Decades of Virginia Tech accomplishments in life sciences research, education and outreach can be traced back to the leadership and generosity of Tracy Wilkins and Horace Fralin.

In recognition, the Fralin Life Science Institute honored its founding director, its namesake, and their families at a 20-year anniversary celebration on Nov. 18 in Fralin Hall.

The event featured remarks by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Vice President of Research and Innovation Theresa Mayer, and Fralin Life Science Institute Director Dennis Dean.

Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about the institute’s signature research areas: the Vector-borne Disease Research Group, Global Change Center, and the planned Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors.

Students, including recipients of a Fralin Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, presented research into fish and wildlife conservation, biochemistry, and autism.

“Everything we do at this institute is guided by the vision of our founding director Tracy Wilkins, and all of our accomplishments have been made possible by the sustaining support provided by Horace Fralin and Tracy Wilkins,” said Dennis Dean, director of the Fralin Life Science Institute and the Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology at Virginia Tech.

Tracy and Sarah Wilkins attend the celebration
Tracy Wilkins (right) attended the Fralin Life Science Institute's 20th anniversary celebration with his wife, Sarah.

Wilkins was the founding director of the Fralin Biotechnology Center, which has since grown into the Fralin Life Science Institute. Wilkins founded several successful biotechnology firms, including TechLab Inc., located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Horace Fralin established an endowment that continues to support the institute. A member of the Class of 1948 who earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering, he was a charter member of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Society of donors, a founding member of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center Board of Directors, and a president of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board of Directors.

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association recognized Fralin’s leadership by honoring him with the Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1989. In 1992, the university conferred upon him its highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal.

Dean presented the Fralin and Wilkins families with specially commissioned sculptures by local artists Neil Ames and Deb Weissenborn at the anniversary event.

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