Leon P. Harris (center), 1964 Industrial Engineering alumni of Virginia Tech, shaking hands with Rector Dennis H. Treacy (right) after President Timothy D. Sands (left) announced Harris as the recipient of the 2018 William H. Ruffner Medal at University Commencement

Leon Harris (center) shaking hands with Rector Dennis Treacy (right) after President Tim Sands (left) announced Harris as the recipient of 2018 William H. Ruffner Medal
Leon P. Harris (center), 1964 Industrial Engineering alumni of Virginia Tech, shaking hands with Rector Dennis H. Treacy (right) after President Timothy D. Sands (left) announced Harris as the recipient of the 2018 William H. Ruffner Medal at University Commencement

Leon P. Harris

Leon P. Harris
Leon P. Harris

(May 10, 2018) Leon P. Harris is the recipient of the 2018 William H. Ruffner Medal, Virginia Tech's highest honor, in recognition of his distinguished service to the university.

The medal recognizes individuals who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university. It is presented at University Commencement each year. This year's event is scheduled for May 11, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. in Lane Stadium.

Born in Floyd County, Virginia, Harris earned his bachelor's in industrial engineering from Virginia Tech in 1964. He is currently the president of Keltech, Inc., of Roanoke Virginia, a company specializing in electronic contract manufacturing.

Harris also served as president of Tele-Path Instruments in Salem, Virginia, president and part-owner of Waynesboro Broadcasting, Inc. in Waynesboro, Virginia, and as a member of GE’s engineering manufacturing management team.

While attending Virginia Tech, Harris served as a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC) and was a member of the industrial engineering professional society, now known as the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, and Alpha Pi Mu, the industrial engineering national honor society.

Post-graduation, Harris was commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He accepted his first job at General Electric on the engineering and manufacturing management team. Shortly after, he was called to serve the country in active duty at U.S. Army Fort Belvoir and Fort Campbell. In 1966, he was promoted to first lieutenant and then served as a combat engineering officer in the U.S Army during the Vietnam War. In 1967, Harris was discharged from active to reserve status and later promoted to captain in 1970.

In 1967, Harris rejoined the GE management development program and stayed with the company through 1983.

Together with his wife Beverly, the couple endowed the Harris Manufacturing Processes Laboratories, a instructional lab used to teach about 650 industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science engineering students each year in a variety of manufacturing processes, including machining, welding, and sand casting. 

Harris is an actively engaged Hokie. He is a member of the 1872 Society, the Pylon Society, and the Ut Prosim Society, and he has helped to propel many university projects with his generosity, including the VTCC building fund and the VTCC Leon Harris ’64 and Beverly Harris scholarship, W. E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center Smith Mountain Lake 4-H fund, the Leon and Beverly Harris industrial and systems engineering process, and the Moss Arts Center.

In 2010, Virginia Tech’s Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering bestowed their highest honor upon Harris, the Marvin Agee Distinguished Alumni Award.

Harris and Beverly have served as Roanoke Regional Co-Chairs for "The Campaign for Virginia Tech," Invent the Future, which concluded in 2011 and raised more than $1.1 billion.

Harris is a member of the board of directors for the W. E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake, Hokies for Higher Education, and Virginia Tech Carilion Health Systems and Technology steering committee. He currently serves as the chair for the Taubman Museum of Art and president of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation Board.

Related article: "Leon P. Harris receives Virginia Tech's highest honor" on Virginia Tech News