Engineering alumni recognized for philanthropy
by Sherry Bithell
The John Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
John Grado '51 is the consummate philanthropist. "I've always liked to help other people, particularly those who don't expect it," he says. The industrial engineering alumnus' commitment to others is evidenced by his support of Habitat for Humanity; the Marco Island Hospital (Fla.); numerous organizations in the community of Fitchburg, Mass.; and, of course, his alma mater.
Grado's support of his alma mater involves several important contributions. His gifts to the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) include an endowment supporting 19 scholarships each year; the John Grado Endowed Professorship, which has been held by Marvin Agee and Paul Torgersen; and the Grado Excellence Fund. The fund will benefit the ISE department, which is already ranked among the nation's top 10, for years to come, according to department head and current Grado Professor John Casali. "This endowment will assist us in moving to new heights of achievement and in attracting the highest caliber faculty and students," he says.
The ISE department was recently named for Grado in recognition of his invaluable contributions of time and money. "We are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to name our department for someone of John Grado's stature and reputation," Casali says.
Grado finds giving back to his alma mater gratifying. "You really have the opportunity to change people's lives," he explains. "My hope is they'll always remember it and do the same for others when they have the chance."
Former Grado scholar Heather Danforth '00 has taken that lesson to heart. "He is an amazing example of philanthropy," she says. "He started as a student who didn't have anything and now he has given so much back to students. I aspire to some day follow his example."
Fred D. Durham '21 made several contributions to the College of Engineering, including the Fred D. Durham Endowed Chair in Engineering, the Fred D. Durham Endowed Scholarship fund, and the Benjamin F. Bock Endowed Scholarship Fund. Yet Durham, whose lifetime giving to the university totaled more than $1.3 million, shied away from public acknowledgment of his gifts.
"During his life, my father did not want any recognition, although he helped quite a few people," says his daughter, Eleanor Durham Davenport.
Now, thanks to a $5-million endowment from Davenport, along with her husband, William M. Davenport, and their children, Victoria A. Shivel and William Martin Davenport Jr., Durham's name will become a permanent part of the university.
"This endowment, like those Fred Durham established, will have an impact on our students for years to come," says F. William Stephenson, dean of the College of Engineering.
The Davenport gift, which will establish a scholarship endowment to support undergraduate and graduate engineering scholarships in conjunction with Durham's lifelong generosity, prompted the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to name the university's newest engineering building for him. Durham Hall houses the departments of civil and environmental, electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical engineering.
"I feel it is a wonderful tribute to his memory to let people know what he did," Davenport says. "His feeling was that Virginia Tech had helped him so much, he wanted to give young people their chance at a good education."
In 1955 Durham, who earned his bachelor's in civil engineering, co-founded the Dover Corporation, which he built into a Fortune 500 company. "It is entirely fitting that this building will be named after an individual who achieved such success in the field of engineering," Stephenson says.