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Virginia Tech conveys its highest honor on John Lawson

John Lawson is president and CEO of a leading national construction firm that employs dozens of Virginia Tech graduates, a namesake and co-founder of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and a proud part of a Hokie family legacy spanning three generations.

Add to that list of accomplishments Virginia Tech’s highest honor.

Lawson, who earned his degree in geophysics from Virginia Tech 42 years ago, returned to the commencement stage on May 12 to receive the William H. Ruffner Medal from President Timothy Stands before packed stands at Lane Stadium.

The Ruffner medal recognizes individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university.

“It is an honor to present the Ruffner Medal to John Lawson in recognition of his dedication to the university and his contributions to our spirit of service,” Sands said during the ceremony. “To say he left his mark on the university is an understatement. Mr. Lawson was a driving force behind the adoption of our campus design guidelines that promote the use of Hokie stone and collegiate gothic architecture. His expertise contributed to our beautiful Moss Arts Center and the west side expansion we enjoy here at Lane Stadium.”

A premier example of the lifelong commitment to Ut Prosim, Lawson, of Newport News, is president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company, as well as an industry leader, university champion, partner, employer, and philanthropist.

Lawson’s company, W.M. Jordan, ranks yearly on the Engineering News Record list of top 400 contractors and has a portfolio of more than 1,100 projects. He started his career at the company as a field engineer, shortly after earning his bachelor’s in geophysics from Virginia Tech in 1975.

Along with his wife, Paige, Lawson is a charter member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, a distinction reserved for Virginia Tech’s most generous supporters. A 2006 co-founder of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction with fellow alumnus Ross Myers, Lawson also co-chaired The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, which concluded in 2011 after surpassing its $1 billion goal.

Lawson’s extensive service to Virginia Tech also includes serving on the Board of Visitors from 2002-2010. He was rector of the board from 2008-2010, has been a member advocate of Hokies for Higher Education, and was a 2012 recipient of Virginia Tech’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award.

Lawson’s extensive community involvements have included serving on boards for the CEO Roundtable, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Christopher Newport University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign (as chairman), Greater Peninsula NOW, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, TowneBank, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, The Virginia Tech Foundation, and the Mariners’ Museum. He is a past chairman of the Fort Monroe Authority and the Virginia Peninsula Economic Development Council, and is a past president of Associated General Contractors of Virginia.

Lawson’s extensive engagement and generosity have garnered numerous awards and honors. These include the CIVIC Darden Award for Regional Leadership, the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Legacy Award from Engineering News Record Magazine, induction into the Old Dominion University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the Golden Paw Award from the Virginia Living Museum, induction into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame, the Virginia Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young, and the Lenora Mathews Lifetime Achievement Award from Volunteer Hampton Roads.

Lawson’s father, Robert, was member of Virginia Tech’s Class of 1949. His son, Taylor, is a member of the Class of 2018, and his sister, Liz, was a member of the class of 1980.

“I have personally benefited from Virginia Tech, the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, and my industry,” Lawson said. “I feel it’s my obligation to give back. There is no greater reward for my contributions than witnessing the growth of the university, the success of our students, and the cultivation of a world-class workforce of Virginia Tech citizen-leaders.”