Deep family connection inspires $1 million gift to name Virginia Tech professorship
On the first day of thermodynamics class during Jim Young’s junior year at Virginia Tech, Professor J.B. Jones told everyone the seat they were in was assigned to them for the entire course.
“The next day he came in and knew everyone’s name,” Young recalled in admiration.
Young was even more impressed when, nearly a quarter century later, he unexpectedly ran into Jones on the Drillfield after not having seen the professor in two decades.
“That he still knew my name after more than 20 years was just a testament to how remarkable he was,” said Young, who earned his mechanical engineering degree in 1980. “He was a wonderful professor and really helpful to me. Of all the things that I did in engineering at Tech, I loved thermodynamics the most.”
Young’s relationship with Jones helped inspire a generous, recent commitment to name a professorship in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. However, his gift of $1 million also was inspired by a deep family connection to Virginia Tech that spans four generations.
The professorship will be named for Andrew J. Young, a member of the Class of 1924 who graduated from the electrical engineering program. Young’s father, Andrew J. Young Jr., was a member of the Class of 1955 and a graduate of the civil engineering program. Young’s two daughters, Laura Young Garbett and Caroline Young, and son, Jimmy Young, are Virginia Tech alumni as well.
“Marianne and I created the professorship to honor my grandfather, to give back to the College of Engineering which provided us with a foundation for success, to help recruit the best professors, and to provide engineering graduates with the best education and chance of success,” Young said of the philanthropic decision he and his wife recently made, adding that they also plan to endow professorships in civil engineering and mechanical engineering.
Named professorships are a hallmark of leading programs in higher education. The extra funding these endowed positions provide is a major asset for recruiting and retaining high-performing faculty and for enhancing research and teaching work.
“This is an inspiring show of generosity and a remarkable example of how connected a Hokie family can be to Virginia Tech,” said Julia Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “Jim and Marianne have already helped students by creating scholarships in our college and elsewhere at the university. By endowing this important support for our faculty, they will also help generations of students who study under Young Professors in the future.”
Young grew up in Richmond, where his father worked in technical sales. Young excelled in math and science in high school. He had no doubt which university he wanted to attend.
“The family legacy and the College of Engineering’s reputation made Virginia Tech a natural choice for me,” Young said. “I always thought that my engineering degree taught me how to solve problems and was a good foundation for anything I wanted to do professionally.”
Young started his career in North Carolina as a research and development engineer for DuPont, then returned to his hometown of Richmond to work as a sales engineer for Trane.
“I called on contractors, engineers, and business owners to sell Trane products,” he said. “Sales engineers were 100 percent commission compensated, which required the development of some business skills to be successful. Trane made great products and had excellent technical support, and I loved selling.”
Young said he would probably still be working at that job if not for an opportunity to become an owner of Riddleberger Brothers, a large mechanical contractor that had been among his sales clients. Young led the company through a 10-year period of major growth, more than doubling the number of employees, while prioritizing the level of quality for which the company is known by its commercial, industrial, and institutional clients.
Riddleberger was acquired by Comfort Systems USA in 2008 but continues to operate under its own name with corporate offices in Mount Crawford, Virginia. After leaving Riddleberger, Young has focused on acquiring small, privately held companies and helping them grow. In 2012, he founded Young Capital Partners, and today, he is an investor and managing partner.
In 2011, Young was inducted into the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100. That occasion was one of several proud moments at Virginia Tech for the Young family during a five year span from 2009-14 that also included Laura Young Garbett’s graduation from the architecture program in 2009; Jimmy Young’s graduation from the human nutrition, foods, and exercise program in 2013; and Caroline Young’s graduation from the biochemistry program in 2014.
“We always loved taking them to homecoming and football games and walking around campus,” Marianne Young said of her children. “There was never any pressure on them to attend Virginia Tech, but with that exposure and all the stories from Jim and his dad, they continued the tradition. Fortunately, they did well and graduated and are doing what they love. We are very proud of them.”
Jim Young said his father loved Virginia Tech so much that it “was impossible not to be influenced by that, and we naturally passed this along to our children.”
Considering that both his eldest daughter and his son are married to Hokies — Bryan Garbett, who earned his accounting degree in 2005, and Jennifer Hundley Young, who earned her biology degree in 2013 — there’s a solid chance that the family’s passion for Virginia Tech may lead members of a fifth generation to enroll. But whether that happens or not, the family’s impact will continue to be felt on campus long into the future, thanks to Jim and Marianne Young’s generosity.