Ninety-eight years. A lifetime of service to his state and his nation. With his passing on July 30, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., a Shenandoah trustee emeritus, left a lasting mark on Shenandoah University, the Commonwealth and the United States.
The university community mourns this longtime friend and leader whose legacy helped shape
the direction and philosophy of Shenandoah from its arrival in Winchester in 1960. In 1984, Shenandoah University’s Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business was named for the senator, who will be remembered as an individual dedicated to the enrichment of all those around him.
“He put others before himself, truly caring for those with whom he came into contact,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “As a result, he has left behind thousands of people who feel blessed to have considered him a good friend.
“As a university, we are indebted to Senator Byrd and the Byrd family for years of support, counsel and friendship,” said President Fitzsimmons. “The senator’s contributions to the university are innumerable, and his 30 years of service on our board of trustees, coupled with his academic and political insight, provided a unique perspective to our university community.”
Senator Byrd followed his father, the Honorable Harry F. Byrd, Sr., into public service, forming a father-son combination hailed as one of the most influential in 20th century Virginia.
Following distinguished service in the Senate of Virginia from 1948 to 1965, Senator Byrd succeeded his father in the U.S. Senate in November 1965. He retired in 1983.
Senator Byrd’s family tradition of fiscal conservatism, unquestioned integrity and distaste for political expediency deeply infused the philosophy of Shenandoah University and its Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business. While his influence on the political life of Virginia is long-lasting, his legacy to the university and to the business school that bears his name remains even more profound.
In the days following the passing of Senator Byrd, a great number of Shenandoah University community members, past and present, reflected on the man who meant so much to the university.
“The Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business has lost a great friend in the passing of its namesake,” said Dean and Professor of Management Miles Davis, Ph.D. “Senator Byrd was a champion
of civic and financial responsibility, as well as higher education. His largess is legendary, especially regarding Shenandoah University and its business school. I had the opportunity to interact with Senator Byrd on numerous occasions. Whether in public or the privacy of his home, he was always gracious and always wanted to know what was occurring at the business school.
“The programs have continued to grow and evolve even as Senator Byrd himself grew and evolved in his thinking over the long years of his life,” said Dean Davis. “We respectfully mourn his passing and celebrate the life he led and his everlasting contributions.”
According to Shenandoah University President Emeritus James A. Davis, Ph.D., Senator Byrd was the financial conscience of the university and helped shape a strong financial future for the institution.
“His willingness to allow the business school to carry his name opened many avenues of support and strength for the university, and his loyal support for the expansion of educational opportunity for area students and citizens was exemplary,” said President Emeritus Davis. “Senator Byrd’s role model of civility and public service for students and area citizens was unmatched by any other public servant. He shared with me his personal ethic and loyalty often and inspired me to higher goals and levels of responsibility for serving future generations.”
“During my eight years serving as the dean of the business school, I had the special opportunity and privilege to visit Senator Byrd many times both at his office and in his home,” said Dean Emeritus W. Randy Boxx, Ph.D. “When I arrived in Winchester, the first person outside the university community that I went to see was the senator. We hit it off immediately, thus establishing a close and warm friendship. Over the years, I received many thoughtful handwritten letters offering statements of gratitude or advice. These remain with me today. He was a man of integrity and a gentle giant with strong convictions and principles. I will deeply miss Senator Byrd.”
“Senator Byrd always seemed to know what my needs were before I did,” said Dean Emeritus Stanley Harrison. “Any time he had something extra to give, he made sure that our needs in the business school were met. He, along with his sons, Tom and Harry III, were on the business school advisory board and gave excellent support throughout the years. Senator Byrd was always a gentleman, and he always welcomed you with a smile. He was a statesman second to none.”