When Mary McVay first heard Dean Robert Sumichrast outline a vision for a new building during a Pamplin College of Business Advisory Council meeting, she immediately stepped forward to offer $1 million in support.

By making the first gift of such magnitude to the project now known as the Global Business and Analytics Complex, McVay helped to get the project moving and inspired many other generous Pamplin alumni to follow her lead with gifts of their own.

Now, as fundraising for the complex approaches its home stretch, with about $9 million of a $40 million goal left to ensure success, McVay has stepped forward again. She recently committed to provide another $1 million toward the project through a matching gift, hoping to inspire even more donors to give.

“I know I would not be where I am today, as successful as I am today, without my education from Pamplin,” said McVay, a two time alumna who earned her bachelor’s in accounting in 1978 and MBA in 1981. “We don’t have many opportunities to put our stamp on something as important as a university.”

The Global Business and Analytics Complex, widely known as GBAC, is one of six top priorities of Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech. The complex will consist of two academic buildings as well as multiple living-learning communities oriented around business, analytics, and international affairs.

Architect's rendition of the Global Business and Analytics Complex.
Architect's rendition of the Global Business and Analytics Complex.

“I’m extremely grateful to Mary for being such a powerful supporter of GBAC from its very beginning,” Sumichrast said of McVay. “As we near the finish line for bringing our ambitious vision to reality, her decision to increase her personal giving for this project to $2 million is tremendously inspiring.”

Exceeding expectations

During the 2020-21 academic year, 220 of the 511 undergraduate students in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems were female — 43 percent of the total. When McVay attended the university in the mid-1970s, things were very different.

She remembers “maybe a handful” of female students across all of her classes in Pamplin. When choosing where to go to college, Virginia Tech stood out to her because it had a business school, a walkable campus, and a cooperative education program that made it possible for her to help pay her way through school. But it was also something the university did not have that cemented McVay’s decision.

“I knew I wanted to study business,” McVay recalled. “When I looked at another school one of the things they highlighted was that they had new dorms for women that included sewing machines. I just said, ‘No.’ That was not for me.”

When she moved into Eggleston Hall as first-year student, there were no sewing machines in sight. Instead, McVay found helpful mentors at Virginia Tech who challenged her to pursue what would become a fulfilling and distinguished career.

One of them was her college advisor, Thomas Tate, who urged McVay to major in accounting. Another mentor was Leo Herbert, a professor of government accounting. His encouragement helped McVay stick through a five-year course of study that saw her working for several months at a time each year.

Architect's rendition of a commons area within the Global Business and Analytics Complex.
Architect's rendition of a commons area within the Global Business and Analytics Complex.

McVay did her co-op work in accounting for the Central Intelligence Agencey throughout her undergraduate studies. After earning her bachelor’s, she went to work for the CIA full time. While employed there, she earned her MBA. A few years later, McVay went to work at Booz, Allen, and Hamilton, a leading management and information technology consulting firm. She eventually left that company to become a partner at the Burney Company, a financial advisory firm that serves individual clients and has over $1 billion in assets under management.

McVay joined the Burney Company during a time of major transition in business technology. One of her first major projects was to help automate many functions, drawing on still rudimentary personal computing.

Software to handle tasks for the company was largely nonexistent, and Burney recalls negotiating a deal with the company that designed her firm’s customized software for reports.

“They told me to write what I wanted the reports to look like and give it them, and they would figure out how to do it and give it to me as long as they had the right to sell similar reports to other clients,” McVay recalled. “It was a win-win situation.”

'Any amount helps.'

McVay was the third of four children. Despite working through the co-op program throughout college, she still left with debt. Nevertheless, she started her tradition of giving to her alma mater from the very beginning of her career.

“Any amount helps,” McVay said. “When I made my first donation, it was $100 in 1978. I had just graduated, was making $12,000 a year, and I had student loans to pay off. … I have kept up my philanthropy since then.”

Over the years, as her financial circumstances improved, McVay increased her giving and her involvement with Pamplin as a volunteer. Former Dean Richard Sorensen recruited her to serve on the Pamplin Advisory Council. McVay was the first woman to chair the council and continues to stay involved as an emeritus member.

“She is an extremely inspiring and generous person,” said Lynne Doughtie ’85, former U.S. chairman and chief executive officer of KPMG, who serves on the Pamplin Advisory Council, is a tri-chair of the Boundless Impact campaign, and has given generously toward GBAC. “We appreciate Mary helping to lead the way for the GBAC project that is so important to the future of education and the future of business.”

Pamplin Advisory Council Cabinet Chair Jake Lutz ’78 said that challenge gifts like McVay’s are a powerful way to amplify one’s giving by also encouraging others. He used a similar approach during Virginia Tech’s most recent Giving Day, which helped Pamplin top all Virginia Tech programs in number of donors and amount given.

“Mary has championed this project from the start,” Lutz said. “Now is a crucial time for raising money to help GBAC reach its full potential. We hope that all Pamplin alumni will follow Mary’s lead, take advantage of her matching-gift challenge, and join in by making donations of their own.”

To learn more about making a gift toward the Global Business and Analytics Complex that might be matched, dollar-for-dollar, please contact Marise Robbins-Forbes at 217-413-1613 or marise@vt.edu.

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