From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Every now and then, you have to take a step back and say thanks to people who helped make you who are today. Three men passed away this past week that were influential to my life and career.
I can say each provided encouragement to me in different ways.
I became acquainted with Jim Loux through the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. He pushed economic development through plans for an international port site at the NRV Airport. Loux was knowledgeable in so many things with the most being a love for wine.
Jim was always civic-minded and served the New River Valley as Vice President of the Local Board of New River Community College, a member of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a founding member of the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program and a member of the local chamber of commerce and the Rotary Club.
He spent 20 years in customs import and export management for multinational corporations, serving on the New River Valley Foreign Trade Zone Advisory Committee. He was also a Director for the Blue Ridge International Trade Network.
Ray Pethtel was very open to a young reporter about his experience in transportation, first with the Virginia Department of Transportation and then as he created this new thing called the “SMART Road.”
Ray developed a highly talented and dedicated group of professionals who became many of the future leaders in several state agencies. He was devoted to pursuing excellence in government services through the dozens of performance audits conducted during his tenure. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) was awarded many honors for its outstanding work.
The series of reports related to transportation caused Governor Gerald Baliles to appoint him to be the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Ray was responsible for helping to write the legislation and get passed the largest transportation package to ever pass the general assembly at that time. Gov. Baliles then directed him to implement this program.
Serving for eight years as commissioner (for governors Baliles and Wilder) the longest tenure tin the commonwealth’s history, Ray left an indelible legacy at VDOT through the delivery of hundreds of transportation projects, his mentorship of young leaders, his dedication to continuous improvement of agency practices and his commitment to greatly improved communications with the public about all aspects of VDOT programs and projects.
Not one to sit on his laurels, he became the Director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which has become a premiere transportation research organization. Through his support for the construction of the SMART Road, the facilities and his early leadership, VTTI is now a nationally and internationally recognized transportation research organization. Additionally, he taught in the public administration programs at Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, continuing his legacy of mentoring, educating and inspiring young people to public service.
I honestly believe the SMART Road needs to be renamed in honor of Pethtel.
I always hated math, but as a sophomore at Radford University I bit the bullet and took a class I knew nothing about. My mind was not set up to understand everything the professor, Ray Spaulding, was putting on the board.
Spaulding always had a serious look on his face but had a joking side to his very last day. He told his family he would write his own obituary that simply read “Ray died.”
After completing a master’s degree at the University of Illinois, Ray accepted a teaching position at what was then Radford College. In 1971 he completed an Ed.D in Math Education at the University of Maryland and returned to Radford University where he taught until retiring on Jan. 1, 2003.
After retirement, Ray spent the next 17 years pursuing his many loves. He was an avid cyclist, poke boater, reader, music lover, bridge and tennis player, NOVA watcher, sports enthusiast and mathematical problem solver.
I would also salute a special woman who along with her late husband was important in my life here in the New River Valley. Barbara Turk and her husband, Judge Turk, were big Radford University basketball fans. They loved to talk basketball every time they saw me.
The couple were two of the friendliest people I ever met, and they were an important part of the Radford community.
Barbara served Radford University in numerous positions including the Board of Visitors, the Foundation Board of Directors, the Arts Society, the Athletic Association, and countless other volunteer leadership roles. Barbara also served on the Board of Visitors for her alma mater, Southern Seminary, as well as on the Board of Directors for Saint Alban’s Foundation and Carilion Hospital.
Thanks to all of these fine people for their friendship over the years. Your legacies will always be there. They are four great people who will always be remembered.