Paul Torgersen

Paul Torgersen was born in Staten Island, New York. He earned a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University in 1953. Subsequently, he went to Ohio State University, where he received an M.S. degree in industrial engineering in 1956 and a Ph.D. degree in 1959. Torgersen came to Virginia Tech as a professor and the head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in 1967. In 1970, he was named the dean of the College of Engineering and served as the president of the Corporate Research Center until 1990. Torgersen was also interim vice president for development and university relations.

In the Fall of 1993, Torgersen was named the 14th president of Virginia Tech and served until January 2000. During his presidency, Virginia Tech made major advances in both its academic and athletic departments. According to a press release, during this time the “Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine received full accreditation and U.S. News & World Report ranked the engineering and business colleges among the nation’s top 50.”

The Virginia Tech football team also had multiple post-season bowl victories during Torgersen’s presidency. Every year the football team awards the Paul E. Torgersen Award to the individual who best exemplifies commitment, hard work, and great effort every day. Torgersen was a “tremendous leader” and supporter of the athletics department, said football head coach Frank Beamer. 

While Torgersen was the dean of the College of Engineering, it advanced from the bottom 10 percent in rankings for research to the top 10 percent. The university’s Advanced Communications Information Technology Center building was named Torgersen Hall after him in 2000.

Torgersen was good at everything but retirement, He taught at Virginia Tech for more than 50 years, even during the time of his presidency. “Every year some student in his class would write him a very nice note talking about how meaningful his course was and how much it meant to them, and every year he’d come back and make that sacrifice and come teach again,” Taylor said. Torgersen taught and pioneered the Theory of Organization class for industrial and systems engineering students, a course focusing on the theory of cooperative behavior in formal organizations, including the structure and elements of formal organizations.

To this day, Taylor said that alumni and peers on his advisory board speak fondly of Torgersen’s course, some of which took it 40 years ago, saying that it helped them more than any other class they had taken at Virginia Tech. Torgersen gave his final lecture at Virginia Tech on May 7, 2014, to his Theory of Organization class.

Richard Benson, the dean for the college of engineering praised Torgersen for his ability to educate his students.  “He was an exquisite educator – I’ve never known a better one – who loved his students, loved his colleagues and loved Virginia Tech. He was the embodiment of Ut Prosim spirit of service that we cherish so much,” Benson said. 

He was a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the American Society of Engineering Education. In 2001 he received the Institute’s highest recognition – the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Award and earlier, in 1991, had received ASEE’s Lamme Medal. He received Tech’s first Affirmative Action Award, its 1992 Sporn Award for Teaching Excellence and was named Virginia’s Engineering Educator of the Year in 1992. He served from 1979-81 as chairman of the engineering Deans’ Council (the national organization of engineering deans).

He was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2000 and passed away in March 2015.

Paul Torgersen was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2000.

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