Two individuals with close ties to Virginia Tech will give the keynote addresses at the university’s Fall 2005 University and Graduate School Commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, Dec. 16 on the Blacksburg campus.

Minnis E. Ridenour, a member of the Virginia Tech community for 30 years who has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer and currently serves as Senior Fellow and director of the Office of Government and Non-Profit Organization Management, will deliver the keynote address at the University Commencement Ceremony. Philip S. Thompson, retired vice president of emerging markets at IBM and member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, will deliver the Graduate School Ceremony address.

The University Commencement Ceremony, to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. (please note the time change) in Cassell Coliseum, will honor approximately 1,500 students who completed their undergraduate degree programs at the end of the Summer Session or Fall 2005 semester. The Graduate School Ceremony will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. (please note the time change) in Cassell Coliseum where approximately 1,050 students who completed their graduate program of study at the end of the Summer Session or Fall 2005 semester will be recognized.

University Commencement Speaker: Minnis E. Ridenour

As a member of the Virginia Tech community since 1974, Ridenour served as executive vice president and chief operating officer from 2001 until his retirement from full-time work in 2004. He also served as executive vice president of the Virginia Tech Foundation and on the boards of other university related corporations. Because of his ability to formulate sophisticated fiscal strategies, several special initiatives and strategic public-private partnerships have been implemented at Virginia Tech and continue to operate today.

Despite a rigorous administrative schedule, Ridenour taught undergraduate and graduate courses in financial management throughout most of his tenure at Virginia Tech. Now retired from full-time service to the university, he continues to teach and serves as Senior Fellow and director of the Office of Government and Non-Profit Organization Management at Virginia Tech.

In 2001, Ridenour received the Distinguished Business Officers award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). He served as president and a member of the board of directors of the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers; as a member of the business affairs executive committee for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges; and as a member of the executive committee, board of directors, large universities committee and Research Universities Council of NACUBO.

Ridenour received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee. Following service in the United States Air Force, he began his career at the Holston (Tenn.) Methodist Home for the Retired, and subsequently held several positions within the University of Tennessee system before coming to Virginia Tech as budget director.

He has served on the boards of numerous external organizations, including the Virginia United Methodist Homes, Hollins University, Carilion Biomedical Institute and Foundation, Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences, Blacksburg Partnership, and the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center Commission. In addition, he served as chairman of the board of directors of Rocco, Inc.; chairman of the board of the Montgomery Regional Hospital; a member of the board of directors of Petroleum Marketers, Inc. (PMI); president of the Greater Blacksburg Chamber of Commerce; president of the Council for Finance and Administration, Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church; and a member of the Governor's Block Grant Advisory Committee.

Graduate Commencement Speaker: Philip S. Thompson

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron in 1972, Thompson joined IBM as an engineer in product development in the defense sector. While at IBM, Thompson earned his Master of Science degree in systems engineering from Virginia Tech in 1977. From 1972 to 1993, he held a series of increasingly responsible roles with IBM in product engineering management, strategic and operation planning, general management, and worldwide computer integrated manufacturing. From several U.S. positions, he led organizations in Europe and Japan.

In 1993, Thompson left IBM to become vice president of operations for Pitney Bowes’ Monarch Marking Systems. In 1994, he was named senior vice president of operations at Zenith Electronics Corporation.

Two years later, Thompson returned to IBM as vice president of business processing outsourcing for IBM Integrated Systems Solutions Corporation (ISSC). From 1996 to 2000, he served as general manager of the distribution sector and vice president of manufacturing and aerospace, all within IBM Global Services. In 2000, he was named vice president of business transformation and chief information officer, with responsibility for directing IBM’s information technology investments and setting business transformation strategy worldwide.

Three years later, he was promoted to Technology Group vice president, sales and marketing. In that role, he was responsible for developing IBM’s Engineering and Technology Services and microelectronics businesses, leading overall sales and marketing for the technology group. He retired from IBM in 2005 as vice president of emerging markets, responsible for driving revenue and profit growth in Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and Eastern Europe.

In 2002, Thompson received the Pinnacle Award during the third annual 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, recognizing his professional, policy and technical contributions to technology. He was named one of the “50 Top Blacks in Technology” in 2003 during the annual Black Family Technology Awareness Week, and he was one of the first engineers named to the list of Black Achievers in Industry, a national recognition sponsored by the Harlem YMCA, in 1992.

As a member of Virginia Tech’s governing board, Thompson gives his time and talents to the university in many ways. He has been a champion of the university’s affirmative action efforts, drawing upon his extensive corporate experience. In his role as chair of the board’s Special Research Committee, Thompson has helped chart Virginia Tech’s course to become one of the nation’s premier research universities.

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 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 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.

Share this story