Henry Dekker and Ben Davenport to deliver 2006 Fall Commencement addresses

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 29, 2006 – Henry J. Dekker and Ben J. Davenport, Jr. will deliver the keynote addresses at Virginia Tech's Fall 2006 University and Graduate School Commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, Dec. 15.

Both Davenport and Dekker have served the university community by serving on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and both are members of the Ut Prosim Society, Virginia Tech’s honor society for its most generous and committed friends. Created to recognize donors who are philanthropic leaders, the society epitomizes the university's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

The University Commencement Ceremony, to be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Cassell Coliseum, will honor approximately 1,021 students who completed their undergraduate degree programs at the end of the Summer Session or Fall 2006 semester. The Graduate School Ceremony will follow from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Cassell Coliseum where approximately 968 students who completed their graduate program of study at the end of the Summer Session or Fall 2006 semester will be recognized.

University Commencement Speaker: Henry J. Dekker

Dekker came to Virginia Tech from Eastern Virginia and began taking on leadership roles early. As an undergraduate, he was elected class president in each of his first three years and president of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets in 1942. He served as an officer in the Pacific during World War II and returned to campus to graduate in 1947. After a two-year stint as university treasurer, Dekker began a 36-year career in the textile industry.

Dekker has offered his leadership and service to a number of campus organizations over the years. These include the Alumni Association, the German Club, Omicron Delta Kappa, the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Pamplin College of Business, and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. He is widely credited with a leadership role in helping to revitalize the corps, an endeavor that included raising funds to build a strong scholarship endowment and the creation of the Corps Center for Leader Development.

From 1989-1997, Dekker served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, spending his final year on the board as the board’s Rector. He played multiple roles during the Campaign for Virginia Tech, a campaign that raised $337 million dollars for the university from 1992-1998. Following the conclusion of the campaign, Dekker continued to put his fundraising expertise to use to benefit the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

Dekker has received numerous accolades for his commitment to the university. In 1987, he received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award. The Class of 1998 named their ring collection in his honor, and in 1999, he was awarded the William H. Ruffner Medal, the university’s highest honor for dedicated and distinguished service.

Graduate Commencement Speaker: Ben J. Davenport, Jr.

Davenport, a resident of Pittsylvania County, currently sits on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, where he has served as rector and vice rector. He was first appointed to the board in 2002 and was recently reappointed through 2010. In addition to his service to the board of visitors, Davenport also has served on the board of the Virginia Tech Foundation and on the policy advisory board of Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

Davenport is the chairman of First Piedmont Corporation, a regional waste hauling and disposal company, and Davenport Energy, a regional petroleum supplier. As vice chairman of the Future of the Piedmont Foundation, he helped lead a campaign that raised $1.7 million in private contributions for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va. Davenport also serves as current president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and sits on the boards of the Intertape Polymer Corporation and American National Bank and Trust.

A graduate of Hargrave Military Academy and Virginia Tech, Davenport's volunteer commitments include serving on the boards of Hargrave Military Academy, the Danville Regional Foundation, and the Future of the Piedmont Foundation.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.