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Band of Brothers: Myers-Lawson advocates pave the way for intelligent infrastructure

Thanks to a group of loyal supporters of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction who gave combined gifts of $25 million, Virginia Tech is poised for global leadership in high-tech, human-centered infrastructure education and research.

The donors included Myers-Lawson namesake John Lawson (geophysics ’75), president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company, and the Hitt family of HITT Contracting Inc.

Their investment has accelerated the timetable for building an Intelligent Infrastructure and Construction Complex, which includes Hitt Hall, adjacent to Bishop-Favrao Hall, beginning this fall. The project is essential to an effort led by President Timothy Sands and Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis to build research and teaching capacity by leveraging Virginia Tech’s leading programs in smart construction, autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous mobility, and energy systems.

“Virginia Tech is a national leader in construction education, but today’s fast-moving technology demands a broader view,” Lawson said. “By combining knowledge of smart construction with expertise in autonomous vehicles and energy systems, Virginia Tech can be the world’s leading source of expertise in intelligent infrastructure.”

“I’m impressed by the scope of the president’s and provost’s vision for intelligent infrastructure at Virginia Tech,” said Brett Hitt, co-president of HITT Contracting Inc. “Virginia Tech is thinking big about where the world’s infrastructure needs are heading and so is HITT Contracting. We see ourselves as natural partners.”

Hitt’s father and the company’s chairman, Russell Hitt, was one of the project’s early supporters. In thanking all donors to the project, President Sands stressed how critical philanthropy is to Virginia Tech’s global position.

“It is inspiring to have people such as Brett Hitt, Russell Hitt, John Lawson, and other industry leaders show their support with such extraordinary gifts,” Sands said. “With our visionary framework for the future, supported by a strong reputation and transformative philanthropy, this is our opportunity to establish Virginia Tech, with our partners, as the global leader in intelligent infrastructure research and education.”

Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-Centered Communities is one of five interdisciplinary destination areas established at Virginia Tech. Rooted in the Beyond Boundaries vision that is driving the university’s long-range planning, destination areas unite faculty, students, and industry partners from different fields to address complex problems of global significance. Organizing around major issues, rather than traditional academic disciplines, is a strategic departure from typical higher-education practice. The intent is to advance Virginia Tech as a global destination for talent in key, transdisciplinary areas of strength.

Rikakis said scaling up to provide new living-learning models in academic areas of excellence will transform the Virginia Tech student, uniquely preparing a next-generation workforce.

“We are uniquely positioned to take a nationally leading, systems approach to 21st-century infrastructure, since we have strengths at each component and a long tradition of connecting components and overcoming boundaries in order to advance the human condition,” Rikakis said. “Success will accelerate our other destination areas as well, enabling Virginia Tech to redefine how a research university engages the world.”

Adapted from an April 2, 2017, VT News story by Albert Raboteau, director of development communications.