Virginia Tech will honor four alumni at commencement
Virginia Tech will honor four alumni this week for their contributions to the university and their communities.
During commencement exercises, the following awards will be presented: the Ut Prosim Medal, the University Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
The Ut Prosim Medal is the university’s highest honor and is given for notable and remarkable service to the university. Frank M. Beamer ’69 will be honored with the medal this year.
The University Distinguished Achievement Award is given to an individual with nationally distinguished achievement, whether personal or professional, in any field or endeavor of enduring significance and value to society. W. Andrew “Andy” Beckstoffer ’61 will receive the award this year.
The Alumni Distinguished Service Award honors alumni in recognition of their outstanding service to the university, their communities, and their professions. A. Carole Pratt ’72 and Jay S. Poole ’78 will receive the award this year.
University Commencement is at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Lane Stadium. To watch the ceremony or learn more, visit commencement.vt.edu.
About the recipients
Frank M. Beamer ’69, Ut Prosim Medal
Beamer is the winningest coach in Virginia Tech history with 280 career victories. He led the Hokies to their first appearance in the BCS National Championship at the Sugar Bowl following the 1999 regular season. He has also been a devoted alumnus to Virginia Tech and in 2019 was given the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
Before becoming a head football coach, he served as an assistant coach at Maryland, The Citadel, and Murray State. Beamer is a member of the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. His No. 25 jersey was retired by the school in 2002. His name adorns the Hokies’ locker room, and the street in front of Lane Stadium is named Beamer Way.
When he retired in 2015, Beamer was the winningest active coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history. During his tenure, he led the Hokies to 23 consecutive bowl games in his final 23 seasons. One of his lasting legacies is “Beamerball,” the name given to the Hokies’ ability to make big plays and score on offense, defense, and special teams.
Beamer was inducted into both the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Hall of Fame and honored as a Sun Bowl Legend.
Beamer is also known for his philanthropy across the region. His program, Herma's Readers, provides books and other resources to schools to promote literacy throughout Southwest Virginia. The program was named after his mother, who was a school teacher.
W. Andrew “Andy” Beckstoffer ’61, University Distinguished Achievement Award
Few have made a larger impact on the evolution of Northern California’s wine industry than Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards, which has been named “Napa’s most powerful grape grower” by both The Wall Street Journal and Wine Spectator.
For more than 50 years, Beckstoffer Vineyards has been at the forefront of putting Napa Valley and California wine on the global stage, forging major shifts in the way the industry values the land, the grapes, and the farmers. Beckstoffer’s ever-growing portfolio of premium vineyard sites consistently produces the highest quality cabernet sauvignon grapes in Northern California. The company continues to be an industry leader, focusing on technology-driven precision farming with an emphasis on land conservation and agricultural sensitivity as well as sustainability in the face of climate change.
Beckstoffer Vineyards owns approximately 4,000 acres of vineyards in Napa, Mendocino, and Lake counties, including some of Napa’s most historic vineyard properties. In 1983, Beckstoffer Vineyards purchased its first Heritage Vineyard, Las Piedras in St. Helena. Later came the vineyards To Kalon — arguably the most famous American vineyard — Georges III, Missouri Hopper, Dr. Crane, and Bourn. Beckstoffer sells this fruit to a carefully selected group of winemakers, who collectively produce more than 100 vineyard-designated wines that originate entirely from a Beckstoffer Heritage Vineyard. These wines are consistently awarded 95-plus scores and other accolades.
Beyond his impressive vineyard portfolio, one of Beckstoffer’s most notable industry contributions was the initiation of a new grape pricing structure in 1976, which created a major and lasting shift in how the California wine industry views the importance of wine growers and grape quality.
Preservation and sustainability efforts have been a continuous theme over Beckstoffer’s career. He was instrumental in the forming of The Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association in 1975, where he was a founding director and its second president. In 1990, Beckstoffer also played a major role in Napa County’s establishment of the Winery Definition Ordinance. This brought about key measures for preserving agriculture in Napa Valley and required that at least 75 percent of the grapes used to produce wines from new wineries and expansions of existing wineries be from the Napa Valley.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Beckstoffer earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management engineering at Virginia Tech in 1961 and an MBA from Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth in 1966.
Beckstoffer was named Grower of the Year three times by three organizations: in 2005 by COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts; in 2006 by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association — its first bestowal of the award — and in 2015 by the California Association of Winegrape Growers. He was also named Agriculturalist of the Year twice, in 2007 by the Napa County Farm Bureau and in 2016 by the 12 District California Agricultural Association.
In 2007, Beckstoffer received the Wine Industry Leadership Award, the first United States Congressional Wine Caucus Commendation, and in 2010, he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame.
A. Carole Pratt ’72, Alumni Distinguished Service Award
Pratt served as senior policy advisor in the administrations of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Gov. Ralph Northam. In this role, Pratt focused primarily on rural health and health care workforce concerns, oral health, prescription and illicit drug abuse, and addiction.
She was a member of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, representing the health and human resources secretary, and provided support to the Department of Veterans Services' Military Medics and Corpsman Program, which transitions veterans to civilian healthcare jobs.
Pratt previously practiced general dentistry with her husband, Rick Mansell, in rural Southwest Virginia for 32 years, during which time she served four terms as chair of Virginia's Board of Health and vice chair of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.
She is the past chair of the board of trustees at Lewis Gale Hospital in Pulaski and was a fellow of the National Rural Health Association. In 2011, Pratt served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow in the office of Sen. John D. Rockefeller, IV.
She is a board member of Delta Dental of Virginia and of its Foundation, the National Rural Health Association Rural Oral Health Task Force, the Southwest Virginia Area Health Education Center (AHEC), and an advisory board member of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine Virginia campus.
A dedicated alumna, Pratt served on the Virginia Tech Alumni Association board of directors as its president, as a member of the Virginia Tech Foundation Board, the College of Science Dean's Roundtable, the Department of Biological Sciences Advisory Board, and the advisory council for Virginia Tech Inspiring Women in Lifelong Leadership.
Pratt also has served as chair of the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance, chair of Virginia's Small Business Advisory Board, and was a member of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership board of directors. In addition, she has volunteered for many years at the annual Virginia Dental Association Mission of Mercy clinics, which provides free treatment to patients in rural Southwest Virginia.
Pratt earned her bachelor's degree in biology from Virginia Tech in 1972 and went on to earn a doctoral dental surgery degree from the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry.
Jay S. Poole ’78, Alumni Distinguished Service Award
Poole has 30 years of experience in government relations, communications, and strategic planning. Twenty of those years were spent in corporate affairs at Altria, first in Washington, D.C., then Richmond, and then New York City.
While Poole has held a number of positions, including vice president of corporate communications, it was his ability to think strategically and to communicate effectively the goals and objectives of the company to diverse internal and external audiences that served as the foundation for his success.
After his retirement, he created Common Sense Strategies and applied his experience and skills to benefit other organizations.
Poole's key accomplishments at Altria include the role his communications team played in the planning and execution of the internal and external communications strategies surrounding the company's name change from Philip Morris Companies, Inc. to Altria. His Shared Solutions Program, an award-winning corporate agricultural relations constituency program, envisioned a new company engagement model with numerous external organizations.
His early days with Altria were devoted to the development of a comprehensive state government affairs program. Poole led a multi-state region, anchored by Virginia, which included six states where the company had major manufacturing or agricultural interests. He was primarily responsible for formulation and execution of the company's community communications and government relations strategies in support of the company's broader business objectives.
All of Poole’s professional and personal experiences were called to action in April 2007 when he traveled to Blacksburg to offer support in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.
Initially engaged as a volunteer to support communications efforts, he subsequently accepted a senior leadership role in the university's long-term response to the tragedy.
While he continues to provide ongoing counsel for Virginia Tech as needed, Poole's Common Sense Strategies has provided strategic communications and government relations counsel for several clients, including the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, Carilion Clinic, Concerned Citizens of Southern Virginia, Colonial Downs, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and AgriSunPower, a Virginia-based energy co-developer.
Prior to his employment with Altria, Poole was a legislative assistant to United States Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, advising the senator on agricultural and trade issues. Poole spent the first five years of his career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Poole was raised on his family's farm in Wythe County and is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Throughout his career, he has shared his experience with a number of charitable and civic organizations.
He served as rector of the Board of Visitors at Radford University for five years and is currently on the boards of the Alpha Gamma Rho Foundation, the Council for Rural Virginia, and Virginia21. He is also the past board chair of the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund.