Developments at Virginia Tech

The official Tumblr of Virginia Tech's Office of University Development, located at the Gateway Center on the corner of University City Blvd., and Prices Fork Rd., in Blacksburg, Va.

This website is maintained by the Development Communications team headed by Albert Raboteau, Gary Cope, Rich Polikoff, and Erica Stacy.

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Posts tagged "philanthropy"

Coal mining has long been an important part of the Appalachian economy, and while efforts to find sustainable energy sources are ongoing, coal continues to be a major source of energy and jobs.

Regulatory concerns over the environmental impact of mining are leading researchers to develop new technologies to help mining companies minimize their impact on the environment, restore ecosystem processes on reclaimed mine sites, and still retain economic viability.

With help from a Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant, Virginia Tech researchers are testing a technology called electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) that has the potential to visualize near-surface hydrology and allow better-designed mining operations to manage water flows and quality.

"Electrical resistivity imaging will allow us to see inside the valley fills created by surface coal mining in a brand new way," said Erich Hester, assistant professor of civil and environmental Engineering within the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. "This will allow us to better understand how water moves through the ground during storms and how it interacts with pollution-generating spoil rock."

Near-surface hydrology is the study of rainwater flow over, into, and through near-surface soil and geological materials. It is used to analyze the environmental impact of surface coal mining, which releases natural mineral constituents that have a negative impact on water resources and can increase the possibility of flooding in nearby streams.

These concerns can be addressed if mine reclamation practices can restore near-surface hydrology as closely as possible to pre-mining conditions.

The problem, however, is that restoring mining sites is often made difficult because water flowing beneath the surface is difficult to see or measure. ERI aims to change that. The technology sends brief electrical pulses into the ground, measures pulse transmissions to other locations, and creates maps of the electrical resistivity of soils and other geological materials. These maps can be used to determine water flow paths in multiple dimensions.

"This knowledge should eventually allow future mining operations to adjust fill placement techniques to reduce pollutant loading to streams, thereby helping restore the health of downstream aquatic ecosystems," said Hester, who is leading the research project along with Carl Zipper, a Virginia Tech professor of crop and soil environmental science within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In a recent release, Dee O’Donnell, regional president for western Virginia at Wells Fargo, explained why funding this particular research was appealing to her company:

"I am thrilled that Wells Fargo is able to support a project such as this one," she said. "The ERI technology that this grant supports could help reduce the environmental impacts, resulting in improved resources for the community, reduced treatment costs, and job creation, if the technology evolves and is widely adopted – which I have full confidence that it will be."

Jim and Janet Johnson, who spent their careers at Virginia Tech, were recently awarded the Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist Award by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association at its annual conference on June 18, in Alexandria, Va.

The award honors individuals who have demonstrated sustained giving to agricultural initiatives including agriculture in higher education, extension, or land-grant universities. The award also recognizes advocacy for agriculture and natural resource management in the form of philanthropic commitments.

Janet Johnson is dean emeritus of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Jim Johnson spent his professional career as a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent at Virginia Tech, ultimately retiring as Extension director and associate professor emeritus of Extension.

Click on the photo above to learn more.

Congratulations to Thomas J. Inzana, professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. He was recently reappointed the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair in Bacteriology by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair in Bacteriology is named for an alumnus and his wife, who endowed the position in their memory. Tyler J. Young earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1934, a master’s degree in that subject in 1938, and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Auburn University in 1940.

Virginia Tech has renamed the headquarters building of its Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) in honor of Hugh and Ethel Kelly in recognition of his pioneering work in telecommunications and her extraordinary philanthropic support.

What is now the Hugh and Ethel Kelly building opened in 2009 and is on Stanger Street.

The institute, which is known by its initials ICTAS, supports and promotes cutting edge research at the intersection of engineering, the sciences (physical, life, and social), and the humanities.

Click on the photo above to learn more about the renaming.

Kelsey Mellen earned her bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from Virginia Tech in 2012. Even before she graduated summa cum laude, Mellen accepted a position with JW Marriott in Washington, D.C.

While attending Virginia Tech, she received a scholarship endowed by  alumnae Starlette Johnson, who so valued her experiences at her alma mater that she wanted to give back and help future Hokies get the most out of their college experiences.

Read more about Starlette Johnson and why she’s made giving back to Virginia Tech a priority.


The Signature Engineering Building on 18 January 2013, a day after the first year’s winterstorm gave Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus 6 inches of snow. The SEB is expected to be open this time next year, in 2014. Its progress can be followed here, live, at our webcam from atop Whittemore Hall:

An anonymous donor committed $25 million toward the Signature Engineering Building currently under construction at Virginia Tech.

The largest single donation ever given to the 140-year-old institution was one of three multimillion-dollar contributions to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering highlighted April 28, 2011 by university President Charles W. Steger.

Generous support from Delta Dental of Virginia helps make it possible for students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine to participate in a program on oral health that is so groundbreaking it was profiled in ADA News, the magazine of the American Dental Association.

In the photo above, Dr. Charles “Bud” Conklin, an associate professor in the medical school’s Department of Surgery, instructs students as part of the oral-health program.

From the Facebook page of the Commandant of Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets:

Congratulations to Cadet Brett Romig on his selection as the recipient of the Wallace Easter Emerging Leader Scholarship. Easter was the director of the Highty Tighties, the corps’ marching band, from 1982-1992 and now serves on the faculty of the Virginia Tech Music Department. The certificate was presented by Easter at the Highty Tighties dinner following Saturday’s homecoming game.

In 1992, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets saw its enrollment drop to about 400, the lowest since 1980. In 1995, the corps introduced the Emerging Leader Scholarship program, and enrollment has been on the rise ever since. And this fall, the corps reached its enrollment goal of 1,000 cadets.

Click on the photo to learn more.

In March, Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business hosted the first talk in the Wells Fargo Distinguished Lecture series, formerly the Wachovia Distinguished Lecture series.

Wells Fargo continued its generous support of Virginia Tech and its mission through a gift to the university’s Summer Academy program, a new opportunity for incoming freshmen to launch their academic career in a small classroom environment.

The Virginia Tech Summer Academy is designed to ease a student’s transition from high school to college by coupling required course work with opportunities to become familiar with university expectations, make new friends, and learn the way around campus and the Blacksburg community.

Learn more about Summer Academy at

The Fralin Life Sciences Institute was yesterday’s “Photo of the Day” on the official Virginia Tech Facebook page. The institute was named after Horace G. Fralin, a member of Virginia Tech’s Class of 1948.

Virginia Tech alumnus Horace G. Fralin, class of 1948Fralin capped a lifetime of generosity to his alma mater by making an $8.9 million bequest benefiting Virginia Tech. At the time, it was one of the largest philanthropic commitments in the university’s history. A major portion of his legacy was earmarked for the biotechnology center.

The Fralin Life Sciences Institute is home to faculty researchers from the departments of entomology, fish and wildlife conservation, food science, and biochemistry, as well as other endeavors.

Click on the photo and scroll down to the second story on the linked Web page to learn more about Fralin and his support of Virginia Tech.