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Vecellio

By Julie Kane

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 27 - April 6, 1995

As a son of Italian immigrants growing up during the Great Depression, Virginia Tech College of Engineering distinguished alumnus Leo A. Vecellio Sr. developed early a strong work ethic that has enabled him to succeed throughout his life. Approaching 80, Vecellio can be found weekdays at the office, where he is president of Vecellio and Grogan Inc.

"I won't retire to do nothing," Vecellio said, adding that "as long as I can make a contribution, I intend to keep on working."

Another key ingredient to his success is an ability to make friends wherever he goes. While earning a bachelor of science in civil engineering at Virginia Tech (Class of 1938), he was chosen by his classmates to be president of his freshman, sophomore, and junior classes. In his fourth year, he was president of the Corps of Cadets.

Vecellio, who had attended Greenbrier Military School, had no difficulty in assimilating the military lifestyle of the Corps of Cadets. "They were the lifeline of the college and a formidable force," he said. "We were a tightly knit group, and I enjoyed the camaraderie." Vecellio describes himself as very goal-oriented during his years at Virginia Tech. "We knew we were there to get an education, not to play," he said.

Besides the military way of life, Vecellio must have felt at home among Virginia Tech's limestone or "Hokie-stone" buildings. President Paul Torgersen explained, "Leo's father came to the United States 95 years ago from southern Switzerland. For his first 10 years in this country, he was a stonemason who preferred building with limestone. With this family tradition and a degree in civil engineering," Torgersen continued, "Leo's long, successful career in the construction business comes as no surprise."

After graduation and a short stint as a civil engineer for a construction company, Vecellio formed his own construction firm with two other partners in 1938. His duties at Vecellio and Grogan were interrupted by World War II. Assigned to overseas duty in May, 1942, he served in the China-Burma-India theater for 38 months before being discharged as a major.

After establishing Vecellio and Grogan, Inc., he diversified, becoming president, chairman or partner in a long list of construction-related companies.

Throughout his life, Vecellio has kept his ties with Virginia Tech. Fifty years after graduation, May 1988, he became a College of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus. During the ceremony, Vecellio was the parade marshal. Currently, he is a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100, a group of the college's most influential alumni.

Several family members chose to follow Vecellio's footsteps and get an education at Virginia Tech. His son, Leo Vecellio Jr., graduated in 1968 with a degree in civil engineering. A daughter, Patricia Rogers was a Virginia Tech adjunct professor in the Biology Department from 1986 to 1993. A son-in-law, Gary Rogers, earned a Ph.D. in the mining program.

Vice President for Alumni Relations Buddy Russell describes Vecellio as "a true gentleman, who has gained the admiration of many during his visits to the campus. He has always been interested in alumni programs and athletics," Russell said.

To be a success in life, Vecellio considers responsibility, integrity, and high moral character to be most important. These attributes, in addition to his tremendous service to Virginia Tech, are recognized by bestowing on Vecellio the university's Alumni Distinguished Service Award.