Former Virginia Tech Fraternity Brothers Partner to Help Establish a New School at Their Alma Mater
Long-standing relationships are unique among friends. Books are written about such distinctive friendships. And, for Virginia Tech, the more than 30-year friendship between A. Ross Myers and John R. Lawson, II, that started in their college days in Blacksburg is a dream come true. The two alumni who met as Virginia Tech undergraduates and members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity are sharing equally in a $10 million pledge to start the Virginia Tech School of Construction at their alma mater.
The two alumni, Myers, awarded a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1972, and Lawson, who earned a geophysics degree in 1975, are the chief executive officers (CEOs) of two major construction companies, both of which emphasize quality, standards and ethics in all of their business dealings. Myers is the CEO of American Infrastructure, headquartered in Worcester, Pa., and Lawson is the President and CEO of W. M. Jordan Co., with offices in Newport News, Va., and in Richmond, Va.
The proposed school of construction will enhance Virginia Tech's recognized strong position of national leadership in construction education and research. The Vecillio Construction Engineering and Management Program (VCEMP) in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Building Construction (BC) Department in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), the primary beneficiaries of the $10 million gift, already work together closely.
With the new school of construction, "our primary focus will be on values-based leadership in the construction industry. We want to build upon an ethical community of construction personnel", said the new director Yvan Beliveau, the Georgia Anne Snyder-Falkinham Professor and the BC department head. His thoughts were echoed by the associate director, Michael Vorster, the David Burrows Professor of Civil Engineering, who stresses the fact that the proposed school will "combine the strengths of two excellent programs to establish a new standard for construction education and research."
"My investment in Virginia Tech's School of Construction will provide the industry, including companies like mine, with much needed, well-prepared, high content human capital. Beyond that I believe the school will elevate the learning process to produce leaders prepared to elevate an industry", Myers said.
Lawson concurred, saying: "Virginia Tech has always had good building construction and civil engineering programs, but we have a chance to be the best. There are never enough graduating seniors to fulfill the industry's demand. We have a chance to double the output while adding many additional programs and features, including possibly some that are unique to construction. I have personally benefited from my school and my industry. I have an obligation to give back."
The school will provide "both an engineering and a non-engineering approach to construction education", Beliveau says. "The graduate level work will be enriched as students in management, building construction, architecture, and engineering work together and share ideas."
The new school will be housed in a new facility, the Bishop/Favrao Hall. This facility will open in fall 2007 and is largely the result of fundraising efforts by the BC department and its advisory board. The facility is named for Richard Bishop who made the $1 million lead gift for the facility and William Favrao, the BC department head from its inception in 1947 until his death in 1977.
Vorster, who came to Virginia Tech in 1986, pointed to the exciting future and excellent foundation on which the new school will be based. "In 2001, members of the Vecellio family donated $1 million to the college of engineering to name the Vecellio Construction Engineering and Management Program. This gift gave confidence and stability and will continue to provide funding for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and an annual distinguished lecture series. The proposed school of construction will build upon this success."
Beliveau, who first joined Virginia Tech in 1985 as a member of the CEE department before he moved to BC as its department head in 1995, also credited some of the earlier major gifts to his department as providing a strong foundation for the school of construction. These include a $1.5 million gift from Pulte Homes and a $1 million gift from the Harry and Patsy Williams estate.
The proposed school of construction, which will have to be approved by the Virginia Tech University Council and the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), will provide undergraduates and graduates more choices for pursuing construction education. It is anticipated that an accredited undergraduate degree in construction engineering and management will be created to complement the existing degree program in BC and CEE. The school will work with faculty from multiple departments to provide students with additional opportunities to pursue concentrations, minors, or support courses related to construction.
Plans also include the hiring of three new faculty and an industry internship program coordinator.
Construction accounts for approximately eight to 10 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and approximately 10 percent of the gross world product. "A successful school of construction will allow Virginia Tech to have major impacts on a variety of aspects of this very important industry. It will unite broad and distinct areas of construction education, research, and outreach at Virginia Tech", Beliveau and Vorster said.
"This funding together with the annual funding, included in the Myers-Lawson gift will enable us to jumpstart the school and get going right away," they added.