Two prominent former members of Virginia Tech’s leadership ranks are the recipients of the 2018 Baldwin Memorial Town and Gown Award. The award is named in honor of a Tech faculty member, the late Vernon L. Baldwin, and his wife, Lois.
The Baldwin Award is traditionally presented at the annual meeting of The Community Foundation of the New River Valley.
“[T]he award is conferred upon individuals who help make significant contributions to further positive relations between Blacksburg and Virginia Tech and/or for long service to both the Blacksburg Community and Virginia Tech,” a news release about the award stated.
Former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, who died in May 2018, is one of the 2018 honorees.
Steger, who served as Tech’s 15th president from 2000-2014, was recognized for his many years of service to advancing VT and the greater university community, and particularly how he fostered quality of life improvements throughout Blacksburg.
Steger served virtually his entire professional career at the university, and was instrumental in growing enrollment, vaulting Tech into the ranks of the top 40 research universities nationally, expanding its footprint around the state and the globe, overseeing the largest building boom in university history, and gaining entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference, fulfilling a half-century-long dream of Hokies everywhere.
The award also recognizes Steger’s extensive service to the local community. A supporter of K-12 education, he was instrumental in a land-transfer deal that enabled construction of the new Prices Fork Elementary School in Montgomery County, which opened in 2011. His support for building a new high school in Blacksburg following the collapse of the BHS gym roof significantly influenced the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in its decision to fund a new high school amid many other school system priorities. In addition to his obvious interest in the power of education, Steger knew that successful faculty recruitment depended upon having quality local schools.
In the wake of several studies by the Town of Blacksburg to improve the downtown and bolster its business environment, Steger lent his support to creation of the Blacksburg Partnership. He regularly met with town leadership and encouraged his own leadership team to become and stay involved in community organizations.
Steger was also an unabashed supporter of the arts. Early in his tenure as president, he championed a new campus home for the arts, now known as the Moss Arts Center, and prevailed in the decision to locate it adjacent to Blacksburg's downtown instead of near the U.S. 460 highway. A student of urban environments, he knew the center would contribute to the downtown vibe and its vitality.
The other recipient of the 2018 Baldwin Award is Lawrence Hincker, longtime Virginia Tech public relations officer, who retired in September 2015.
Among many accomplishments, Hincker launched a decades-long brand management program to help build name recognition for Virginia Tech, and later developed the highly recognizable tagline “Invent the future.” Upon his retirement, Virginia Business Magazine said: "He's the person who made VPI into Virginia Tech."
In addition to his service to VT, Hincker is a founding director of the Blacksburg Partnership, the economic development arm of the town, and remains on its board. He served more than a decade on boards of the former Blacksburg Chamber of Commerce and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and was among a small group that worked in concert with the Christiansburg Chamber on the merger that formed the unified Montgomery County Chamber. He was among a small group of university leaders who met monthly with the Town of Blacksburg leadership team addressing issues of mutual concern, and served on the town's Downtown Advisory Group and its Marketing Advisory Group, as well as the South Main Street Task Force.
Past Baldwin Award recipients have included individuals associated with Virginia Tech, such as Ray Smoot (2013) and T. Marshall Hahn (2012), as well as community members such as Lyric Theatre Executive Director Susan Mattingly (2015).
The Community Foundation of the New River Valley manages the Baldwin Memorial Award Fund and contributes $500 to a charity designated by the awardee. Both Hincker and Steger's widow, Janet, have designated their 2018 awards to the Montgomery County Christmas Store.
-- The Roanoke Times