Virginia State Senator John C. Watkins and University of North Carolina Professor of Medicine Sidney C. Smith Jr. are the 2011 recipients of Virginia Tech’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award.

Established in 1973, the award recognizes individuals for their contributions to the university.

Watkins, of Midlothian, has served in the Virginia State Senate since 1998, and previously served 16 years in the Virginia House of Delegates. He also chairs the board of Watkins Nurseries Inc., a family business founded by his great-grandfather in 1876.

Actively involved in his community, Watkins sits on the respective boards of directors for CJW Medical Center, Essex Bank, and Community Bankers Trust.

Watkins is a respected leader in transportation, regional planning and cooperation, and agricultural and natural resource issues. In addition to serving on a number of senate committees, he chairs the state Commission on Unemployment Compensation, the Virginia-North Carolina High-Speed Rail Compact Commission, and the Virginia Geographic Information Network Advisory Board.

Watkins has served two six-year terms on the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Directors and is a founding member and past-president of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization.

He is a member of the Richmond Regional Campaign Committee within The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future and served on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Campaign Committee within The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Making a World of Difference. Watkins’ has also served Virginia Tech through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Leadership Council, the German Club Alumni Foundation Board, and the Hokies for Higher Education initiative.

Watkins earned his bachelor’s in horticulture in 1969 and is one of five generations of his family to have graduated from Virginia Tech. His great-grandfather served on the university’s board of visitors from 1903 to 1908 and again from 1912 to 1928, including time as rector.

Smith, of Chapel Hill, N.C., is a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and has broad interests in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

He is president of the World Heart Federation, and has been involved with the American Heart Association for the past three decades, serving as president from 1995 to 1996 and chief science officer from 2001 to 2003.

Smith earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1963, a medical degree from Yale University in 1967, and completed his medical residency and cardiology fellowship at the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Peter Bent Brigham (now Brigham and Women’s) Hospital.

He has maintained a strong commitment to Virginia Tech, and currently serves on the board of directors at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Over the years, Smith has also served on the board of directors of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Biological Systems Engineering Advisory Board, and the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board.

He is co-chair of the Raleigh/Durham Regional Campaign Committee within The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, is a member of the Campaign Steering Committee for the College of Engineering, and is on the Engineering Committee of 100.

Smith was the 1996 recipient of Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award, in recognition of his many achievements in the medical field that have benefitted society. He was inducted into Virginia Tech’s Academy of Engineering Excellence in 2004.

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.

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