Charles W. Steger

Charles William Steger, 2000-2014

In 2013, Dr. Charles W. Steger announced his intent to step down as President of Virginia Tech. For 14 years, Steger pursued the course he laid out to establish Virginia Tech among the nation’s premier research institutions. He provided visionary leadership in the creation and implementation of a bold vision and strategic plan, with a demand for quality across all aspects of the academic enterprise. Among the highlights of his presidency were the university’s adoption of A Plan for a New Horizon: Envisioning Virginia Tech 2012-2018; the Principles of Community (2005); and the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment (2009); and the fulfillment of Virginia Tech’s 50-year-old dream to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (2003).

One of the most exciting new initiatives to become reality was the completion of the new 144,000-square-foot Virginia Tech Research Center-Arlington (VTRC-A) in 2011 to enhance the university’s presence in the National Capital Region and ability to compete for major research grants and contracts.

In addition, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is fully operational in a new 152,000-square-foot building in Roanoke. VTCRI is now the hub for the world-wide interactive functional brain imaging network.

Another initiative on the horizon is the new Center for the Arts that opened in the fall of 2013. This 130,000-square-foot facility features a 1,300-seat performance hall, visual art galleries, and innovative creative technology lab spaces. At the intersection of North Main Street and Alumni Mall, its location symbolizes the university’s commitment to the arts and its importance to the university and the broader community.

Since Steger became president, the university has added over 2.4 million square feet of space, mostly in new construction.  This surpasses all growth that occurred over the entire period between 1872 and 1960.

During his tenure, the university’s annual research expenditures increased more than 300 percent, topping $450 million at the time of his departure. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), Virginia Tech is the only Virginia university to rank in the top 50 out of 679 universities in the nation in sponsored research. Shortly after Steger took office, the university launched the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, which has already secured well over $100 million in external research funding. Virginia Tech has also partnered with a number of other universities to further leverage its research strengths and resources, including Johns Hopkins University, Wake Forest University, the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, and Georgetown University. Concurrent with the expanding research agenda, the university has expanded its outreach efforts like never before. For example, Virginia Tech has partnered in numerous initiatives in Southside Virginia, including the renowned Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), which are advancing both educational and economic development opportunities.

A hallmark of Steger’s administration was his commitment to the students. With his leadership, the university reaffirmed its core mission of undergraduate education. The university is dedicated to fostering a research-intensive environment that offers students an opportunity to learn the scientific process while enhancing their critical-thinking skills. Recognizing that graduates will be entering a global economy, Virginia Tech initiated a comprehensive International Strategic Plan and has doubled the number of students participating in international education opportunities.

 In 2010, Steger was selected as a recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award, sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. During his presidency, five international centers have been established around the globe, and another is being developed in India.

Another of the most notable contributions of Steger’s administration is the role he played in the Higher Education Restructuring Act, which took effect in July 2006. Steger was one of the leaders among university presidents to help define a ground-breaking new relationship between the commonwealth of Virginia and its colleges and universities, which enables greater institutional flexibility and potential for growth. This legislation was intended to enable Virginia Tech to perform long-range planning, ensure a stable and predictable revenue stream, and ultimately ensure a quality education for its students.

In 2011, the university successfully completed an aggressive fundraising campaign to “Invent the Future,” surpassing the $1 billion goal by more than $100 million.  These funds provide the university with a margin of excellence for its academic agenda.

Steger was elected as a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1990 and holds the William C. Noland Award (2001) and the Distinguished Achievement Award (1996) from the Virginia Society AIA. The New Century Technology Council awarded him its 2004 Compass Award for visionary thinking and leadership in the field of information technology, and the National Conference for Community and Justice awarded him the 2002 NCCJ Humanitarian Award.

Credited with calm leadership during a very difficult period, President Steger led the university through an extended recovery in the aftermath of the April 2007 tragedy.  In 2009, President Steger received the Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District III for outstanding leadership and service in support of education.

Dr. Steger represented the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Presidential Oversight Committee and chairs the Presidential Oversight Committee.  He was chairman of the Council of Presidents of Virginia Colleges and Universities and had been appointed by five Governors of Virginia to various boards dealing with higher education, homeland security, information technology, and international education.  He was a member of the Virginia Higher Education Advisory Committee that was created in 2011.  He also testified numerous times before the Virginia Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee.  He was Vice President of the Council of Presidents and Chair of the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) and chaired the board of the Jefferson Science Associates, which oversees the Jefferson National Lab.  He served on the board of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority/Center for Innovative Technology and chaired the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Also, he was on the board of governors of the Oak Ridge National Lab and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).  In addition, he served on the Steering Committee for the Council on Competitiveness U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative and on the board of the National Institute of Building Sciences, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, the General and Professional Advisory Committee (GPAC) of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and the Roanoke Economic Development Partnership.  He is a member of the Economic Club of Washington, the Council on Foreign Relations Higher Education Working Group on Global Issues, and the Association of Governing Boards.  He has recently been an invited speaker on community resiliency and transforming higher education to meet global challenges.  His most recent publications include book chapters on the topics of the business of education and the university presidency.

Steger received his Bachelor of Architecture degree, Master of Architecture degree, and Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech. His passion for teaching led him to leave a career in the private sector as a professional architect and planner to return to Virginia Tech to teach in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), where he won two teaching excellence awards and authored a portion of a textbook that has been adopted by 230 universities and is now in its 7th edition. When he became Dean in 1981 at the age of 33, he was the youngest architecture dean in the nation.  After 12 years in that role, he was appointed Vice President for Development and University Relations (1993-2000) before being named President in 2000.


Prior to the Presidency

Long before becoming president, Dr. Steger was playing an active role in shaping the future of the university. His record of unique accomplishment reveals a visionary thinker with concrete achievements. As Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), he was directly responsible for the creation of the Center for European Studies and Architecture in Switzerland and the Washington-Alexandria Center for Architecture just outside the nation's capital, thus establishing a national and international presence for the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) and enhancing the university's presence as well.  In addition, the college's research program grew three-fold to become one of the largest research programs of any school of architecture in the country.

He was a member of the committee that developed the first core curriculum for Virginia Tech in 1981. Then in 1986, he was appointed by the president to chair the committee that wrote the university’s initial Statement of Mission and Purpose and chaired the committee that developed the institution’s process for strategic planning.  In 1989, he chaired the University Committee on the Impact of Digital Technologies on the Teaching-Learning Environment.  This report was highly regarded by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and described by the past president of EDUCOM as a seminal work in the field that underpinned the university’s instructional technology efforts for decades. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund during the difficult period when it was converted to a university department to better oversee its operation.

Dr. Steger’s contributions to the evolution of a diverse community have come in several forms.  At the national level, two activities were of significance.  First, Dr. Steger was instrumental in making possible the national design competition to recognize the women who served in the United States Military.  The monument is located at the entry to Arlington National Cemetery.  Second, Dr. Steger was one of the founding directors of the International Archive of Women Architects.  

In support of the extension and outreach mission of the university, Dr. Steger's principal contributions occurred in the role of Acting Vice President for Public Service, a position he held concurrently during the last three years that he was Dean of CAUS.  A new magazine, Virginia Issues and Answers (VIA), was begun that today enjoys a solid audience of legislators, state and local government officials, and economic developers in addition to academicians. Moreover, he heightened the visibility of Virginia Tech in the state capital by establishing Virginia Tech's Public Service Office in downtown Richmond.

In Dr. Steger's subsequent position as Vice President for Development and University Relations, he directed the university's successful campaign, “Making A World of Difference,” that was concluded in 1998, having raised $337.4 million, thereby exceeding the $250 million goal by 35 percent.

He was formerly a member of the Board of Trustees of Hollins University, served as president of the Endowment Foundation for the Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences (known as Center in the Square) in Roanoke, and was on the board of the Carilion Biomedical Institute and the Boswil Foundation in Zürich, Switzerland, as well as several private corporations. He served on the board of the World Institute for Disaster Risk Management (DRM), created in 2000 in partnership with Swiss officials and The World Bank to conduct research on mitigating global natural disasters.  His international consulting experience has included work for the Organization of American States, the governments of Brazil and Costa Rica, and King Faisal University (Saudi Arabia). 

Dr. Steger was appointed as President of Virginia Tech in January 2000.

From Virginia Tech magazine: The Architect of Growth

Charles W. Steger stands before the Moss Arts Center

How a visionary president enabled exponential growth and developed the modern land-grant university.

Speeches by Charles W. Steger