Former Virginia Tech President Paul E. Torgersen and University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni have been named the first honorary board members of Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley (LV-NRV).

An accredited affiliate of ProLiteracy America, Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley is a non-profit organization that provides free tutoring to illiterate adults and speakers of languages other than English and raises literacy awareness in Montgomery, Floyd, Giles, and Pulaski counties and the city of Radford.

“We are honored that these two distinguished people have agreed to lend their names to the important work of Literacy Volunteers,” said Mark Williams, vice president and commercial relationship manager for FNB Corp. and president of the Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley Board of Directors.

Giovanni, who teaches creative writing in the Department of English at Virginia Tech, is a nationally recognized poet and activist with an impressive list of publications, awards, and recognitions. Following the April 16 tragedy at Virginia Tech, her words at the university’s convocation struck a chord throughout the world as she eloquently defined the sadness of the university as well as its strength to move beyond the tragedy.

A former member of the LV-NRV board, Giovanni has written more than 15 books of poetry and a book about Rosa Parks. She has received 19 honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the country and has been named Woman of the Year by Ebony, Mademoiselle, Essence, and Ladies Home Journal magazines. Among her numerous awards are three NAACP Image Awards, Outstanding Woman of Tennessee Award, induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, McDonald’s Literary Achievement Award for Poetry presented in her name in perpetuity, Outstanding Humanitarian Award from the Kentucky House of Representatives, the Virginia Governor’s Award, and two Tennessee Governor’s Awards. She was named the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award and has been nominated for a Spoken Word GRAMMY for a self-narrated CD of her poetry.

As Virginia Tech’s 14th president, Torgersen rebuilt the university’s financial resource base and helped restore confidence in the university and higher education. Focusing on his vision of Virginia Tech becoming the model land-grant university of the 21st century, he guided Tech to international leadership in information technology. He retired in 2000 with 33 years of service to the university, which included positions of professor and department head of industrial systems engineering, dean of the College of Engineering, interim president of the university (twice), and interim vice president for development and university relations. Regardless of his position, he taught at least one class each semester throughout his tenure.

As dean of engineering, Torgersen led the college to national prominence. He was named to the National Academy of Engineering, received the Sporn Award for teaching excellence, and signed, as dean and president, more than 62,000 diplomas. Torgersen Hall, the university’s advanced communications and information technology center, is named in his honor.

For information on the work of the Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, call (540) 382-7262.

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