Tributes to President Emeritus Charles W. Steger
From Dennis H. Treacy ’78; Rector, Virginia Tech Board of Visitors; Board Member, Smithfield Foundation
Charles was an exceptional and visionary leader, a world-class talent who would've excelled in any field. I always admired his steady style, professionalism, and his great sense of humor. These qualities made it easier for those around him to deal with even the most challenging issues. His focus on research was balanced by his love of the arts. He exemplified all that we hold dear as a community, and his impact on the university will be felt for decades to come. Board of Visitors members, past and present, will miss him. He is Virginia Tech. My wife, Donna, and I send our condolences to his wonderful wife, Janet, and to his entire family.
From Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
I am truly saddened to hear of the loss of Dr. Charles Steger. He cared deeply for Virginia Tech and courageously led the Hokie Nation through a terrible tragedy. His leadership in Virginia changed the landscape of higher education, and his strategic vision propelled Virginia Tech to be one of the finest research institutions in the world. We mourn the loss of a great man with the Hokie Nation and will keep his wife, Janet, and the Steger family, in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.
From Kim O’Rourke, ’93, ’96, Vice President for Policy and Governance, who worked with President Emeritus Steger from his deanship through his presidency, most recently as his chief of staff from 2000 to 2014:
For my beloved boss, mentor, and dearest friend for more than 30 years. It was the greatest honor to work alongside you—a visionary leader and wonderful human being, whose brilliance was matched with compassion, grace, and humility. A true gentleman. With a wonderful sense of humor and great aim with a snowball. I am thankful for so many cherished memories that I will treasure all my days. Be at peace. You will be missed beyond measure. . .
From Mark McNamee, Senior Vice President and Provost Emeritus, Virginia Tech
Charles recruited me to Virginia Tech in 2001 to serve as provost. His inspiring vision for the university, his record of achievement, and the strength of his passion convinced me that my move to Blacksburg would be a great opportunity. For the next 13 years Charles and I worked closely together to fulfill our shared aspirations for the university. Charles was a man of great integrity and wisdom and we developed a wonderful working relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Carole and I are deeply saddened by his passing. We will miss him. His impact on Virginia Tech is incredible and he will always be remembered as one of the university’s greatest presidents.
Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO, Carilion Clinic
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charles Steger this morning. Quite simply, Charles was a giant of our community, a true visionary. Few people have had as much of an impact on our region as he did, and it was a privilege and an honor to work with him. His legacy will live on in the strong partnership he helped to create between Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech and in countless other ways. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many friends and colleagues he loved in our community.
From Teresa A. Sullivan, President, University of Virginia
Today I join with colleagues and friends in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond in mourning the death of Virginia Tech President Emeritus Charles Steger. Charles committed his energy and vision to the growth and success of Virginia Tech, creating one of the nation’s finest research universities over the years, and he was also a strong advocate for higher education in Virginia and across the nation. Charles was a servant-leader in the truest sense of those words, and we will miss him dearly. I personally will miss his wise counsel and friendship.
From former University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III
Charles Steger and I became friends in the early 1990s in Richmond as we roamed the General Assembly Building’s corridors in search of backing for Virginia’s colleges and universities. In those days, Charles and two or three others represented Virginia Tech there and at SCHEV. Working on behalf of Presidents McComas and then Torgerson, Charles pursued alliances with U.Va., with the VCCS, and no doubt with others to provide services distant from Blacksburg and Charlottesville – for joint extension and continuing education centers in Falls Church and Abingdon and Virginia Beach, for shared high speed computing, for Virginia’s interests in the Jefferson Laboratory in Newport News. Read the full tribute
From Minnis Ridenour, Senior Fellow for Resource Development and longtime colleague of President Steger
Throughout my tenure as a colleague and friend of Dr. Charles W. Steger I recognize him as a visionary leader who sought to position the university for change. He was sharply focused on realizing the changing environment of higher education while remaining fully committed to the history and tradition of Virginia Tech as a public land grant university. When contemplating the issue of how institutions can navigate this transformation in his inaugural address, Dr. Steger stated, “The key to success is changing the right things at the right time in order to preserve those essentials that define us.” (2000). Dr. Steger’s work as a faculty member, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and as the 15th president of Virginia Tech reflected his commitment to this statement. Read the full tribute
From 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
No organization, no matter how big or small, rises above its leadership. Charles Steger was that leader who took Virginia Tech to new heights only dreamed of before. These accomplishments during his tenure as president were the result of his enormous capacity to orchestrate the Virginia General Assembly in such a way to have our government move in tandem with our university vision to continuously grow and expand the mission of Virginia Tech. During his watch, the University started the VT Carilion School of Medicine and Research Center, Moss Arts Center, The Center for European Studies, The Bioinformatics Institute and we entered the ACC. And he was that leader who shepherded Virginia Tech through our darkest hour.
From Larry Hincker, Associate Vice President and Spokesperson Emeritus
Originally published in the May 13 edition of The Roanoke Times
Elsewhere on these pages and in this newspaper earlier this week were stories explaining the consequential impact the late Charles Steger had on the state’s flagship land-grant university, our region, and the Commonwealth.
I knew six Virginia Tech presidents and worked for four. All were fine persons and successful administrators. Steger, however, clearly stands out. Why?
I had the pleasure of working with Charles for almost a quarter century and share here a few character traits we all might emulate. Let’s face it; accomplished executives are often hard drivers, and well… sometimes jerks. Charles Steger was a driven person but a genuinely nice guy. My colleagues would agree — he was a joy to work with.
Charlie respected others, regardless of talent. For sure, he recognized talent, surrounded himself with capable people, and let them do the work. Okay, that’s Management 101. He was kind and never derided others. He rarely used the language of sports, but teamwork was paramount. When I drafted columns or speeches for him, he invariably changed the “I” to “we.”
Leaders know that they don’t work alone. Others execute the vision. Not because they are told, but because the leader has helped them see it, too.
Leaders inspire, not command loyalty. Loyalty begets motivation and initiative. Steger didn’t issue orders. Oddly, he asked you to do something. Because we shared the vision and commitment, we wholeheartedly responded. Work for a guy like that and you jump at the chance to please and excel. No one wants to let down a compassionate, pleasant, and fair leader. Charlie was all that.
Charles undoubtedly was a visionary. He could see over the horizon at emerging trends and translate into concepts affecting our business. Visionaries often are dreamers.
As a teenager, he sat on the James River bluffs of his family farm with his girlfriend, who later became his wife, and conjured designing his home there. Steger, the architect, completed his dream retirement home just before he died. In the half-century interval, he catapulted Virginia Tech to new heights.
Leaders turn dreams into action plans. As a manager, I never enjoyed strategic planning. Steger was adamant about it. Universities, like big battleships, will hit rough seas. They become hard to turn. When Virginia Tech experienced a 25 percent reduction in state support, the strategic plan, developed with wide employee input, guided the ship of state. Vision to Plan to Action to Results.
Successful leaders are invariably confident. Steger’s confidence grew not only from his personal capabilities from also his sunny and optimistic outlook on life. How else could one audaciously proclaim, upon his inauguration, that his school would strive to be among the nation’s Top 30 research universities? His advisors thought he was nuts. Virginia Tech ranked 38th the year after he retired.
Despite their supreme self-confidence, the best leaders are humble, too. When groups, large or small, met with Charles, he rarely sat behind his desk. He greeted you and asked YOU to take a comfortable chair. He sat wherever there was an open seat. It was important for him that visitors or colleagues, indeed, all employees be at ease.
He remembered details of people’s lives and cared when they had problems. He worked hard to provide higher wages for the lowest pay grades. I might have seen him angry, but I never heard him raise his voice. He attended visitations or funerals. I was moved to see him at my mother’s funeral.
Leaders aren’t held back by physical disabilities. Few knew that Charlie was blind in one eye. Yet, he baled hay on the farm, literally rode bucking broncos, (he loved horses, even riding one to school in then-rural Henrico county) and played many sports. He enjoyed golf, an important outlet for business execs and university presidents.
Leaders keep the organization moving forward. About seven months after the horrific shootings of April 2007, I was consumed with nothing but the fallout and trauma of that tragedy and had a small problem that needed Steger’s input. “I trust to you deal with it. We have a medical school to get off the ground,” he said. That took my breath away. Never once in the preceding seven months had I given a thought to our budding Carilion partnership. Yet, with everything else he handled, he still moved Virginia Tech forward.
Tomorrow Virginia Tech and the Steger family commemorate his life. They will speak of the consummate Virginia gentleman. Contrary to cliché, nice guys can finish first.
From Cynda Johnson, founding dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute
Charles was one of the visionaries behind the partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic, teaming up with former Carilion CEO Ed Murphy – who passed away in October 2017 – to create what is now the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. They announced the partnership and plans for the school and research institute in January 2007. A year later, I arrived to begin building the school. Read the full statement
From Marisa Garzoni, Ferrari Foundation board member in Lugano, Switzerland
The news of Charles has grieved me very much, a dear friend lost, I am close to you all of the "old" group with a huge hug that I beg you to share especially with Janet and her children. ... How many memories emerge, of hours spent together, of shared ideas and projects, all good memories. We will miss you very much indeed, but we must be grateful to him for what he has done and for the friendship and affection he has always shown us. Still a big big hug.
From Roop L. Mahajan, Ph.D., Lewis E. Hester Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Ex-Executive Director and now Global Ambassador, Institute for Critical Technology & Applied Science
I am deeply saddened by the untimely demise of President Steger—a visionary leader and a gentleman to the core. Without any exaggeration, I can state that one of the major reasons I joined Virginia Tech in 2006 as Director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science was Dr. Steger’s genuine interest in interdisciplinary research and his personal warmth. I will miss him. My wife and I send our condolences to the bereaved family.
From Michael Friedlander, Founding Executive Director, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology, Virginia Tech
I first met Charles in 2009 when I was interviewed for the position as founding director of the research institute. I had worked with many accomplished leaders in academia and medicine over the years but I quickly realized that I was in the company of a unique person who embodied greatness at many levels. Charles not only had a masterful understanding, deep knowledge and appreciation of many disciplines ranging from science to engineering to the arts, he had a profound quality for listening and hearing what others were saying and a clear commitment and passion to accomplish important things on many fronts on behalf of Virginia Tech, SW Virginia, the entire state and the world. Read the full statement.
From John Swofford, Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference
Charles Steger was a class act in every way. His steady and positive personality — and his quiet strength — were instrumental to Virginia Tech's path to membership in the ACC. And, once around the conference table, Charles was a tremendous contributor, superbly serving as the Chair of the ACC Council of Presidents in 2013-14. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Virginia Tech family.
From Bill and Ellen Jamerson
Our condolences to Janet and the Steger family in the death of Dr. Steger. We have many fond memories of shared experiences during his leadership time as president of Virginia Tech. He will be dearly missed by the Virginia Tech community and the entire state.
From Peter Jobse, Previous President and CEO, Center for Innovative Technology
Charles served as the Chairman of the Board for the Center of Innovative Technology for three consecutive terms. Under his leadership, the organization restructured and achieved national recognition. His leadership style was exemplary, always rational, calm, focused and committed to excellence. He believed in serving as much as he was dedicated to strong performance, a philosophy that many of us hold closely and will proudly continue in his honor. Most of all, Charles was my friend, and friendly to all he engaged, in a manner that made you realize he was genuine and meaningfully good. I am, and all of us are, truly fortunate to be a part of his life. God bless you and your family Charles.
From Starlette Johnson, Class of 1985 graduate, and president of SBJ Advisory Group in Dallas, Texas
Charlie was a great leader for Virginia Tech, and I remember when he made his first fundraising trip to Dallas after being named President, and his vision for the future was contagious, and was one of the things that helped me re-engage with VT from a distance at the time. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family during this very difficult time.
From Taylor Reveley, President of the College of William and Mary
Charles Steger was a dear friend and close colleague. He left an indelible imprint on Virginia Tech, leading it through marvelous times and tragic times. His wisdom will be greatly missed in higher education. William & Mary’s thoughts are with his family and the Hokie Nation as a whole.
From Colette Sheehy, Senior Vice President for Operations, University of Virginia
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Charles Steger. As part of the leadership team at the University of Virginia, I had many occasions to work with President Steger and his colleagues to advance public higher education in Virginia. VT and UVa enjoy many partnerships fostered by Charles and now by Tim Sands. Despite our fierce rivalry on the athletic field we value our relationship with Virginia Tech as we work together to complement each other’s strengths and enhance the academic and research programs we offer. Charles was an ardent supporter of that partnership. I know the VT community is deeply saddened at Charles’ passing. He gave so much of his life and career to the institution. My deepest sympathy to the Steger family and to the Hokie family who have lost one of their dearest members.
From Jonathan Waddell
Condolences to the Steger family, as well as to the countless friends of theirs. Following the tragedy of 2007, Charles Steger worked hard to have the Yankees come to the campus to play our Hokies at English Field. It was a much-needed event, and so many memories were made that day, by so many people. At one point during the game, Coach Girardi of the Yankees went up to sit with Coach Beamer. I turned around and snapped a picture of that meeting, and it turned out to be my favorite picture of the day. President Steger, an officer, Jim Weaver, Coach Girardi, and the Beamers, all sitting together enjoying that day.
From James I. Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus
To the far-reaching Virginia Tech community, Charles was more than a dynamic leader. He was a genuine friend whose devotion to his alma mater was as open as it was challenging. Now the father of the Hokie family has crossed the river. His children grieve.
From George Nolen: Retired CEO of Siemens USA, former board member from 2005-2013, Rector from 2010-2012
Charles Steger dedicated his career and life to improve higher education and specifically Virginia Tech for the more than 100,000 students who passed through Blacksburg during his days as President of Virginia Tech. He worked tirelessly to build the quality and reputation of Virginia Tech, in Virginia, the United States and globally (with our expansion in Switzerland). I had the privilege to spend hours with Charles understanding his strategic thinking and watched as he systematically accomplished every large objective he set for our University. Charles was an outstanding leader, executive and teacher, he was also most importantly a man of outstanding character and humility.
A life well lived.
Deepest Sympathy to Janet, Christopher, David, and all Hokies who lost a good man this week.
From Marion and Roger Ehrich, Faculty at Virginia Tech
From Terra Bella street where we first met across the street, and through all these years ...
Always remembering with graciousness people he knew way back when.
And we will remember him, too, for all he brought.
From Dave Glass, '76, '79
President Steger was a wonderful person and truly epitomized the HOKIE Spirit in everything he did for students and the growth of the University! He was the best of my Master’s Degree Professors / Advisors (Master of Urban and Regional Planning; focusing on Environmental Planning) and I am forever grateful. God Bless You Charles and your family!
From Lauren Roop
What a great loss for our community! He was a great gentleman that put his all into leading this university into the future. He always stood tall in the face of the press second guessing decisions made in a crisis that no other community or institution had ever been faced with. He will be sadly missed. God bless him and his family.
From Denny Cochrane, Class of 1970, Sustainability Program Manager at Virginia Tech
I want to offer my sincere condolences to Janet and the Steger family.
The Hokie Nation will forever be grateful for Dr. Charles W. Steger being the 15th President at Virginia Tech. During his tenure we witnessed tremendous growth, increased enrollments, increased research, new facilities, a surge in academic programs, a rebirth of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, national recognition for our ROTC Programs, a phenomenal rise in our athletic programs, and a genuine commitment to advance sustainability on campus. Dr. Steger cared deeply for our students and I will always remember how he spearheaded the review process that led to the creation of the “Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment.”
The mark of an outstanding leader is his demonstrated character and courage in all circumstances. I am convinced it was no accident that he was our President on April 16, 2007. When our university was faced with a tragedy unmatched in our nation’s history President Steger guided our university through rough waters in a calm and confident way. Because of the strong bonds and relationships he helped create over time that cut across all units at Virginia Tech, we were able to come together, support each other, and move forward. During that process I had the opportunity work directly for him and to witness his concern for students and families. I will always respect and admire him.
From Jane Hornbeck
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Steger, a true Virginia gentleman. He went to high school with friends of mine. He interviewed my son when he was applying to Virginia Tech. I will keep his family in my thoughts and prayers.
From Kevin T. Crofton, president and chief executive officer of SPTS Technologies Ltd, and a member of the Class of 1982
President Steger did great things for Tech and set us on a path that is proving to be hugely successful. My thoughts (as everyone’s) goes out to the family and Hokies everywhere. Reaffirms to live life to its fullest.
From Marian Anderfuren, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Tidewater Community College
I am so sorry to read of Dr. Steger’s death. Only 70! He was a titan among Virginia college presidents.
From Linwood Rose, President Emeritus, James Madison University
I was very saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and close colleague, Charles. We have lost a man who was an unfailing champion of Virginia Tech, but also a true advocate for higher education. He believed in the power of education to enable dreams and aspirations. We worked together on numerous projects with the Council of Presidents particularly on matters of funding and decentralization of authority. When JMU was ready to establish an engineering program I consulted with Charles. I remember asking if Tech would object to another state institution offering engineering. He responded, “heavens no, the world needs more engineers to solve our problems!” Although a university president is constantly engaged with countless constituencies, it can be a lonely job. Charles was my friend, advisor, confidant. I will miss him!
From Scott Hurst, University Architect Emeritus
Please convey my sincere condolences to the Steger family. I had the great privilege of serving as University Architect during Dr. Steger’s tenure. He consistently led Virginia Tech with passion for the institution, for its people, and for the campus which he valued as an exceptional place. I will especially remember his calm demeanor, his insight, and his dry sense of humor.
From Tom Tillar, Class of 1969, Former Vice President for Alumni Relations
I met classmate Charles Steger in the first week of our freshman year, living on the same floor of a residence hall, entering the college of Architecture together, and finding many common interests coming from the same region of Virginia. We continued that friendship for the next 53 years. I remarked to my parents early in our friendship, after they first met him, that he would be president of a university one day! Little did I know then that we would be colleagues at Virginia Tech all of our careers, working closely together as he eventually became president and me a vice president. In my role in Alumni Relations, I probably got to introduce Charles to audiences more than any other person over several decades. And he often enjoyed referring back to our college days to emphasize that he had walked the same path as all other students and alumni. He was warm, witty, generous, comfortable to be with, often inspiring when the occasion called for it, and a true gentleman. He was a devoted husband and father, and cherished time with his brother and two sisters, who were terribly proud of him. He was the eternal optimist and could see farther than most any other leader of the university. He loved challenges, took risks, and recruited top talent to help him get the job done. Charles was an undergrad and grad student under presidents Hahn and Lavery as well as then Dean Torgersen, who later became president. He learned from those leaders and the late Jim McComas, always seeking to take Virginia Tech higher among its peers nationally. He personally befriended thousands and represented the university to over 200,000 thousand alumni who counted on him to preserve their legacy. We were truly blessed to have him as a dean, vice president and finally president over a period spanning more than three decades. His vision and impact will forever be etched in the history of our great university.
From Edgar Kinnier (Kinny) '53
This man was a great leader who saw Virginia Tech through some of its worst times and best times with grace.
For the Fondazione Olivio Ferrari
Paul Knox, Lucy Ferrari, Marisa Garzoni, Conrad Frey, Daniela Doninelli
With great vision, he was involved in setting up the Center for European Studies and Architecture in Riva San Vitale to bring joy to European culture and architecture to young Americans, and vice versa, to invite European students to the Virginia Tech. In his honour, the institute was renamed "Steger Center for International Scholarship" in 2014. Confident, energetic, determined, but also with a fine humour, he pursued his ideals in the service of the university. Charles Steger had a big, loving heart and a wonderful gift for finding personal access to people of all backgrounds. We remain with great esteem and respect and thank him for his faithful friendship.
From Michael D. Moini, '09, '10, MPH '11
I was fortunate to attend Virginia Tech during Charles Steger’s tenure. Amidst his many accomplishments, what stands out to me was his unwavering support to the students and community following the events of April 16, 2007. The values he expressed during his University Commencement speech in the Spring of 2007 continue to resonate with me, and I often find myself reflecting on his words when making personal or professional decisions.
“As we continue our quest and pursue our mission, we will prove that the Hokie spirit is indomitable. Let our most lasting memorial to those who were snatched from our midst be our achievements. Let each of us seek out those who are needful, so that we may find a way to fill their needs. Let us live our professional and personal lives in a manner that moves the world forward. Is that not what it means to “Invent the future”?” – Charles Steger, May 11, 2007, University Commencement
From Bonnie Sumner ‘78, ‘86
It was with great sadness that I read about the passing of Dr. Steger. He was one of those rare people who put dedication to family, community, and place above personal gain and recognition. Every Homecoming when Dr. Steger walked onto the football field to crown the king and queen, he received a hearty round of applause. When I would see him out in the community, he was always gracious with a “Hello” or “Nice to see you.” His family and friends will be on my thoughts and prayers.
From Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA)
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Steger. As a man who earned three Virginia Tech degrees and served as his alma mater’s president from 2000 to 2014, he was a Hokie to his core. Under his guidance, the university went from strength to strength, expanding its enrollment, raising its profile in fields such as engineering and medicine, and powering it to the forefront of research. He also faced the horrific events of April 2007 with courage and dignity. Working with Charles was always a great experience for me. I offer my condolences to his family and the Virginia Tech community on the loss of this great educator and leader.
From Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Dr. Charles Steger was a visionary who oversaw the largest expansion in Virginia Tech history. With Dr. Steger at the helm, the university became the premier educational institution we know today. A true leader, he also brought together an entire campus and community during the horrific tragedy in 2007. I’m honored to have known Dr. Steger and worked with him closely over the years. I was especially excited by the partnership that he developed with Carilion Clinic to create the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke. This strengthened the university’s ties to the nearby Roanoke region and the Sixth Congressional District. My prayers are with his family and the entire Virginia Tech community during this incredibly difficult time.
From Buddy Mills ‘62
We are so sorry to hear about the death of Charles Steger. He lived the Ut Prosim motto.
From Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College
I had the great pleasure to work alongside Charles for several years and was overwhelmed by his commitment to higher education. He made an incredible impact leading Virginia Tech through its greatest period of growth. He also believed college was for everyone, no matter what financial or life burdens they may face. His dedication to the Virginia Western Educational Foundation reflects that. We have lost a great champion and a great friend.
From Rebecca French, Class of 2011, Director of Resilience for Department of Housing, State of Connecticut
I am writing to express my condolences to the Steger family and all Hokies upon the passing of President Charles Steger. As the Virginia Tech Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Visitors in 2009-2010, I had the privilege of working closely with President Steger on everything from improving graduate student healthcare to recognizing the role of graduate students in meeting the research mission of the university. He always listened to the students and took our concerns and ideas into account. His vision of shared governance at Virginia Tech gave rise to a healthier and stronger Hokie community. He personally wrote me a letter of recommendation for a prestigious fellowship after I completed my Ph.D. at VT in Geosciences in the Hochella Lab. I was selected for that fellowship in no small part because of that letter and my degree and experience at Virginia Tech. Just last spring I had the pleasure of meeting with President Steger again when I came to campus for a visit to help inspire the next generation of Hokie graduates and was so impressed with everything he was doing as a ‘retired’ president. I am truly grateful for all of his support throughout my student career. My sincerest sympathies go out to the Steger family today. President Steger will be remembered and deeply missed.
From Richard Blythe, seventh Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech
While we mourn the loss of an extraordinary man, we celebrate his outstanding legacy and enduring impact on Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Charles Steger was in all respects a true architect of our college. From the moment he set foot on the Virginia Tech campus as an architecture student in 1965, to his distinguished 12-year tenure as the youngest dean ever to lead an American architecture school, to his establishment of Virginia Tech’s first overseas campus in Switzerland (now known as the Steger Center for International Scholarship), and up until his passing, Dr. Steger has been an unwavering source of pride, support, and strength for our college. He will be deeply missed, but never forgotten.
From Bob Britts, class of 1969, VT 1970
Charles Steger was one great President of Virginia Tech. I did not know him as a student as I was an engineer and he was in architecture. He accomplished a great deal and Virginia Tech is much better because of his leadership. He will be missed.
From Will Dudley, President, Washington and Lee University
On behalf of everyone at Washington and Lee University, I write to express our profound sorrow at Dr. Steger’s passing. Over the years, members of the W&L community had the good fortune to interact with Dr. Steger on numerous occasions. He was an extraordinarily thoughtful leader who was an influential advocate for the value of higher education. He has left a lasting legacy at Virginia Tech and in the Commonwealth.
From Nickolaus J. Brummer, 2003
Charles Steger was the president of Virginia Tech through a very important time in our family’s life. I attended VT from 2000-2003, receiving a degree in psychology. My brother, Tyson, received his doctorate in veterinary medicine, in addition to his bachelor’s and master’s degree. I worked for Virginia Tech Police Department from 1999-2006. My father worked as the Executive Pastry Chef for Virginia Tech from 1998-2008. During this time, President Steger oversaw a tremendous amount of improvement and progress for the university. Thank you for your service President Steger!
From Dorothy Jean of West Virginia
Charles was my cousin. I have read many achievements and honors for Charlie. My heart and prayers goes out to all of
the families of the Steger family. He will be missed.
From the Virginia Tech Parents group admin team on Facebook, Dee Dee Becker, Karen Scritchfield Goering, Kim Hunter, Pam Studstill Stump, Miriam Onobrakpeya Akinyemi, Tammy Klinefelter Bane, Bill Clegg, Nirali Singh
On behalf of the entire Virginia Tech Parents Facebook group, we extend our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to Janet Steger and the entire Steger family for their tremendous loss. Our collective hearts are heavy. May you all be comforted by the knowledge of the outpouring of support that is being shared in our group in Dr. Steger’s memory. He is remembered fondly and will be missed.
From Alan Merten, President Emeritus, George Mason University
He was a great friend, partner and competitor.
From Fausto Medici
The mayor Fausto Medici and the Town Hall of Riva San Vitale (Switzerland) have followed with sadness of the death of the President Emeritus Dr. Charles W. Steger. The Executive remembers him with pleasure and gratitude for the great efforts made in the realization and then in the expansion of the European Study Center (Steger Center) located in Riva San Vitale.
Thanks to him we have been able to host hundreds of students in our village, who have been able to know and appreciate places, architecture and, more generally, European culture.
We give our wife Janet and her sons Christopher and David our most sincere condolences.
Charles Staton, project manager, Byers Engineering Company
I wanted to extend my deepest condolences to the Steger family.
Dr. Steger was a wonderful person and an outstanding leader to my brother and me and all students while attending Virginia Tech from 2008 – 2013.
I am so grateful to have known such an upstanding human being and having attended a university that I will continue to love and support.
I would not be where I am today without Virginia Tech and Dr. Steger.
From Jean Brickey, Class of 1978, and first staff representative to the Board of Visitors
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Steger. He was a very special person. I met him when he was Vice President of Development, where my husband worked. Then I got to know him after he made the resolution to put a staff representative on the Board of Visitors in 2006, requesting that representative be the current President of the Staff Senate. I was privileged to be the Staff Senate President at that time. He made me feel I belonged, often taking time to introduce me to dignitaries at events and football games. I will always be grateful for the opportunity he provided for me to and those that followed me to represent Virginia Tech Staff on the Board of Visitors, and for Dr. Steger’s concern about the staff at Virginia Tech. He was always kind and concerned about everyone at Virginia Tech, the students, faculty, staff and administrators. He was a wonderful person to work with, he treated everyone with the respect and caring. He made a lot of changes at Virginia Tech. Many have been mentioned already in other tributes, but one that he mentioned in his inauguration address was to have a Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. With all the various buildings that were built during his tenure as President the addition of the Moss Center for the Arts has made a significant to the type of performing art programs that are brought to Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community. I am glad he saw this project completed. We will all miss Dr. Steger, and extend our deepest sympathy to his family.
From Robert Cohencious, CEO and executive producer, Capitol Productions Television LLC
Such wonderful memories I will have and cherish of Charles. As a Member of the Virginia Tech, Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center Advisory Council, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity over the years, to work with Charles. Read the full tribute
From Richard S."Major" Reynolds III
All of us who are members of the Reynolds Family were saddened to hear the news about Charles Steger. Charles was instrumental in creating and then sustaining the relationship between The Reynolds Family Homestead and Virginia Tech. He was even gracious enough to speak at The Reynolds Family Reunion--the first held in 37 years--at the Family Homestead last summer. For all that he did to foster the preservation of the family's history and its connectivity, we will be eternally grateful.
From Michael Dickerson, Class of 2006, and president of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity
On behalf of the members of the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, we wish to express our profound condolences on the passing of Dr. Steger. During my time as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, I was honored to lead the efforts to initiate Dr. Steger as a faculty member of the Tech chapter, joining nearly 20 other members of VT's leadership in fostering the development of business students. Dr. Steger was warm, compassionate, and an inspiration to all who had the chance to know him. Dr. Steger's resolve after the events of April 16, 2007, brought out the best in us when we all felt lost. Our thoughts are with the entire Hokie family at this hour.
Joan Pedro, Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2001, Associate Dean and Professor, University of Houston - Clear Lake
My deepest sympathy goes out the family of Dr. Charles W. Steger, and to Virginia Tech’s family. He was president during my time at VT as a doctoral student from Trinidad and Tobago. I am grateful for his leadership to allow international students the opportunity to receive a great education. He was a great leader, scholar, educator, and visionary. Dr. Steger elevated Virginia Tech and made an impact on a national and the international level.
Michael Hochella, University Distinguished Professor, Geosciences
I will never forget waking this morning to the devastating news of the passing of Charles. He was far too young to leave us, and his absence will be felt by countless people whose lives he directly or indirectly touched. In my personal interaction with him over many years, I will be forever greatful for his kindness and thoughtfulness. Many in lofty positions have great vision, fortitude, and (constructive) ambition, and Charles certainly had those critical qualities. However, few of them had his heart and compassion, and to me, that is what set him apart. Even when I made what I thought was a mistake, he made me feel like I was still as good as gold. Even when I admitted to him that I had deficiencies, he told me that he did too (and sometimes the same thing!). And even when he would have no reason to realize it, he was touching me with his magic. Charles played a critical role in making my academic life worth the tremendous effort that it takes. I will always miss him, but I will also always be forever grateful to him.
From Matthew Winston Jr. ‘90, Senior Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations, Virginia Tech
I had the pleasure of working under Dr. Steger’s leadership in the 1990’s when he was serving as Virginia Tech’s Vice President for Development and University Relations. He was an admirable leader, dedicated to serving his alma mater to the best of his abilities. In 2009, I had the honor and privilege of presenting President Steger with the CASE District III Chief Executive Officer Leadership Award. In my introduction of him, I shared the following:
“For years, President Steger was the Clark Kent of college presidents. He was mild-mannered, unassuming, and provided leadership to the institution and the state’s higher education community quietly and by example. But there is a powerful scene in the movie Superman Returns, when the man of steel suddenly appears to rescue a plane falling from the sky. That moment is caught on camera at a baseball stadium, played around the world for all to see.
Indeed on the morning of April 16, 2007, President Steger bravely introduced himself to the world via the pens and camera lenses of some 700+ uncompassionate media reps reporting on the aftermath of the horrific shootings about which we are all so familiar.
As that community reacted to the horror of those events, Dr. Steger had to exercise strong judgment and compassion quickly and simultaneously. Dr. Steger’s calm yet firm leadership fortified the Hokie Nation.
Although the pain still resides in that community, the healing process began right away as he visited with families, addressed the media, provided resources to students and effectively communicated with alumni. The Virginia Tech community bonded quickly, evidenced through the many expressions of support the president received from students, faculty, staff, and alumni almost immediately after the tragedy ensued.
Even while negotiating through those events, Virginia Tech has steadily moved forward enjoying the types of successes that most universities seek during the course of any year. Virginia Tech enrolled the largest first-year class in its history; the university kicked off a $1 billion capital campaign; and the institution is establishing a medical research program designed to address the growing needs medical education and care in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
President Steger could have easily walked away, but instead he chose to remain; he made the decision to lead, with character when criticized and humility when lauded.”
For all the time I’ve known him – more than a quarter of a century – Charles Steger has been that same person each and every day. He remained strong, steady and consistent in his leadership, his demeanor, and his service to the Hokie Nation and higher education. He will be remembered, and he will be missed.
From Amy and Horacio Valeiras
Our thoughts are with Janet and the entire Steger family. Charles was a wonderful man, a visionary President and a Hokie that reflected all that is amazing about the Hokie Nation. We will miss his wisdom and counsel, his mentorship, and his friendship. Charles’ accomplishments in his life, throughout the State of Virginia and globally for Virginia Tech will always remind us of his wonderful personality and leadership. His impact was felt by all of us but more importantly will continue to affect generations to come.
From John Higginbotham
I had the privilege of knowing and engaging with Dr. Steger since I was a student at Virginia Tech over 40 years ago. Throughout this time, his character, wisdom, and integrity exemplified how to live life to its fullest potential in the true spirit of our motto Ut Prosim. His leadership will stand as one of the great periods of progress for our University. We salute him as one of our truest measures of what it means to be a “Hokie”. To his family, we offer our sincere condolences for his early passing. Dr. Steger, we will miss you.
From Charlotte Lauren
I was attending Virginia Tech during the shootings. I was living off campus and not on campus when they occurred, yet it was hard. I was also a Hokie tour guide. I do not think getting through the shootings, or still speaking so highly and enthusiastically of Virginia Tech, could have been possible without the trust I had in President Steger and his guidance.
I admired him so much while he led us through a tragedy no one could comprehend at that moment. Charles Steger helped by leading towards a silver lining in an awful time. The silver lining was the love and support for the community. It is remarkable to do that and to be the first leader in our country to do so. There was no guidance; no one to fall back on. Yet, he did it while many were in understandable shock. I am unsure how President Steger led with this strength and grace under such a time, as it is something so far beyond my comprehension, but I am forever grateful we had someone that could do this. He will be missed, but he left an amazing legacy.
From Jackie Spangler Yessian, Class of 1970
My sincere condolences to Janet and family. I admired President Emeritus Charles Steger and was always glad when our paths crossed.
From Mary Lois McLean Hill
Having just learned of the passing of Dr. Steger, I am at an unusual loss of words. Writing one short story just about tells it all regarding Charles’s many kindnesses to me, our son Mark ( VT class of Arch.1986) and our family since. Before the death of Mark’s father, and my husband, Professor Harold S. Hill, Dean Steger took an action that has been of great benefit for us, even now I am still amazed and thankful for a thoughtful act by this busiest of men. There will forever be warmth in my heart for Charlie.
From Courtney Anderson
Since my affiliation with Virginia Tech officially began in 2003 I have had the misfortune of sharing the loss of two university presidents and am struck by the deep emotional pull of each one. I had the pleasure of having Dr. Torgersen as a teacher and witnessing the leadership of President Emeritus Steger in the wake of April 16th my senior year, but had no formal relationship with either one. Despite only knowing them at the surface level, my emotions are a true testament to the type of men that they were, the influence they had on Virginia Tech, and the power of comradery and spirit of Ut Prosim my dear alma mater bestows on those that get to call it home. Proud to be a Hokie today and every day and am saddened to hear about last night’s passing of President Emeritus Steger.
From Rengin Holt, a member of the faculty in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies
One summer a long time ago, Charles Steger and his family visited us in Zürich, Switzerland. One evening, he wanted to take us to dinner, and he asked, "Rengin, what would be the best restaurant to which I could invite you." I suggested the Baur au Lac, and so we had dinner with Charles and his family there, by the lake in a beautiful ancient garden. The children were young at the time, and they wanted spaghetti, which was not on the menu at this luxurious restaurant. Charles asked the waiter if the kitchen could boil some spaghetti for the children, and, to my amazement, they said, "Yes, sir." After the main course, Charles asked about dessert. I said that I was quite content. He said that I didn't have to eat it; I could just taste it. Charles had such a spirit of generosity, and he always had great pleasure in making others happy.
After Charles became President, I would sometimes visit him in his office. Despite his busy schedule, he was so gracious to receive me. On one occasion, I mentioned that I had undergone knee surgery. He remarked that I was now a "bionic woman." His intellect and wit constantly charmed me. During another visit, I presented him a published book of my work. The next time I visited, that book was sitting on his glass table, and he rubbed its cover affectionately. He always made you feel as though he existed in this world only for you. His grace was unsurpassed. I wished to give him a second book, but it was delayed. It arrived as he departed.
While sadness may stay with us, our accomplishments will flourish in the spirit of courage he bestowed upon us.
From Jesse Webster, DVM 1967
My heartfelt condolences to President Steger's family and all his close friends at VT. Louise and I had the privilege of meeting Dr and Mrs. Steger at the Grove a few years ago prior to a football game. Despite entertaining many, after being on a trip the day before and returning late, Dr. Steger was relaxed and gracious to all in attendance. What a class act and great ambassador for VT and higher education.
From Allison Bessette, Class of 1987
Dr. Steger, through his leadership, instilled in me the values of the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim. I've made a career out of helping nonprofit organizations in their fundraising efforts. In honor of Dr. Steger, I pledge to serve my community with a special project every year. Dr. Steger created a family -- the Hokie Nation. I'm so proud of my alma mater and grateful for Dr. Steger's significant contribution in making VT the leading institution it is today. May happy memories ease the pain of your loss. May his memory be eternal.
From Dr. Peter Kurzhals, Class of 1960
That's very sad news since President Emeritus Steger did so much for Virginia Tech. Please express my sympathies to his family!
From Bakari Simba
Our heart felt love goes out to the family, may you rest in peace President Steger. Thank you for your great service to the Virginia Tech community.
From Bonnie Parker McLaughlin, Class of 1970
Charles and Janet were classmates in high school and at Virginia Tech where my husband and I graduated in 1970. Our prayers and condolences to Janet and the family. We are saddened by the loss of such a fine man.
From Carla McCurdy Bream, Class of 1984
President Steger became president after I graduated from VT, but he quickly became my favorite president. I admired his leadership style and his strength after the tragedy. May he rest in peace.
From Karen A. Thompson
Condolences to the Steger family. Virginia Tech President Emeritus and Dean Steger illustrated value and professionalism. Whenever I visited Cowgill Hall to see the latest projects my friends were designing, if Dean Steger walked past, he was friendly, approachable and earned the respect of my friends. That's how I remember him most. I kept informed of his continued achievements through the VT newsletters. He left a mark on Virginia Tech and I can only imagine in the memories of those closest to him on a personal level. May God comfort you.
From Clayton Linkous
Prayers. We are very sorry to hear of his death.
From Fannie Campbell (Betsy), retired youth development agent
My condolences are extended to the family and friends of Dr. Steiger. I appreciated that he allowed me to interview him as I worked on an advanced degree in the early 1990’s. He was a wonderful president, but moreover a kind man.
From James Lane, WMU Libraries Senior Network Administrator, UofI College of ACES Virtualization and Storage
I met Dr. Steger working for ICTAS in its first years and if you did not know who he was, you would not have known he was the president. You knew he was important but he was kind and respectful to all. I feel privileged to have met him. From my wife Crystal Lynn Duncan Lane and I, our condolences to the Steger family.
From Nancy G. Bedford
Heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and VT.
From Alex Miller, ’06, ’09
I wanted to send my condolences, as I am saddened to learn of the passing of President Steger. During my time at VA Tech, I had the great pleasure of knowing Dr. Steger through working at The Grove and attending SGA luncheons where he joined us.
He always knew my name and always asked about my studies, work, family, etc. At The Grove, I always knew what he wanted to drink, as he would always get the same thing: Glenlivet with a splash of water. He really made me feel like a guest in his home and not "the help." When I saw him on football weekends, he always asked if I had tickets to the game, and even if I did, he reached deep into his coat pocket and came up with a pass or two to the President's Box.
As an impressionable student, I learned a lot from watching the way he interacted with people, everyone from students to dignitaries. I particularly remember his resolve and generosity after the April 16 tragedy. For a time, police guarded The Grove, and I still remember Dr. Steger talking about bringing these folks coffee as they stood watch. These interactions have stuck with me throughout the years and influenced my career and the decisions I've made. Most importantly, I learned first hand that "leaders eat last" and the true meaning of Ut Prosim.
Again, my sincere condolences to the VA Tech community.
From Bob Quisenberry
This is a sad day for all Hokies. His leadership and accomplishment have benefited and will continue to benefit all who know Virginia Tech.
From Cynthia E. Belote, Class of 1987
As an administrator at a small community college in Virginia, I know the challenges a president faces daily. To accomplish what he did at Virginia Tech is nothing short of amazing. To say he was a visionary is somewhat inadequate. He took VT to so many "next levels." He wasn't the president when I was at Tech, but he will be the one I remember the most. Rest in peace Dr. Steger and my condolences to his family.
From Deborah J. Moses, Executive Director, Hotel Roanoke Conference Center Commission
On behalf of the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center Commission, let me add our expression of sympathy at the passing of Dr. Steger. A true friend and avid supporter of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center for many years, Dr. Steger was instrumental in valuing this critical Virginia Tech / City of Roanoke Partnership project which, in many respects, was the gateway to the growth of the numerous and important connections that we see today. His vision, leadership and commitment will never be forgotten. We offer our thoughts, prayers and words of comfort to his family and the university that he loved.
From Gary C. Wolf, Class of 1969
Charlie will be missed in so many ways. When we first met in 1965 during our freshman year in the engineering curriculum, it was clear that he was a special guy from the onset. He became the leading example as to what the Hokie Nation is all about with his compassion and leadership.
Our Class of 1969 was blessed with a number of future Virginia Tech leaders ... Charlie, Frank Beamer, Tom Tillar, and Ray Smoot (to name a few). I'm blessed to have the experience of sharing experiences with these fine people, and giving me even more reason to be proud to be a Hokie!
From Mike Murray, Class of 1992, Natural Resources
I send my condolences to the Steger family and their friends.
From Heather Joerger, (formerly Athens) Class of 2010
Although I was never fortunate enough to meet President Steger in person, I have always had the deepest respect for him. I was very sad to hear of his passing. I would like to send condolences to the Steger family and say that you are in my prayers. He was a great leader for our community and accomplished so much for Virginia Tech and the ever growing Hokie Nation. I consider myself fortunate to have been a student while he served as president and will never forget the strong example he set for us during the very sad tragedy of April 16th, 2007.
From Mark D Carll III
I am class of '07 and I was enrolled in the German class in Norris Hall, room 209, in the fall of '07. President Steger personally provided his support to me and his strength, guidance and resolve is something that has always stuck with. Though my journey after the shooting has taken many turns down a rocky path.
I just wanted to say, thank you President Steger for leading our university through our darkest times and into our brightest future!
From Cathi House '77 and Steven House '75
A shroud of sadness crept over us yesterday, growing more profound hour by hour as the reality of the news became clearer, news that is hard to fathom. Charles Steger has passed into the next life, leaving us all here in a world that feels darker, less focused, without him. Somehow just knowing that Charles was there, doing the good things he was always did, with passion, kindness and unrelenting attention, gave the world order. We have known Charles and Janet for over thirty years, and, as so many people have said, he was a kind, generous, thoughtful, caring person, dedicated to his work and his family, with an eye always to the future and the possibilities, giving us all hope and confidence that everything would be ok. He was truly a blessing to all who knew him and his absence will be felt well beyond his family and friends. We send our deepest hopes to Charles’ family and friends for their joy in the knowledge that he was part of their lives, and for all of us to carry on as he did, with hope.
From Jeanette I Poole
Don and I feel very privileged to have known Dr. Steger. He was such a nice person and provided excellent leadership as President of Virginia Tech. He has left our university as a leading institution in the national educational level. Our sympathies to his family.
From D.G. Van Clief, Jr., Chairman, Virginia Racing Commission
I have had the great pleasure of serving with Charles Steger on the Virginia Racing Commission where we have all been the beneficiaries of his many talents, and wonderful perspective. When appointed to the commission, Charles quickly assumed key leadership roles and led a strategic planning process last year from which Virginia’s horse industry will benefit well into the foreseeable future. We will miss him intensely as a colleague but more importantly as a warm and caring friend and will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
From Laura D Gagliano, Class of ’83, Project Manager, University of Kansas – Facility Planning and Development
Dr. Steger was always Dean Steger to me, as I’m an ’83 graduate with a B.Arch. He’s the one who signed my diploma and he’s the one who handed it to me on the Cowgill Plaza on June 11, 1983. He was always ready to help a student, quiet yet strong. I was so proud he was selected as president of the university – I felt as if I actually knew him! I felt so badly when he received his share of bad press right after the shootings, I wrote Tom Tillar and outlined my support for the president of our great school. He was the best of the best, calm, steady, insightful, caring, so incredibly smart, but most of all a kind, gentle man who will be greatly missed, for who he was and for all he accomplished.
From Melvin Journiette, CAUS Class of 1998
I want to express my deepest sympathies to the passing of one our university's great presidents. I know most know President Steger as President Steger, but as a double-major adding Urban Affairs as my second major back in his final year as the Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies I can't get the affectionate way that the architecture students always said Dean Steger. His deep care for us and the goals we had for ourselves, our student organizations, and the university as a whole was always, always showing through as he kept his office door open and ears of discernment available to address any concern we had.
We all were blessed to have this great leader and great man in our lives.
Thank you, Dean Steger (and President Steger). Your love for us all is self-evident in all that you created for us.
My condolences to his family. May God be with you in this time of loss.