Virginia Tech President Emeritus Charles William Steger Jr. died Sunday evening at his home, the university announced today.
Steger was president during historic highs and lows - from unprecedented growth to Tech's entrance to the Atlantic Coast Conference to the 2007 campus shootings.
Steger served as the university’s 15th president from 2000 to 2014.
“Charles Steger was a true visionary, a strong and resilient leader, and a deeply compassionate person who completely dedicated himself to our university,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands in a university news release. “He achieved incredible success because he, without question, personified our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). Virginia Tech is the great institution it is today because of him. I will greatly miss him. He was a deeply valued mentor and a close personal friend.”
Others who worked closely with Steger shared their condolences through the news release:
“Virginia Tech is one of Virginia’s most venerable and respected educational institutions, and Charles Steger was a pillar of strength as president,” said former U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). “Charles carefully set Virginia Tech on a course and speed that allowed the university to advance to the forefront of education while at the same time meeting the demands of a changing culture and increasingly competitive global marketplace. Education leaders worldwide can benefit from examining his model of success. Jeanne and I express our deepest sympathies to the Steger family and to the faculty, staff, students, and alumni, because no matter how big Virginia Tech grew, Charles Steger always viewed it as a family working together.”
“I’ve known Charles Steger for more than 30 years, and in that time, I always knew him not only as an advocate for Virginia Tech, but for educational opportunity for all Virginians, at every level,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “I was proud to call him my friend, and I have incredibly fond memories of our fight together to get Tech into the ACC. I know that Dr. Steger will be missed by the whole Tech family.”
“No organization, no matter how big or small, rises above its leadership and Charles Steger was that leader who took Virginia Tech to new heights only dreamed of before,” said Virginia Tech alumnus Ben Davenport, chairman of the First Piedmont Corp. and a former two-term member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors who served as rector for two years during Steger’s presidency. “These accomplishments during his tenure as president were the result of his enormous capacity to orchestrate the Virginia General Assembly in such a way as to have our government move in tandem with our university vision to continuously grow and expand the mission of Virginia Tech.”
“Throughout my tenure as a colleague and friend of Dr. Charles W. Steger, I recognize him as a visionary leader who sought to positon Virginia Tech as a leading institution in a national educational landscape experiencing significant transformation,” said Minnis Ridenour, who worked alongside Steger at Virginia Tech for more than 40 years. “Charles believed in the importance of Virginia Tech and its role as a public land-grant institution. A lifetime scholar, educator, and leader, Dr. Steger ensured that Virginia Tech created an impact on a national and international level.”
“Not many of the hundreds of leaders who have led American universities in modern times have influenced their institutions as powerfully as Charles Steger influenced Virginia Tech, or as gently and wisely,” noted University of Virginia President Emeritus John T. Casteen III, whose presidential tenure coincided with Steger’s. “Charles imagined a future of service and achievement, and led Virginia Tech toward it.”
During Steger’s presidential tenure, Virginia Tech grew in enrollment from 28,000 to 31,000, increased graduate enrollment by 12 percent, raised more than $1 billion in private funding, formed a school of biomedical engineering, created a public-private school of medicine, and constructed the Moss Arts Center and the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington as part of the largest building boom in university history.
Under his leadership, Virginia Tech charted a course to become a top research university; a year after his retirement, the university’s research expenditures ranked 39th in the nation. During his presidency, Virginia Tech increased its total research expenditures from $192 million to more than $450 million, according to the release.
A Fellow in the American Institute of Architects, Steger earned three Virginia Tech degrees: a bachelor's degree in 1970 and a master's degree in 1971, both in architecture; and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences and engineering in 1978. He left a private-sector career in 1976 to pursue his passion for teaching at Virginia Tech.
In addition to serving as a faculty member and a college dean, Steger also served as acting vice president for public service, and then vice president for development and university relations, before becoming president in 2000. He was a member of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Society and Legacy Society.
Following his retirement as president in 2014, Steger served as executive director of the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience, which brings university researchers and partner organizations together to facilitate conversations about patterns and processes of urbanization and regional development, with a special emphasis on the long-term resilience of places and communities.
Steger is survived by his wife of 48 years, Janet; a son, Christopher Baird Steger, and wife, Elizabeth Jeanne Schumann; and a son, David Charles Steger, and fiancée, Alison Nemeth. Steger is also survived by a brother, Keith G. Steger, and wife, Teresa, and their son, Aaron Steger; a sister, Linda McGrath, and husband, Michael, and their daughter, Andrea; and a sister, Jennifer Layton, and husband, Jim; and a brother-in-law, John Baird, and wife, Wendy Wark, and their three children.