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Ruffner Award Winner
Skelton exemplifies service to university, community

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 26 - April 2, 1998

The dean emeritus of the university's Extension Division will be awarded Virginia Tech's highest honor. President Paul Torgersen will present the William H. Ruffner Medal to William E. Skelton at Founders Day ceremonies tomorrow. Named in honor of a member of the first Board of Visitors and the state's first superintendent of public instruction, the Ruffner Medal is awarded to individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university.
According to Torgersen, Skelton's service to society extends well beyond the bounds of the university.
"Bill embodies Virginia Tech's motto of ut prosim, having dedicated his life to serving his country, his school, and his community," Torgersen said. "He cares deeply about the university and has worked diligently towards the fulfillment of its land-grant mission."
Skelton has had a distinguished career of service to the university. After graduating in agricultural engineering, he began his career in Extension when he became a 4-H Extension agent for nine counties with headquarters in Appomattox County. He served in World War II as a U.S. Army officer, then served as an Extension agent in Henry County. Skelton's 39-year career at Virginia Tech took on increasingly important leadership roles, first as director of 4-H programs and director of the Cooperative Extension Service and culminating with his appointment as dean of the Extension Division in 1965. He held that position until he retired in 1979 at which time the university conferred upon him the honored title of dean emeritus.
"During the entire time I worked for Virginia Tech, I never really considered it a job," Skelton said. "It was a pleasurable, rewarding career, and I enjoyed every minute of it."
Among his many professional activities both before and after retirement, Skelton was president of the Old Guard; a member of the Board of Directors for the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc.; served on eight Virginia committees, commissions, and councils; was a delegate to two National White House Conferences on Youth; and served as president of Epsilon Sigma Phi.
Skelton received the Virginia Tech Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1983, the George Washington Freedom Foundation Award, the National 4-H Alumni Award, the Distinguished Ruby Award for Education, and the Superior Service Award from the U.S. government.
Currently, Skelton is serving as president of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and is leading the effort to establish a new Alumni Center on campus.
Skelton and his wife, Peggy (also a retired faculty member), are Lifetime Golden Hokies and members of the Ut Prosim Society, the university's most prestigious organization. Because of the Skeltons' loyalty to the university and their commitment to the many students whom they have personally influenced, the Virginia Tech Class of 1999 has named their ring collection in honor of the Skeltons.
Skelton still serves the university by working to support Extension and public service and securing funds for Virginia Tech through the private sector.
"I am overwhelmed with the Ruffner honor," Skelton said. "I only hope I measure up to those who have received this great honor before me."