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Jim Watkins honored with 2022 Alumni Distinguished Service Award

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Jim Watkins ’71 was recognized with Virginia Tech’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award May 12. The 2022 award recognized four individuals with outstanding service to the university and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.   

Whether it's his smile, unassuming nature, or the love he shares for Virginia Tech, Jim Watkins is a man most never forget. "He made it his business to introduce himself and to make sure he knew the folks here who were working, and especially with African-American students." Barbara Pendergrass first met Jim at a Black Alumni Reunion. "And I was just really impressed with his interests and his commitment because he volunteered also to provide support, to mentor and support for students, currently enrolled students." Jim, a 1971 alumnus, came to Virginia Tech in 1967. He was among the first Black students to attend the university at a time when they weren't always welcomed. "When he came through Tech, it was a different time and he probably endured things that that I would not understand but he got through it and he graduated and he's stayed active and has loved Virginia Tech over the years, and has helped us. Jim is responsible for helping us build the Black Alumni group, helping us get the Black Alumni Reunion started." "This speaks volumes to me about about Jim, about his personality, about his ability to persevere even when others are putting, intentionally putting obstacles in his path." Jim not only persevered, but persisted to promote the university to other students pursuing college. He proudly watched his grandson graduate last year. "He's a trailblazer. He came and he opened the doors for so many other students to come. He came here and excelled. And he did not become bitter by the experiences that he had, by being excluded, by being shunned, but has continued to support the university, sent his grandson here, and is just so proud of that, And continued to be a mentor to students." "A long list of accomplishments in his profession. Yet he found time for Virginia Tech and he always came back and he always was willing to support us as we navigated difficult terrain and tried to figure out how to engage different groups of alumni. Jim was there for us and you know, that's super important to Virginia Tech to have a person like Jim. So this award is so very well-deserved."