In Memoriam: Dr. Charles W. Steger
Dr. Charles William Steger Jr., Virginia Tech President Emeritus and former Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, died Sunday evening, May 6th, at his home in Blacksburg. Serving as the University’s 15th President from 2000 to 2014, Dr. Steger is regarded as one of Virginia Tech’s most influential presidents in its 146-year history, having provided strong leadership and careful stewardship of the institution amid drastic reductions in state funding for public higher education and the tragedy of April 16, 2007.
Shortly after Dr. Steger was appointed president, Virginia Tech charted a course to become a top research university. During his presidency, Virginia Tech increased its total annual research expenditures from $192 million to more than $450 million. By a year after his retirement, the University’s research expenditures had risen to rank 39th in the nation. Also during his 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 built the Moss Arts Center and the Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington, as part of the largest period of construction of new buildings in the University’s history.
Dr. Steger held three degrees from Virginia Tech: he received his Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1970, a master’s degree in Architecture in 1971, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering in 1978. He joined the Virginia Tech faculty as a visiting lecturer in 1973, and he later was appointed as an instructor and then an Assistant Professor. He served as the Chair of the graduate program in Urban Design from 1976 to 1981. While a faculty member, he won two teaching excellence awards. He also authored a portion of a textbook that has been adopted by 230 universities and is now in its 7th edition.
In 1980, Dr. Steger became the Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and, in 1981, at the age of 33, he was appointed Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. At the time, he was the youngest dean of a school of architecture in the nation. Under his leadership for the next 12 years, the College experienced a period of significant growth. Dr. Steger led the College to develop its “Second Generation Mission,” which addressed the current needs of the professions and challenges to the future. With this initiative, the College increased its research mission, enhanced its technological presence, and reorganized its administration. He authored a statement of the educational tenets of the school; based on the educational ideas of Gropius and Itten at the Bauhaus, initiated within the College by Dean Charles Burchard and Prof. Olivio Ferrari, the tenets articulated by Dr. Steger included: student self-activation, freedom of the student to determine the focus of his or her education, student self-pacing, self-criticism, and self-correction, an attitude of constructive discontent, and a commitment to holistic and heuristic learning. The Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center was established under his leadership. He also led the University’s effort 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.
Dr. Steger served on several national research policy committees for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), as well as on an advisory panel for the Carnegie Commission on Science. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was inducted into the College of Fellows of the AIA in 1990, and he received the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Virginia Society of the AIA in 1996. In 2001, he was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the Virginia Society of the AIA, the William C. Noland Medal. Upon his retirement in 2014, Dr. Steger was named President Emeritus of Virginia Tech.
A memorial service for Dr. Steger will be held at the Moss Arts Center on Monday, May 14th, at 1:30 pm. More information can be found at https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/05/steger-service-logistics.html.