Tech students will recognize the name ‘Torgersen’ as the name of
the large and impressive campus building that spans over Alumni Mall
joining with Newman Library. It’s a name that has been around the
Virginia Tech campus for a long time. After 33 years of service,
“a third of a century” as he says, as professor, college dean and
finally as the University’s 14th president, Paul E. Torgersen retired
officially on December 31, 1999, on the crest of Y2K frenzy and in the
glory of Tech’s football team playing at the National Championship in
Those who know him, know his car with the personalized plates “TENNIS”
- his favorite sport that earned him his scholarship to his undergraduate
institution, Lehigh University. He came to Tech in 1967 as the Industrial
Systems Department head. By 1970 he was Dean of Engineering. During his
20-year tenure as Dean, Tech’s College of Engineering rose to become one
of the top 20 in the nation. In 1988, he served as Interim President for 8
months. In 1990, Torgersen became president of Virginia Tech’s Corporate
Research Center. He has served as chairman of the engineering Deans’ Council,
was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and has authored or
co-authored five books.
Taking the president’s role from 1993-1999, his dynamic tenure was marked
by major changes, college restructuring, construction projects, and the
breathtaking sweep of the internet and computer use. As he did while Dean
of Engineering, Torgersen continued to champion the use of new technology
that would bring Tech students to the cutting edge of business and industry.
He supported the development and construction of the Math Emporium, completed
in 1997. He strongly supported the decision in 1998 that required all students
(beginning with the Class of 2002) to have their own personal computer.
In that same year, the Advanced Communications Information Technology Center
(ACITC) building had a ‘virtual’ groundbreaking: a new Hokie stone building with
a bridge linking to Newman Library. Torgersen’s leadership was key in supporting
the funding and construction of this state-of-the-art facility that was dedicated
in 2000 and appropriately bears his name: Torgersen Hall. Considered the right
leader for the right time, Paul Torgersen prepared Virginia Tech for the 21st century.
Of all of his accomplishments, Torgersen has always seen himself as a teacher
first “I consider myself a professor who is also a president.” During his term
as president, he continued to teach at least one class per semester. Torgersen never
attended Virginia Tech but the University has been his life’s work in the spirit of
the University motto “That I May Serve.” He was granted honorary alumni status upon
his retirement. Residing in Blacksburg, Dr. Torgersen continues to teach and stay
involved with Virginia Tech. He still enjoys a good game of tennis, keeping up with
grandchildren, and traveling with his wife, Dot.
The Class of 2006 is proud to name their ring collection in honor of Tech’s
14th president, Dr. Paul E. Torgersen.