The Ruffner Medal: William E. Betts Jr. receives university's highest honor
Virginia Tech honored alumnus William E. “Ping” Betts Jr. with the William H. Ruffner Medal during the university’s Founders Day celebration May 13-14.
The William H. Ruffner Medal, the university’s most prestigious honor, is awarded annually on Founders Day to recognize individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university. Betts will be honored for his service and leadership to Virginia Tech, his profession, his community and his nation.
During World War II, Betts was an officer in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, attaining the rank of captain while serving 39 months in the European Theater. He was among the troops that landed on Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Europe at Normandy, France, and was awarded both the Bronze Star by the U. S. War Department and the Croix de Guerre by the French.
A graduate of the Class of 1932, Betts has served Virginia Tech in several capacities. He was director of the Virginia Tech Educational Foundation and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, served on the Lynchburg-Amherst-Nelson Regional Capital Campaign Committee and was a charter member of the Rowe Fellow Program. He is a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100 and serves on the Virginia Tech President’s Council Membership Committee for Lynchburg.
He has been honored for his service to his profession and to his alma mater as reflected by his induction into the Academy of Engineering Excellence, and his receipt of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Academy of Distinguished Alumni Award from the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Betts’ generosity to his alma mater has earned him the recognition as a Senior Benefactor in the Ut Prosim Society. His philanthropy has supported the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, intercollegiate athletics, and the College of Engineering where he established the William E. Betts Jr. Professorship in the Department of Civil Engineering.
Betts has had a successful and distinguished 60-year career in the structural steel industry. He co-founded the Montague-Betts Company in 1938, a structural steel fabricator of several major construction projects including New York’s World Trade Center. Currently, he serves as company chairman, a position he has held since 1956. Throughout his career, Betts has demonstrated superior knowledge and professional expertise, serving as a director on several professional boards including those of the American Institute of Steel Construction, Virginia-Carolinas Fabricators Association, National Association of Manufacturers, United States Business and Industrial Council, Central Virginia Industries, and United Virginia Bank/ Crestar.
His service to his community includes being director of the Lynchburg Area United Way and the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center. He has held board memberships with the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, the Lynchburg Area Development Corporation, and the Bedford County Public Service Authority.
Betts received his bachelor's degree in architectural engineering at Virginia Tech, graduating first in his class. Betts continued to study the field of structural engineering at Virginia Tech, receiving his master's degree in 1933 and becoming a registered architect in 1934.
Betts, who has been blind for more than 30 years will turn 94 later this year. He claims as his greatest accomplishments his 50-year marriage to the late Eloise Brown Betts and his two sons, his daughter, his nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
First held in 1972, Founders Day is Virginia Tech's annual celebration of academic and professional achievements of its students, faculty, staff and alumni. This year, Founders Day is being held in conjunction with spring Commencement ceremonies.