Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect more-recent program rankings.

Virginia Tech’s Program in Real Estate, an innovative degree that has grown from four students to more than 350 in seven years, has been named for the Blackwood family.

The naming recognizes $10 million in giving to the real estate program by one of the university’s most generous and involved families, which includes alumni couple Willis Blackwood ’72 and Mary Nolen Blackwood ’73, and their children, Morgan Blackwood Patel ’02 and Nolen Blackwood ’10.

“We are deeply grateful to Willis, Mary, Morgan, and Nolen for supporting the university in so many ways over the years, and we’re proud to name the Blackwood Program in Real Estate in recognition of their extraordinary generosity and engagement,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The program, which has been rising rapidly in reputation and rankings, will continue advancing as a national leader, thanks to the support of this great Hokie family.”

The program that now bears the Blackwood family’s name was ranked first by the Bachelor's Degree Center and third by Great Business Schools among the nation’s top 25 real estate programs. College Factual ranked the program fourth most popular real estate school.

Willis Blackwood, who earned his bachelor’s in business administration from what is now the Pamplin College of Business, is the founder and president of Blackwood Development Company Inc., a privately owned real estate firm in Richmond, Virginia.

He said he hoped his family’s giving will help propel the Blackwood Program in Real Estate to become the best in the nation for undergraduates and will inspire additional alumni to stay involved and give back to their university.

“Real estate has been my profession for 48 years,” Willis Blackwood said. “It has been a great industry in which to operate and has been rewarding personally and financially.”

The Blackwood family’s generosity will help generations of students launch fulfilling careers in real estate, said Kevin Boyle, who directs the program. Based in the Pamplin College of Business, the program is an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws courses for students from multiple Virginia Tech colleges.

“Willis has collaborated with us from the very start of the program,” Boyle said. “He has provided financial and personal support from when it was just a start-up idea. He participates in classes, chairs the industry advisory board, and supports student scholarships. He’s been as active as an alum could be in enhancing student successes and advancing recognition of the program. Quite simply, we would not be where we are today without his support.”

Looking ahead, this most recent giving by the Blackwood family will open major new opportunities for the program, Boyle said.

“Some prominent ways earnings from the Blackwood endowment may be used are to enhance resources with two additional tenure-track faculty in order to improve the teaching, to support student experiential learning, to send students on trips to see real estate sites, and to participate in professional conferences, to bring experts to campus for enhanced learning, and for diversity scholarships,” Boyle added.

Resources from the Blackwood family’s giving can also be used to help market the real estate program to increase its enrollment and to further the program’s reputation, Boyle said.

Virginia Tech real estate students pictured on campus in 2017.
Virginia Tech’s Program in Real Estate has grown rapidly since 2013. Photo by Olivia Coleman for Virginia Tech.

The Blackwood family has a long and powerful history of engagement and philanthropy at Virginia Tech. Their impact spans several colleges and programs, as well as two generations.

Willis Blackwood has chaired the real estate program’s Industry Advisory Board, served on the Pamplin Advisory Council, and served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board. Mary Nolen Blackwood has served on the foundation board and for more than three decades on the College of Science Advisory Board. Morgan Blackwood Patel is a tri-chair of Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech, and has served on the Industrial and Systems Engineering Advisory Board, the Engineering Committee of 100, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board. Nolen Blackwood has served on the boards of the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund and the Richmond Hokie Club.

Willis Blackwood said the family’s recent gift to the real estate program is in keeping with an emphasis on philanthropy that he and his wife have shared with their children, who are both now leaders alongside him at the Blackwood Development Company.

“Both our children are now with the company and bring new blood with fresh ideas,” he said. “Making this significant pledge represents our philosophy of helping others. We have addressed what we consider the reasonable future needs of our children and their children. Every family’s situation is different in terms of what you feel about how much to donate. In our case, we all agree it is important to support organizations and individual efforts in which we believe. Our parents instilled the concept of giving back, as did Virginia Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim. Our children have fully embraced the idea.

“As to the current donation to the real estate program, we felt, why wait until our death? We feel this donation will have a significant impact on the growth and success of the real estate program. With this gift, we are supporting the university and industry that has and continues to give so much to our family.”

Charlie Phlegar, who heads the university’s fundraising efforts as vice president for advancement, said the Blackwoods set an inspiring example of multigenerational philanthropy.

“The generosity that Willis, Mary, Morgan, and Nolen have shown our university is remarkable,” Phlegar said. “They have been making a difference in many ways and for many years. With this most recent giving, they will help propel our real estate program to new heights and get generations of Hokies on the path to rewarding and fulfilling careers. We can’t thank them enough.”

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