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Retired Virginia Tech president Charles Steger has died

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech President Emeritus Charles Steger Jr., who led Virginia Tech through a period of unprecedented growth, died Sunday evening at his home in Blacksburg. He was 70.

Serving as the university’s 15th president from 2000 to 2014, Steger received three degrees at Virginia Tech and spent nearly all of his more than 40-year professional career. He is regarded as one of Virginia Tech’s most influential presidents in its 146-year history, having led the institution amid drastic reductions in state funding for public higher education and the tragedy of April 16, 2007.

During Steger’s presidential tenure, Virginia Tech grew in enrollment from 28,000 to 31,000, increased graduate enrollment by 12 percent, raised more than $1 billion in private funding, formed a school of biomedical engineering, created a public-private school of medicine, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and constructed the Moss Arts Center and the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington.

Under his leadership, Virginia Tech charted a course to become a top research university; a year after his retirement, the university’s research expenditures ranked 39th in the nation. During his presidency, Virginia Tech increased its total research expenditures from $192 million to more than $450 million.

Steger’s partnership with Carilion Clinic led to the creation of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, forming the fifth medical school in Virginia. 

A hallmark of his administration was the realization of a 50-year dream for Hokie fans—entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2004. The university’s football program, led by Steger’s undergraduate classmate Frank Beamer, won four conference titles in the first eight years of ACC play.

Steger led the university through its darkest days following the tragedy on April 16, 2007. 

The university built 40 major buildings under Steger, adding more space during his tenure than that of any other president in the university’s history. Steger was the driving force behind the Moss Arts Center, which opened in 2013.

Among the 40 buildings, two separately constructed parts of the facility that collectively house the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech today were named Steger Hall in 2016.

As dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies from 1981 to 1993, Steger pushed the university to establish its first overseas campus, in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. In recognition of his essential role in its creation, the facility was named the Steger Center for International Scholarship in 2014.

A Fellow in the American Institute of Architects, Steger earned three Virginia Tech degrees: a bachelor's degree in 1970 and a master's degree in 1971, both in architecture; and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences and engineering in 1978. He left a private-sector career in 1976 to pursue his passion for teaching at Virginia Tech.

In addition to serving as a faculty member and a college dean, Steger also served as acting vice president for public service, and then vice president for development and university relations, before becoming president in 2000. He was a member of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Society and Legacy Society.

Following his retirement as president in 2014, Steger served as executive director of the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience, which brings university researchers and partner organizations together to facilitate conversations about patterns and processes of urbanization and regional development, with a special emphasis on the long-term resilience of places and communities.

Steger is survived by his wife of 48 years, Janet; a son, Christopher Baird Steger, and wife, Elizabeth Jeanne Schumann; and a son, David Charles Steger, and fiancée, Alison Nemeth. Steger is also survived by a brother, Keith G. Steger, and wife, Teresa, and their son, Aaron Steger; a sister, Linda McGrath, and husband, Michael, and their daughter, Andrea; and a sister, Jennifer Layton, and husband, Jim; and a brother-in-law, John Baird, and wife, Wendy Wark, and their three children.

Statement from Nancy Agee, Carilion president and CEO:

"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Charles Steger this morning. Quite simply, Charles was a giant of our community, a true visionary. Few people have had as much of an impact on our region as he did, and it was a privilege and an honor to work with him. 

His legacy will live on in the strong partnership he helped to create between Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech and in countless other ways. 

My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many friends and colleagues he loved in our community."

Statement from Governor Ralph Northam:

“I am truly saddened to hear of the loss of Dr. Charles Steger. He cared deeply for Virginia Tech and courageously led the Hokie Nation through a terrible tragedy. His leadership in Virginia changed the landscape of higher education, and his strategic vision propelled Virginia Tech to be one of the finest research institutions in the world. We mourn the loss of a great man with the Hokie Nation and will keep his wife, Janet, and the Steger family, in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.”

Statement from Sen. Tim Kaine:

“I join the Virginia Tech family in mourning the loss of Charlie Steger. As Governor, I worked closely with him during one of the darkest moments in Virginia history, the tragic shooting on campus in 2007. And I also saw him undertake and complete signature projects like the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, which is accelerating medical education and research in Southwest Virginia while transforming the regional economy. He loved Virginia Tech and will be deeply missed.”

Statement from Congressman Morgan Griffith:

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Steger. As a man who earned three Virginia Tech degrees and served as his alma mater’s president from 2000 to 2014, he was a Hokie to his core. Under his guidance, the university went from strength to strength, expanding its enrollment, raising its profile in fields such as engineering and medicine, and powering it to the forefront of research. He also faced the horrific events of April 2007 with courage and dignity.

“Working with Charles was always a great experience for me. I offer my condolences to his family and the Virginia Tech community on the loss of this great educator and leader.”

Statement from Congressman Bob Goodlatte:

“Dr. Charles Steger was a visionary who oversaw the largest expansion in Virginia Tech history. With Dr. Steger at the helm, the university became the premier educational institution we know today. A true leader, he also brought together an entire campus and community during the horrific tragedy in 2007. I’m honored to have known Dr. Steger and worked with him closely over the years. I was especially excited by the partnership that he developed with Carilion Clinic to create the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke. This strengthened the university’s ties to the nearby Roanoke region and the Sixth Congressional District. My prayers are with his family and the entire Virginia Tech community during this incredibly difficult time.”

Statement from US Senator Mark Warner:

“I’ve known Charles Steger for more than thirty years, and in that time, I always knew him not only as an advocate for Virginia Tech, but for educational opportunity for all Virginians, at every level. I was proud to call him my friend, and I have incredibly fond memories of our fight together to get Tech into the ACC. I know that Dr. Steger will be missed by the whole Tech family.”