Making CALS Strong
Thanks to our CALS family for supporting the college!
We are grateful to Buddy and Frances Russell for their support of CALS's Beyond Boundaries scholarship! The Beyond Boundaries Scholars Program is designed to remove enrollment barriers for underrepresented and high-achieving students across the university.
Because of the Russells' generosity, CALS student Allison Haines will be able to further explore her major — Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise — and help lead the next generation of movers and shakers.
The Russells have long supported both CALS and Virginia Tech — and Frances' connections to the university are as deep as Buddy's.
Frances is the daughter of the late Herbert "Mac" McEver, who served as the head football coach at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute — today's Virginia Tech — from 1942 to 1945, and as the head basketball coach from 1937 to 1944. As a student, McEver was a member of the VPI football team’s famed "Pony Express" backfield from 1925 to 1928. He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, and to the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, which he helped organize, in 1983.
Deepening her connection to CALS, Frances' first husband was Thomas Barksdale Hutcheson Jr., whose father was one of the brothers after whom Hutcheson Hall, home to CALS administration, was named in 1956.
Buddy, who served Virginia Tech for more than 27 years, is vice president emeritus for alumni relations. After graduating in 1952 with a B.S. in animal science, he earned a master’s degree in agricultural education at the University of Maryland in 1959, and a doctorate in Extension education at the University of Wisconsin in 1964.
After a distinguished career with Virginia Cooperative Extension, Buddy joined the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in 1968 as director of alumni affairs. He oversaw the creation of new alumni activities as the number of alumni grew from 30,000 to more than 130,000 at the time of his retirement in 1995. Buddy served as president of the Alumni Association for 10 years and was named vice president for alumni relations in 1991, when the association became an official part of the university.
Buddy received the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1998. Soon after his retirement, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors elected to rename the Outstanding Chapter Awards to the G.E. “Buddy” Russell Outstanding Chapter Awards. In 2007, the Class of 1952 named the Holtzman Alumni Center's fountain in his honor; and in 2013, Buddy was inducted into the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Hall of Fame.
Since retirement, the Russells have remained engaged with Virginia Tech. Buddy served as president of the Old Guard and as a member of both the Class of 1952 reunion planning committee and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni Board of Directors.
People have been using a battery of weapons in the battle against household pests like cockroaches and bedbugs for decades. Now, they have a new weapon.
The newly established Bert Dodson Sr. Urban Entomology Enrichment Fund in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will enable researchers, faculty, and Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals to implement novel solutions to urban pest problems and to share that knowledge with students, pest management professionals, and citizens. By researching ways to fight urban pests and sharing that knowledge through outreach and education, the fund will help society deal with the scourge of urban pests.
The fund was made possible by a gift from the family of Bert Dodson Sr. He founded Dodson Brothers Exterminating Company in 1944, along with his brother Robert, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Later, their brother Arthur joined them and they began to build the small company into what would eventually be one of the largest family-owned pest control company in North America. Bert bought out his brothers in the early 1960s and expanded the enterprise throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Widely known for its bright yellow trucks, Dodson Brothers prides itself on delivering quality service with customer satisfaction being their principle goal.
Bert Dodson Jr., president and C.E.O. of Dodson Brothers, said that the members of Dodson family were all behind the decision to create the endowment.
“We want to give back to the community and to the commonwealth that has been so good to us for over the last 70 years,” he said. “We need the help of a research center, especially for training. Dodson Brothers has been blessed with a good customer base and really good team members. We feel the support we got from Virginia Tech faculty over the decades has really helped our company grow and prosper. We are giving back to a great institution that has helped us throughout the years.”
The fund will help further the work of the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory, which was founded in 1988 by a group of Virginia pest management professionals lead by Bert Dodson Sr. The laboratory’s mission is to create knowledge and provide innovative pest management information to pest management professionals and the public through Virginia Cooperative Extension. The laboratory is dedicated to applied research on urban insect pests and pesticide application tests. It is home to two insect rearing areas and has space for staff and students to conduct research. The lab is part of the Department of Entomology, which is a recognized leader in advancing urban arthropod pest management.
In June, Joe and Mary Wilson, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, established the Joseph R. and Mary W. Wilson Endowed Urban Entomology Professorship in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Wilson is the former owner of PermaTreat Pest Control, a leading pest control company located in Central and Northern Virginia.
The Wilson Urban Entomology Professor will lead entomology research efforts with the goal of discovering new and innovative ways to fight the scourge of urban pests such as bedbugs and cockroaches and share that information with the public.
“We felt like this was an opportunity to give back to an institution that helped build our business,” Joe Wilson told a local newspaper about his desire to make a gift. “Our industry is very closely tied to Virginia Tech. They have provided most of the training and instruction for pest control officers like myself.”
“This gift is truly transformational to our program at Virginia Tech,” said Tim Kring, head of the Department of Entomology. “There is a void in basic foundational research for urban pest management. We want to expand our program by adding a research component to our toolbox in order to pioneer next-step treatment options for indoor pests. No insecticide lasts forever. So, coming up with a new tool requires research.”
A native of Buena Vista, Virginia, Joe Wilson got into the business in 1965 when he was selling pest control service door-to-door for Orkin. He moved through the ranks of the company, eventually becoming the regional vice president of Orkin’s Midwest Region overseeing 54 branches in 13 states.
In 1982, Wilson was visiting with a friend who started PermaTreat Pest Control in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and offered to sell the company to Wilson. Since moving back to Fredericksburg, Wilson has been involved in a host of civic activities and urban development projects, including building the Wilson building in downtown which has led to other commercial development in the downtown area. He is one of the founding members of the Rappahannock Rotary Club and he has long supported animal-welfare programs, including PermaTreat’s adopt-a-pet ads that appear in newspapers across the Commonwealth. He was a Fredericksburg City Councilman from 2000 to 2004 and named Virginia’s Small Business Person of the Year in 1987.
Wilson is also an active member and past president of the Virginia Pest Management Association, as well as a member of the National Pest Management Association. He was instrumental in the founding of the Virginia Pest Management Association Research Fund, which provided funding to create the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory at Virginia Tech.
For some, giving is inspired by events, such as the holidays. For others, philanthropy is a sustained commitment driven by a desire to share one's good fortune.
Violet Drake is just such a person. She and her husband, the late Charles R. Drake — a beloved Virginia Tech professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science — established the Charles R. and Violet S. Drake Scholarship in 1985. For more than two decades, the merit-based scholarship has grown and flourished, currently supporting as many as 12 students each year.
"My father wanted each of us to be educated so we did not have to work as hard as he did," said Violet Drake, who grew up on a small farm in Kentucky, but now lives in Winchester, Virginia. "As a result of my work with 4-H, I earned a small scholarship that allowed me to attend college. My husband received a GI Bill to attend undergraduate and graduate school. So we wanted to start a scholarship in agriculture to make it easier on students."
Although Charles Drake passed away in 2005, the endowed scholarship continues to help students pursue their dreams, thanks to the generosity of his 89-year-old widow. Since the scholarship's inception, more than 200 recipients have written letters to the Drakes expressing gratitude for the couple's generosity — stacks of letters that fill drawers and boxes in the Drake home. Violet Drake has kept every one, treasuring each sentiment and each author who has gone on to forge an agricultural career.
"I love to see young people interested in education and especially in agriculture because I grew up on a farm," said Violet Drake. "I have been a 4-H'er for most of my life, and that's what introduced me to the world of agriculture beyond our farm."
The eldest of seven children, Violet Drake worked alongside her parents and siblings when the country was recovering from the Great Depression. The experience taught her to imagine new possibilities for herself. After earning a scholarship, she graduated from Western Kentucky University.
"Working with young people and giving them hope for the future is the greatest gift that we can pass along to the next generation," she said. "The scholarships open doors. I want students to know they can broaden the scope of their lives if they believe they can accomplish what they set out for themselves."
The $1,000 Charles R. and Violet S. Drake Scholarship is awarded annually to up to 12 incoming students from a rural or farm background who are enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Applicants rank in the upper 25 percent of their high school class, hail from Virginia, and aspire to work in the agricultural industry after graduation.
Not only does Violet Drake hope to continue the scholarship for the foreseeable future, she looks forward to hearing about the dreams and aspirations of each recipient.