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Leader Development Center created

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 29 - April 25, 1996

In honor of a century of the training of leaders at Virginia Tech, and particularly in honor of the outstanding leadership of two Virginia Tech alumni, a donor who prefers to remain anonymous is making possible the creation of the Corps of Cadets Center for Leader Development at the university.

The Center for Leader Development is designed to foster the next generation of public leaders by identifying and developing leadership capabilities among students, educating students about leadership, and preparing them, through experience and scholarly dialogue, to be leaders of integrity. It will include an academic minor in leadership that at present requires membership in the Corps of Cadets, though it may be extended to other students in the future. The minor will offer three tracks: military, military/civic professions, and civic professions.

In addition, the center will contain such programs as a leaders-in-action program, a distinguished lecture series, and personal skill development workshops.

The center, which will be located in the College of Arts and Sciences, is being made possible by a $2-million commitment that will endow the W. Thomas Rice Chair, the Corps of Cadets Center for Leader Development, and the Corps-sponsored Clifford A. Cutchins III Distinguished Lecture Series, as well as provide $100,000 to endow two scholarships to attract qualified students to the Corps. The center's chair and lecture series, designed to attract and retain eminent scholars, are named for two of Virginia Tech's most distinguished alumni who are also among Virginia's most prominent business leaders and exemplify the height of successful leadership.

Thomas Rice, a 1934 civil-engineering graduate, has combined a railroad career with that of a soldier and, by virtue of this unique combination, has been able to make many valuable contributions to the transportation industry and the nation. The retired chairman emeritus of Seaboard Coastline Industries, Rice holds a reserve commission as a brigadier general. He has won Virginia Tech's Ruffner Medal and Alumni Distinguished Service Award and has a professorship in his name funded by CSX and the College of Engineering. He is a member of the Corps of Cadets Alumni Board and has served as rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The lecture series is named for Clifford Cutchins, a 1944 accounting graduate and retired chairman of Sovran Financial Corporation (now NationsBank). The bank honored him with a gift to establish a professorship in the English department. He has served as rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and serves on the steering committee for the Campaign for Virginia Tech and as president of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

"Thomas Rice and Clifford Cutchins have exhibited the type of leadership that makes a difference in the world, and so it is fitting that they be honored during the Campaign for Virginia Tech," said Virginia Tech President Paul Torgersen. "They have not only made significant accomplishments in their own professions, but have been exemplary in their service to Virginia Tech. The center and lecture series made possible in their names will allow Virginia Tech to continue, in a more formal manner, the contributions it has made over the years to the leadership of Virginia and the country."

Robert Denton, professor and head of the Department of Communication Studies, will be the director of the new center and hold the W. Thomas Rice Professorship. "In recent years," Denton said, "a shrinking global community, complex social problems, rapid technological advances, and urgent community needs have made it critical that our leaders in government, education, military, human services, and business be as effective as possible. The Center for Leader Development is built upon the philosophical premise that citizen leaders exist in all communities and that, by providing a comprehensive curriculum, the center may assist individuals in recognizing and accepting responsibility for active participation in problem-solving at community, state, and national levels."

Before coming to Virginia Tech, Denton served as an educational specialist for the Directorate of Training Developments of the U.S. Army Signal School and as assistant chief of the Media Branch of the directorate of Advertising and Sales Promotion for the U.S. Army. He was founder and executive vice president of Denton, Kreps, and Weckerly LTD, an advertising agency in Rockford, Ill.

Denton, who is the political analyst for WSLS-TV and host of Blue Ridge Public Television's "At Issue With Bob Denton," is the author, co-author, or editor of 10 books. Recent titles include The Media and the Persian Gulf War, The 1992 Presidential Campaign: From a Communication Perspective, and The Clinton Presidency: Issues, Images, and Communication Strategies. He has written numerous scholarly articles and book chapters and presented more than 50 convention and professional papers. He is associate editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly.