Virginia Tech Magazine

Volume 15, Number 3
Spring 1993

In Honor of Horace G. Fralin

Horace G. Fralin , a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, died Jan. 19 after losing his battle with cancer.

President of Fralin and Waldron, a Roanoke real estate development firm, Fralin was tireless in his support of the Roanoke Valley and of Virginia Tech.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has named the proposed Fralin Biotechnology Center in his honor. The building, which will be constructed on west campus, will house research and teaching facilities for molecular biologists, microbiologists, agriculture, and other scientists.

In a eulogy, former U.S. Congressman M. Caldwell Butler called Fralin a man who "gave equally of himself to the charitable and educational institutions of which he became a part. Although he was more than generous in giving of his substance, it was his use of his time and talent which was truly significant," Butler said. "Those who were privileged to work with Horace had the greatest respect for his ability, his integrity, his keen intellect, his fairness, and his sound judgement."

An astute businessman, Fralin worked in his father's building construction business from his 1948 graduation until he and his partner, Elbert Waldron, joined forces in 1962 to begin Fralin and Waldron, a business which became a major economic force in the Roanoke Valley. Fralin also was a managing partner of Medical Facilities of America, a company that builds and operates nursing homes and retirement centers.

Joe Stephenson, president of Shenandoah Life Insurance, called Fralin, who sat on his board of directors, his "number one sounding board" who could "get to the heart of the matter in five seconds."

Fralin shared his business expertise with Virginia Tech, serving as president of the Virginia Tech Foundation, director of the Corporate Research Center, chairman of the Virginia Tech Foundation Investments Committee, and a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board and the National Committee for the Campaign for Excellence.

"He was a friend of mine, a friend of thousands of students who have benefitted from his contributions and vision, and a friend to an entire region to which he brought leadership, humor, and service," said Virginia Tech President James McComas.

Most recently, Fralin led the campaign to renovate Hotel Roanoke and build an adjacent conference center. His death came only days before the university announced it had obtained full funding for the project.

"He gave generously of himself as he rationed his waning strength among his businesses and all those institutions which had come to mean so much to him," Butler said. "Even as his suffering and discomfort were apparent to all who knew him, we marvelled at his continued interest in everything."

In recognition of his years of service and devotion to Virginia Tech, Fralin received the 1992 Ruffner Medal, the university's most prestigious award for distinguished service. G. Wayne Clough, dean of the College of Engineering, praised him for his advice and help to the college. "Horace's opinions on how to attract world-class faculty and on how to update graduate and undergraduate instructional laboratories served the College of Engineering well," Clough said.

In a letter of congratulations to Fralin when he received the Ruffner Award, President McComas said: "Horace, you have done so much for this university in so many different capacities that words are hard to find to express our gratitude."

A charter member of the Ut Prosim Society, Fralin also was awarded the Alumni Distinguished Service Award during Founders Day 1989.

"I first met Horace 18 years ago when I was dean of the College of Engineering," said Paul Torgersen. "He was very well known in the Roanoke area, and although I had never met him, he accepted my invitation to serve on an advisory board to give advice and direction to the college. He said he was glad to serve because he owed a lot to the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech and wanted to give something back." In fact, Torgersen said, Fralin credited the former Engineering Dean, Earle Norris, with waiving the chemistry requirement so that he could graduate. "Horace was probably exaggerating about his problems with chemistry," Torgersen said, "but what a loss it would have been to the university and the community if he had not been able to graduate from Virginia Tech."

His affiliations in Roanoke include service on the boards of directors of the Dominion Bank and Bankshare Corp., Shenandoah Life Insurance Co., Blue Ridge Fisheries Inc., Roanoke Valley Business Council, and Jefferson Center Foundation. He was chairman of the board of the Community Hospital of Roanoke Valley, director of the River Foundation, a trustee of Roanoke College, and a member of the Roanoke College President's Associates.

Linda Wheeling, who was Fralin's executive secretary for eight years, remembers his personal qualities. "He was kind, fair, and always made time for you, no matter who you were, whether you were important or not," Wheeling said. She especially recalled his sense of humor. "Mr. Fralin rarely made a mistake," she said, "but every now and then, he would. Then, he'd laugh and say, 'I did that just to prove I'm human.'"

Butler praised Fralin for his service and influence. "Even as he enjoyed great success, Horace found time to get involved in the community--in our quality of life," he said. "He was, indeed, a good steward of the extraordinary talents given him."

Fralin is survived by his wife, the former Ann Huff of Roanoke.

Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 15, Number 3 Spring 1993