Commonwealth honors civil engineering, English professors as outstanding faculty
Two Virginia Tech professors were recognized by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration, and public service during a ceremony at the Library of Virginia in Richmond on Feb. 23.
Thomas M. Murray, the Montague-Betts Professor of Structural Steel Design in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Paul M. Sorrentino, a professor in the Department of English, were among 15 college and university faculty selected from a statewide pool of 87 candidates to receive the Outstanding Faculty Award, the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty.
The award program, now in its 20th year, is administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and funded by a grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion.
Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1987 to coordinate the university’s structural engineering program, Murray has founded the Virginia Tech Structures and Materials Laboratory, where he and his graduate students developed alternate methods for connecting beams and columns in buildings in areas that experience high levels of seismic activity. This work was conducted in response to structural problems that were brought to light by the 1994 Northridge, California earthquake.
Among his other accomplishments is the development of techniques for building lightweight, affordable floor systems that reduce vibrations in large steel and concrete structures, such as airports and shopping malls. The American Institute of Steel Construction has honored him with a special citation for contributions to the art of steel construction and with the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award.
In 2002 Murray was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest honors that can be accorded an engineer. Academy membership recognizes those who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice and have demonstrated unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology.
He was the first recipient, in 1998, of the Via department’s Alumni Excellence Teaching Award, an honor accorded to him again in 2003. The Virginia Tech student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers presented him with the Faculty of the Year Award in 2002.
Murray came to Virginia Tech after 17 years on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma, the last of which he spent as a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, his master’s from Lehigh University, and his doctorate from the University of Kansas.
Sorrentino, a professor of English at Virginia Tech for 27 years, has published in the fields of technical writing, American Literature, and composition. A pre-eminent scholar on Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, Sorrentino unearthed some lost Crane papers in Hawaii in 1984, giving the scholarly world additional information on the writer and earning the Stephen Crane Literary Award for his extensive research. He has co-edited The Correspondence of Stephen Crane, co-written The Stephen Crane Log: A Documentary Life, and is currently working on Crane's biography.
Sorrentino has received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English; as well as numerous awards from Virginia Tech, including the Alumni Teaching Award, the W.E. Wine Award, and three Certificates of Teaching Excellence.
During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Sorrentino has designed 12 new courses, developed and coordinated a new system of advising in English, coordinated the creation of the Alumni Advising Award, and co-founded Virginia Tech's Faculty Writing Workshop. He was co-author of a year-long study of teaching at Virginia Tech for the Provost's Office and revised university guidelines for the Certificate of Teaching Excellence and the Sporn, Wine, and Alumni Teaching Awards.
Sorrentino has served the university in numerous ways and has been involved in workshops and presentations to outside agencies and universities. He is a member of the American Literature Association, the Stephen Crane Society, the Frank Norris Society, and the Hamlin Garland Society. He received his bachelor’s degree from Villanova University, his master’s from Lehigh University and his doctorate from The Pennsylvania State University.