Seven alumni to be recognized during Virginia Tech's commencement
Virginia Tech will honor seven alumni this week for their contributions to the university and their communities.
During commencement exercises, the following awards will be presented: the Ut Prosim Medal, the University Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
The Ut Prosim Medal is the university’s highest honor and is given for notable and remarkable service to the university. Nicholas D. Street ’53 will be honored with the medal this year.
The University Distinguished Achievement Award is given to an individual with nationally distinguished achievement, whether personal and/or professional, in any field or endeavor of enduring significance and value to society. Regina Dugan ’84 and Hoda Kotb ’86 will receive the award this year.
The Alumni Distinguished Service Award honors alumni in recognition of their outstanding service to the university, their communities, and their professions. John E. Dooley ’94 and James “Jim” Watkins ’71 will receive the award this year.
This year’s commencement ceremony will also recognize the 2021 recipients, H. Pat Artis ’71 and Michael J. Quillen ’70.
University Commencement is Friday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. To watch the ceremony or learn more, visit commencement.vt.edu.
About the recipients
Nicholas D. Street ’53, Ut Prosim Medal
A proud native of Southwest Virginia, Nicholas D. Street was born in 1931 to W.A. and Frankie Mae Street. His childhood was spent in Grundy, Virginia, with his close-knit family which included seven siblings.
Street graduated from Grundy High School in 1949 before enrolling at what was then Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Street proudly served his country during his four years of active service in the U. S. Air Force and additional years in the Air Force Reserve. His love of flying was firmly established, and he continued to fly for many years in both personal and corporate roles.
A graduate of the University of Richmond Law School as well, Street returned to Grundy in the early 1960s, where he established a law firm with two of his brothers. He also became involved in the coal industry and was a founding partner in United Coal Company. He had rewarding and successful careers in the law and energy fields, eventually retiring in 2009.
Street has been a longtime advocate for his beloved hometown and Southwest Virginia in general. Through his quiet personal giving and that of the United Company Foundation, Street has championed the causes of education, the arts, medical care and, of course, Virginia Tech, to the benefit of many over the years.
Regina Dugan ’84, University Distinguished Achievement Award
Regina E. Dugan is president and CEO of Wellcome Leap Inc.
She is an internationally recognized business executive, producer, engineer-artist, taskmaster, and product developer. Dugan has led world-class global teams and hundred-million- to multi-billion-dollar efforts to deliver breakthrough products at Facebook, Google, and Motorola. She was the 19th director, and first woman, to lead the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Fortune magazine described Dugan as one of the world’s leading experts on product innovation, “the kind that unhinges old ways of operating, juices competition, and creates new growth.” She has been named to the Verge 50 list, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 1000, CNN's Top 10 Thinkers, and CNBC’s NEXT LIST. As executive producer, she has four Annie Awards, one Emmy, and one Oscar nomination.
She holds her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Caltech, where she is a Distinguished Alumnus (one of 256 historical honorees including Carver Mead and Gordon Moore), and bachelor's and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech, where she was inducted to the Academy of Engineering Excellence.
Hoda Kotb ’86, University Distinguished Achievement Award
Hoda Kotb is the co-anchor of NBC News' TODAY and the co-host of TODAY's fourth hour.
Kotb joined NBC News in 1998 as a correspondent for Dateline NBC. While at NBC News, Kotb has been honored with Emmy awards, a Gracie award and an Edward R. Murrow award. She is also the host of "The Hoda Show on SiriusXM." Kotb started her broadcast career in local news, anchoring and reporting for stations in New Orleans and Fort Myers, Florida.
Prior to joining NBC News, Kotb worked at WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, as an anchor and reporter and was a weekend anchor and reporter for WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Florida.
Kotb graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. She welcomed her first daughter, Haley Joy, in February 2017 and her second daughter, Hope Catherine, in April 2019. She resides in New York City.
H. Pat Artis ’71, Alumni Distinguished Service Award (2021)
More than 50 years after graduating from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in engineering science and mechanics, Pat Artis’ love of his alma mater has not wavered.
Artis serves on the College of Engineering’s Campaign Steering Committee and previously chaired the College Advisory Board. Artis and his wife, Nancy, are members of the Legacy Society and Ut Prosim Society President’s Circle, and he serves as a professor of practice in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and as a board member for the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs as well as with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni Board.
The Artises made a gift to the university to open the Liviu Librescu Student Engagement Center in Norris Hall; provided funding for students to take courses at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California; and, despite Artis never being a member while a student, he and Nancy created the Barqawi ’09/Artis ’72 Emerging Leader Scholarship for the Corps of Cadets. Additionally, the Artises have endowed a named scholarship for the VTC School of Medicine and named spaces in both the Corps Leadership and Military Science Building and an undergraduate teaching lab for the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics.
Graduating in 1971, Artis had a love of experimental mechanics and left Virginia Tech with experience with computer hardware and software architecture. This would spur a wildly successful career, starting out at Bell Laboratories developing computer measurement techniques. Artis returned to Virginia in 1981 to join Morino Associates, a start-up software company, where he led teams developing computer performance evaluation products.
In 1986, he set out on his own, forming Performance Associates Inc., which focused on the characterization and performance of storage subsystems. In the more than three decades since, Colorado-based Performance has developed new industry standard tools for the characterization and testing for storage performance, reliability, and replication.
Michael J. Quillen ’70, Alumni Distinguished Service Award (2021)
Michael Quillen spent decades leading in the energy industry and serving as a volunteer leader in his community and at his alma mater. He founded Alpha Natural Resources in 2002 and served as the company’s first CEO, guiding it through rapid expansion.
Under his leadership, Alpha Natural Resources grew into a Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees. Quillen has also contributed to the growth and success of Virginia Tech through his service and philanthropy.
He is a former rector of the Board of Visitors, serves on the steering committee for Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech, and is a member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society, which represents Virginia Tech’s most generous donors. Quillen was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Ruffner Medal, in 2020.
Quillen is a member of the College of Engineering Committee of 100 and was named Distinguished Alumnus for the college in 2006.
Along with his service to Virginia Tech, Quillen is deeply engaged in promoting the economic prosperity of Virginia. He is a past chairman and current board member for the Go Virginia Region One, which spans the 13 counties in the southwesternmost corner of the commonwealth, as well as chair of the SWVA Energy Advisory Council and advisor to Invest SWVA, where he devotes considerable time to the region’s economic development.
John E. Dooley ’94, Alumni Distinguished Service Award (2022)
John E. Dooley retired as the chief executive officer for the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc. in 2021.
He served as the foundation’s CEO for nine years and provided leadership and management to maximize the benefit of Virginia Tech’s private assets in support of university programs and initiatives. Under his leadership, the value of the foundation’s endowment more than doubled to $1.7 billion and the foundation’s assets grew to $2.7 billion.
Before serving as CEO, Dooley served 10 years as vice president for Outreach and International Affairs. During his tenure as vice president, Virginia Tech pursued an aggressive global presence by more than tripling the number of students who annually study abroad, growing its active sponsored international research and development portfolio to over $70 million, and establishing five international centers.
He also has been an active member of the Virginia Tech community through several committees and special projects. He has served on the boards of several organizations, including the GO Virginia Region 2 Council, Onward NRV, Special Love Inc., and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
A native of Summersville, West Virginia, Dooley graduated from Alderson-Broaddus University with a degree in elementary education. He earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. He and his wife, Lisa, reside in Blacksburg and have three adult daughters and five grandchildren.
James “Jim” Watkins ’71, Alumni Distinguished Service Award (2022)
James “Jim” Watkins, born in Reidsville, N.C., and raised in Newport News, Virginia, is an accomplished general practice dentist, a veteran, and Hokie alumnus.
He graduated in 1967 from G.W. Carver High School as class valedictorian before enrolling in Virginia Tech, where he graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He went on to what was then known as the Medical College of Virginia and graduated in 1975 with a doctorate in dental surgery.
Watkins served active duty in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps from 1975-77 and served for 22 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He retired as a captain in 2002 after having commanding officer positions at Navy Base Norfolk Dental clinic and Bethesda Dental Clinic in Maryland.
He also served 20 years on the Virginia State Board of Dentistry (five four-year terms), making him the only dentist in this state to ever serve more than 10 years on the board.
In 1968, Watkins and five other Black male students became the Virginia Tech charter members of Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship Inc., when they went to Virginia State University (VCU) to pledge. They formed, on Virginia Tech's campus, its first all-Black organization, which became a haven for minority students to have on and off campus social events for over 20 years. In 1999, Watkins and several of his Groove Phi Groove Alumni Fellowmen, along with other minority alumni from the 1970s, established the now-endowed Groove Phi Groove Scholarship, which annually makes student awards.
Watkins is also the recipient of many awards for his years of service, including the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the Old Dominion Dental Society's Dentist of the Year Award, one of the first recipients of Virginia Tech’s Most Influential Black Alumnus Awards from the Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion, the Harry Lyons Distinguished Alumnus Award from VCU-MCV Dental School, and the MCV Dental School Star Alumnus Award from VCU.
Watkins is married to Hardenia Watkins. They have two adult children: Deveda Watkins-Jackson and Daryl Watkins. Daryl's son Diondre Watkins is a 2021 Hokie, and Deveda is married to Matthew Jackson who graduated in 2005 from Virginia Tech.