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Ruffner Award Winner Garvin personifies spirit of university

By David Nutter

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 26 - April 3, 1997

By almost any measure, Clifton C. Garvin Jr. is a man for all seasons.

A top student. A soldier. One of the nation's pre-eminent business leaders. A dedicated volunteer who has given his time and talents to the betterment of the university and a nation.

Clearly, if any one person's life personified the spirit of the university's motto, Ut Prosim-That I May Serve-then Garvin would be that individual.

For his selfless dedication and years of service to Virginia Tech, the Board of Visitors has selected Garvin as the recipient of the 1997 William H. Ruffner Medal, the university's highest honor.

"Cliff Garvin has been a friend and mentor since the earliest days of my presidency," said President Paul Torgersen. "He has been able to offer advice from a unique perspective; as head of a large and complex organization his insight has been very helpful to me. "

Garvin graduated with honors from the College of Engineering in 1943. But the nation's call to arms summoned, and for three years he served with the Army Corps of Engineers throughout the Pacific.

Returning home like millions of GI's to begin life anew, Garvin journeyed back to Blacksburg to earn his master's degree in chemical engineering. From the hills of Virginia to the oil-rich bayous of Louisiana, Garvin began his march to the heights of one of the world's largest corporations: Exxon.

Garvin stands as a role model and an inspiration for the university community and especially for the students for his brilliant career in international business. He rose through the ranks at Exxon, starting out as a process engineer in 1947 and reaching the pinnacle of corporate America when was elected chairman of the board and chief executive office of the giant petroleum company in 1975, a position he held until his retirement as chairman emeritus in 1986.

Despite his international standing and reputation, Torgersen said Garvin was a quiet force on the campus. "He was quite willing to offer advice when asked," Torgersen said.

The immediate past rector of the Board of Visitors, Garvin served the university from August 1991 until June 1996, one of the most tumultuous times in Virginia Tech's 125-year history. But his strong leadership and exceptional business acumen served as a beacon for the institution as it weathered the fiscal uncertainty and changing climate of that period.

Throughout his distinguished career, the Portsmouth native still found time to serve his alma mater. He has been an active member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Tech Foundation. Garvin has also given his time to the university as a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100 and the Ut Prosim Society.

Garvin continues to be relentless in his efforts to assist the university develop the financial resources to see it into the next century. With characteristic foresight, he is giving his time and energy as co-chairman of The Campaign for Virginia Tech.

Traveling regularly across the country to meet with alumni and other friends of the university, Garvin's own life has served to underscore the promise and hope of Virginia Tech.