Purdue provost named next president of Virginia Tech

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

The provost of Purdue University has been selected from 238 candidates to become the next president of Virginia Tech on June 1.

Timothy D. Sands will succeed Charles W. Steger, Tech’s president since 2000, who announced his retirement in May.

Mike Quillen, the retired CEO of Bristol-based Alpha Natural Resources who is Virginia Tech’s rector, said in a statement that Sands stood out among the candidates because of his “stellar” academic credentials and extensive administrative  experience at a major research university.
In a news conference in Blacksburg, Sands praised Virginia Tech’s “momentum” and its balance of engineering and sciences with the arts and humanities. “If you look at what is needed in the community…in the commonwealth…in the nation and also what the world needs, Virginia Tech is the kind of institution you would create today for the 21st century,” he said.

Since 2010, Sands has been executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of Purdue  in West Lafayette, Ind.  In the fall 2012, he served as Purdue’s acting president.

In addition to his administrative role, Sands also is an engineering professor in Purdue’s School of Materials Engineering and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Sands will receive an annual compensation of $700,000 as president of Virginia Tech. That includes a base salary of $500,000, deferred compensation of $180,000 and $20,000 in vehicle allowance. The Roanoke Times said that Steger’s annual compensation was $853,433 as of last July.
Sands is a University of California, Berkeley-trained engineer. He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and master’s degree and doctorate in materials science and engineering.

He began his career working at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and later became an industry fellow at the lab, handling advanced materials research. He then spent nine years as a member of technical staff and as a research group director with Bell Communications Research Inc. (now Bellcore) in Red Bank, N.J.

“I actually was planning to become an academic, but when I [visited Bellcore], I was just overwhelmed by the collaborative spirit and high aspirations for their work,” Sands said.

When Sands found out about an opportunity at his alma mater in 1993, however, he couldn’t pass it up.  He became a professor at University of California, Berkeley’s department of materials science and engineering.

“I loved industrial research, but it was missing something and I knew, I had a gut feeling that working with students would be the difference and they would change my outlook on the value of what I was doing because when you’re an industrial researcher sometimes you get this feeling of ‘What have you done lately?’” Sands said. “You may have spectacular success and a few weeks later everybody’s forgotten about it, with students it’s an investment for a lifetime.”

At University of California, Berkeley, he also served as the executive committee chair of the Applied Science and Technology Graduate Group and was director of the Integrated Materials Laboratory.

In 2002, he joined Purdue as the Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering and later became director of the university’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.

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