Virginia Tech recently renamed the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Pamplin College of Business in recognition of a joint commitment of $5 million by four university alumni, Brian Callaghan, Ted Hanson, Edwin "Win" Sheridan, and Jeffrey Veatch.

The Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is named after the information technology staffing and services company that Callaghan, Sheridan, and Veatch founded in 1995, which Hanson joined as chief financial officer in 1998. The donation to Pamplin is from Callaghan, Hanson, Sheridan, and Veatch as individuals.

Apex, which was acquired by On Assignment in 2012, has trailing 12-month revenue of more than $1 billion. In 2013, it placed more than 20,000 professionals while serving more than 1,200 clients across a variety of industries.

"We started with a 700-square-foot office on the south side of Richmond and the company has now passed $1 billion in sales," said Sheridan, who earned his bachelor's in political science in 1994 and lives in Alexandria. "That's a reflection of the hard work of a lot of people, and is a great entrepreneurial story. Naming the center at Virginia Tech was a great fit, because all of us Apex founders met there."

"Even though I didn't graduate from Pamplin, my career was in business," said Brian Callaghan, of Richmond, who earned his bachelor's in psychology in 1993. "It resonates very deeply with me that everyone from undergraduates to faculty members can benefit from having resources available to them to start a business and innovate, and we want to be a part of that."

"Core to Apex is a strong entrepreneurial culture, which furthers one of our company missions to provide a bridge for technology workers to new job opportunities," said Hanson, who earned his bachelor's in accounting in 1991 and is both CFO of Apex Systems and president of Lab Support. "We are proud to support Virginia Tech as it helps foster that same spirit of enterprise innovation, preparing students for a successful future and cultivating job creation."

Veatch, who earned his bachelor's in finance in 1993 and lives in Alexandria, said he hopes the center will make more people comfortable starting businesses.

"We were lucky to have good entrepreneurial networks in our families," he said of himself and Apex's other co-founders. "Some people aren't as blessed as us to have that network. Quite often it's the little things that make all the difference. Having someone to lean on to give advice on how to start a business, and hearing how others have succeeded, may give someone the confidence to get out there and do it."

The center that is now named for Apex became operational in August 2014.  It recently launched an investor group to fund high potential start-ups.

In the spring 2015 semester, the center will begin an interdisciplinary program to take students on "entrepreneurship and innovation treks" to visit startups and corporate innovation programs in areas including Boston, Maryland, and Washington D.C., said Linda Oldham, the center’s executive director.

Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast said that, not long after assuming his post in July 2013, he noticed a strong interest in entrepreneurship and innovation among students and faculty, which factored into the decision to create the center.

"From their personal experience, these four donors have shown how you can be successful entrepreneurs, and I'm delighted they want to share what they've learned, inspire others, and be models for current students," Sumichrast said. "This gift is going to ensure that our center is a long-term success and has the resources to transform the role the business school can play in the university's innovation ecosystem."

Creating the Apex Center is one of several recent Virginia Tech initiatives to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Others include the Innovate living learning community, the NuSpark creative space, and the Tech Entrepreneurship Conference.



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