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Pamplins create scholarship program for university

By Larry Hincker

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 27 - April 10, 1997

A father and son, whose Virginia roots precede the Civil War, have made a $3.5-million gift that will help open the doors to Virginia Tech to a qualified student in each of the state's 285 public high schools. The gift from Robert B. Pamplin Sr. and his son, Robert Jr., chairman and president, respectively, of the R.B. Pamplin Company of Portland, Ore., will be matched by Virginia Tech to create the $7-million Pamplin Scholars Program.

The endowed program will fund the Pamplin Leadership Award, a one-year $1,000 scholarship, given to a graduating senior in each high school who meets the program's requirements. The first awards will be made to incoming students in the 1998-99 academic year.

"More than ever, the American promise of opportunity rests upon access to higher education," said Robert Pamplin Sr., a 1933 graduate of Virginia Tech. "Virginia Tech made it possible for me to realize that promise. My son and I want exceptional students throughout the commonwealth to have the same advantage."

In addition to the one-year scholarships, the program also will fund the Pamplin Scholar Award, a three-year scholarship covering tuition and fees to Virginia Tech, that will be given to the holder of a Pamplin Leadership Award before his or her sophomore year. The first Pamplin Scholar will be selected for the 1999-2000 school year. As the endowment grows, additional Pamplin Scholar Awards will be made, with current plans calling for 12 full scholarships by 2007.

"The Pamplins have set a high standard of excellence and leadership. Through their generous gift, Virginia Tech will reach a new level in leadership development. And it will touch every corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia," said President Paul Torgersen. "Land-grant institutions like Virginia Tech are rooted in access to educational opportunity for the individual."

The program's qualifications demand a high degree of success both inside and outside the classroom. Applicants must have a 3.75 GPA, rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, demonstrate leadership experience, and have a strong record of service activities. Applications will be available this fall through high-school guidance counselors and can be made by a student, counselor, or school principal.

Provost Peggy Meszaros said the scholarship program "represents both the promise and opportunity offered by Virginia Tech. It forms the foundation of a bridge between scholarship and leadership."

Deanna Gordon, superintendent of Roanoke County Schools and president-elect of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents said of the program, "If there is a theme to American higher education, it is access for all who qualify. That is why I think this wonderful gift from the Pamplin family to the people of Virginia is so very special."

Pamplin is a noted name in Virginia and at Virginia Tech. Before the Civil War, the family owned the largest clay-pipe factory in the world in Pamplin. Robert Pamplin Sr. was raised in Dinwiddie County. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he joined Georgia-Pacific Corporation, helping to make the company a wood and paper giant before retiring as chairman and CEO in 1976. With his son, he then built the R.B. Pamplin Company into one the country's most profitable privately held firms. He was recognized as "Virginian of the Year" by the Virginia Press Association in 1976.

Robert Pamplin Jr. also attended Virginia Tech. He has earned eight degrees, including two doctorates, and has served as chairman of two colleges. He is an ordained minister and the author of 12 books. He received the Distinguished Leadership Medal from the Freedoms Foundation in 1989.

With the establishment of the Pamplin Scholarship Program, gifts and commitment from the Pamplins to Virginia Tech now total more than $28 million. The university's business school is named in their honor. The Pamplin Park Civil War Site near Petersburg also was created with a $10-million gift from the Pamplins.