Vice President for Student Affairs Edward F. D. Spencer and Jaan Holt, Patrick and Nancy Lathrop Professor of Architecture and director of the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, National Capital Region, will deliver the keynote addresses at Virginia Tech's 2011 fall University and Graduate School Commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, Dec. 16.

Spencer will address undergraduate students at the University Ceremony which begins at 11 a.m., and Holt will speak at the Graduate School Ceremony which begins at 3 p.m., both at Cassell Coliseum. Approximately 2,500 students will be honored for completing their academic degrees at the end of the summer and fall terms at the two events.

Those seeking more information on the ceremonies should visit the Commencement website.

University Commencement Speaker: Edward F. D. Spencer

Edward F. D. Spencer will retire as Virginia Tech’s vice president for student affairs next summer after what will be a 42-year career in higher education.

As vice president, he oversees the 15 departments in the Division of Student Affairs, including campus housing, dining, counseling, health services, student centers and activities, fraternity and sorority life, recreational sports, and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. He oversees budgets of more than $100 million, and the division has 2,600 faculty, staff, and student employees.

He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester, a master’s degree in student personnel administration in higher education from Syracuse University, and both an master’s degree and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Delaware.

Spencer began his professional career in student affairs at the University of Delaware in 1970 where he held three different positions. He came to Virginia Tech in 1983 as director of housing and residence life, became director of residential and dining programs in 1989, was named assistant vice president in 1996, and subsequently associate vice president in 2004 and vice president in 2008.

He also serves as an associate professor in the higher education administration program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences where he has taught several courses, most recently The American College Student and the College Environment.

Among the significant accomplishments under Spencer’s leadership are the transformation of the dining program into one of the top programs in the country, the addition of multiple residence halls and all four phases of the Oak Lane Greek community, the introduction of coeducational housing and living/learning communities (including the Ambler Johnston Residential Colleges), the establishment of the separate offices of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Student Conduct, expansion of the Cook Counseling Center and Dean of Students staffs and services, development of the Aspirations for Student Learning, and creation of the “The VP is In” program.

Students are fond of calling him “the students’ vice president.”

Spencer’s numerous awards include the Pillar of the Profession and the Dissertation of the Year awards from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators; the first Zenobia Lawrence Hikes Leadership Award from the Virginia Tech Student Government Association; and Most Outstanding Faculty Advisor, Most Outstanding Chapter Advisor, the Order of Constantine, and the Significant Sig Award from the Sigma Chi International Fraternity.

In addition, the Spencer Award, given annually to Virginia Tech’s Fraternity Advisor of the Year, is named in his honor.

Graduate Commencement Speaker: Jaan Holt

Holt first came to Virginia Tech five decades ago as undergraduate student and completed his Bachelor of Architecture degree with honors in 1965. The following year, he earned a master of architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under famed architect Louis Kahn and noted engineers Robert Le Richolais and August Komendant.

Holt then embarked on a teaching career that brought him to Montana and Turkey, where he was a founding foreign faculty member of the School of Architecture at Middle East Technical University.

In 1972, Holt returned to Virginia Tech as an assistant professor of architecture in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. While chair of Virginia Tech's architecture program in the summer of 1980, Holt and fellow professor Hans Rott brought 18 architecture students to design studios on the second and third floors above a CVS Pharmacy in Old Town Alexandria, Va.

With the support of then-Provost John Wilson and Charles W. Steger, then the dean of architecture and now university president, then Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center was born. It was the university's first urban architecture center and permanent off-campus design program. Holt eventually left the main Blacksburg campus in 1984 to become the center’s director.

As director, Holt has coordinated more than 15 consortia schools of architecture to form dynamic global configurations that create a collaborative, intercollegiate academic environment for Virginia Tech students and consortia members.

Holt has also been principal administrator of more than $600,000 in sponsored projects and outreach related activities. Many of these projects involve government and military contracts in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He managed competitions for the Women in Military Service for America National Memorial and the recently completed Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

In recognition of his many contributions, Holt received the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Outreach Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award, a special award from the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and an Allied Professional Award from the Northern Virginia Chapter of the AIA. He was named the Patrick and Nancy Lathrop Professor of Architecture earlier this year.

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.

Dana Cruikshank and Katie Gehrt contributed to this story.
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