school known today as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. D. Lyle Kinnear, in his book The First Hundred Years, calls Ruffner “a towering figure, perhaps the towering figure, in shaping the early destiny of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College . . . .”

On October 16, 1981, Mr. Charles O. Gordon, Sr., then Rector of the Board of Visitors, appointed a committee representative of the faculty, administration, students, emeriti faculty, and alumni to consider individuals to whom the William H. Ruffner Medal might appropriately be presented. The committee was requested to make a recommendation each year to the Board, through the President, as to one or more such persons to whom the Board might wish to present such an award, if any were so identified.

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.

In 2022, the university’s sesquicentennial year, the William H. Ruffner Medal was sunset to introduce the Ut Prosim Medal as the university’s highest award.

2020

Mike Quillen, alumnus, founder of Alpha Natural Resources in 2002 and company’s first CEO, he retired as chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2012. He was a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors from 2010-2018, serving as rector in 2013 and 2014, and chairing the finance and building and grounds committees. He has served on the advisory boards of the College of Engineering, the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Virginia Tech Athletic Association, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and on the advisory board of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research. He is on the steering committee of Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech, and serves on the Class of 1970 50th Reunion Committee. Along with his wife, Deborah, he is a member of the President’s Circle within Ut Prosim Society of Virginia Tech’s most-generous donors. They are also members of the university’s 1872, Legacy, and Pylon societies of donors. He was named College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus for 2006 and elected to the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2008. He is a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100.

2019

Heywood Fralin, Roanoke-born attorney; served as a member of both the Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia boards of visitors; chairman of Medical Facilities of America; chairs the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and has served on a previous Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation, and Investment. He serves as a member of the Virginia Growth and Opportunity (Go Virginia) board, as well as a member of the Virginia Research Investment Committee (VRIC); serves as vice chair of the Taubman Museum of Art; donated $50 million, along with the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and his wife, Cynthia, to support the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, part of the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke.

2018

Leon P. Harris, alumnus, member of the 1872 Society, the Pylon Society, and the Ut Prosim Society; president of Keltech Inc., of Roanoke; endowed the Leon P. Harris Scholarship Fund, supporting undergraduate students in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering; member of the board of directors for the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake, Hokies for Higher Education, and Virginia Tech Carilion Health Systems and Technology Steering Committee; chair for the Taubman Museum of Art and president of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation Board.

2017

John Lawson, alumnus, charter member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, a namesake of the university’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction, co-chair of The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, which concluded in 2011 after surpassing its $1 billion goal, member of the Board of Visitors from 2002-2010 serving as rector of the board from 2008-2010.

2016

Ben J. Davenport Jr., alumnus, member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, co-led the effort to honor former university president Charles Steger by renaming the Center for European Studies and Architecture at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, as the Steger Center for International Scholarship, served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, including two years as rector, served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board, is past chair of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Board of Directors, served on the Pamplin College of Business Advisory Board.

2015

Sandra Davis, a member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, a namesake of the Street and Davis Performance Hall within the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, established a track scholarship in her late husband’s memory, has been a leading voice among the university’s most generous female philanthropists, serves on the boards of the Virginia Tech Foundation and the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund, served on the board of the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake, supported numerous other areas of the university, including the Center for Civil War Studies, the Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion and Horticulture Garden, the Corps of Cadets, the Pamplin College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

2014

G. Robert “Bob” Quisenberry, alumnus, a member of the Class of 1962, an inaugural member of the College of Arts and Sciences Roundtable Advisory Board, former chair of the College of Science Dean’s Roundtable, was among the 12 alumni inducted into the inaugural class of the College of Science Hall of Distinction, member of both the Ut Prosim Society and the Legacy Society, chaired the Corps of Cadets Gold Cord Committee during The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future and was active on that campaign’s National Campaign Steering Committee.

2013

Michele "Shelley" Duke, was the first female vice-rector on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, served on its executive, academic affairs, research, nominating, and by-laws committees, volunteer at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, director of the center’s volunteer program and chair of the Equine Medical Center Council, a member of the Ut Prosim Society and the Legacy Society, has served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors, the National Campaign Steering Committee for the university’s past fundraising campaign, the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Council, the Middleburg Agricultural Research Extension Center board, the Olivio Ferrari Foundation Board of Directors, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Dean’s Advisory Council.

2012

Samuel L. Lionberger Jr., alumnus, 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, a member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society.

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, on the university’s National Campaign Steering Committee, served on the committee for his each of his class reunions at Virginia Tech, has been a staunch supporter of the university before the Virginia General Assembly, and has been active in the Hokies for Higher Education advocacy group.

2010

Garnett E. Smith, served on the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center Board of Directors as an officer, served on the Virginia Tech Foundation board and as a volunteer in various roles for The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, has benefited the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center, athletics, University Libraries, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the Holtzman Alumni Center, and the Skelton Conference Center, with his wife of 49 years, Patsy Thomas Smith, are the namesakes of the Virginia Tech Smith Career Center. He is a Golden Hokie, a Legacy Society member, and a President’s Circle member of the Ut Prosim Society.

2009

Eugene V. Fife, alumnus, member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors and its executive committee, chaired the quiet phase of the Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, is a member of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society.

2008

James B. “J. B.” Jones, alumnus, headed the Department of Mechanical Engineering for 19 years and was named the Lingan S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering, support university programs and initiatives, including the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the College of Engineering, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, member of the Ut Prosim Society.

2007

William C. Latham, alumnus, appointed by both governors Charles Robb and James Gilmore to two terms on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, where he served as vice rector, a member of the William Preston Society, has served on the National Leadership Campaign Committee for the Alumni and Conference Center, received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award, serves as co-chairs for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ campaign steering committee, member of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society. The agriculture research building bears the Latham family name.

2006

Floyd W. “Sonny” Merryman Jr., alumnus, contributions have ranged from scholarships to renovations and construction of facilities on campus, including the Merryman Center athletic facility, created the Sonny Merryman Inc. Endowed Scholarship to provide funding for two Campbell County residents to attend Virginia Tech, and also provide funding for two students from the surrounding area to attend Virginia Tech, created the Sonny Merryman Inc., Endowed Professorship in the College of Business, and contributed to the Alumni and Conference Center and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

2005

William E. “Ping” Betts Jr., alumnus, served Virginia Tech as director of the Virginia Tech Educational Foundation and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, served on the Lynchburg-Amherst-Nelson Regional Capital Campaign Committee, was a charter member of the Rowe Fellow Program, a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100, serves on the Virginia Tech President’s Council Membership Committee for Lynchburg, inducted into the Academy of Engineering Excellence, received the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Academy of Distinguished Alumni Award from the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is a Senior Benefactor in the Ut Prosim Society.

2004

James E. Turner Jr., alumnus, served on the Academy of Engineering Excellence, the Capital Campaign Steering Committee, the Engineering Advisory Committee, and the past Regional Campaign Committee, 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, a member of the Ut Prosim Society and a charter member of the President’s Circle.

2003

Ralph G. Roop, alumnus, served on the university’s past Major Gifts and Campaign Committees, the Virginia Tech Foundation and Executive Committee, the Alumni Center Campaign Committee, and the Hokies for Higher Education; is a Golden Hokie Champion and a charter member of the Ut Prosim Society, supporter of the College of Human Resources and Education.

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

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)