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Ren Harman: Good afternoon. This is Ren Harman, the Project Director for VT Stories. Today is April 3rd, 2018 at about 2:07 PM. We are in the Holtzman Alumni Center on the campus of Virginia Tech with a very special guest with us. Can you just state, and this is the only time that I will prompt you, in a complete sentence my name is, when you were born, and where you were born. 

Bob Quisenberry: My name is Bob Quisenberry. I was born in Richmond, Virginia on June 22, 1940. 

Ren: You were born in Richmond, Virginia. Did you grow up in Richmond also?

Bob: I did. 

Ren: Can you tell me a little bit about your early life growing up, your parents, brothers or sisters?

Bob: I was an only child. My parents took one look at me and said, "That's enough." My dad was a farmer. He commuted to a farm in Louisa County. I lived 1:00with my parents and my grandparents. My grandfather died young when I was young and I had a different childhood, because I started kindergarten in September of '45, and less than two weeks later I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, which they did not know how to treat back then except with rest and sulfur. So I spent about a year and a half in bed. I was a guinea pig at the Medical College of Virginia's Pediatric Cardiology Department. I started back to school I guess when I was 8. In fact, I had to relearn how to walk at age seven and a half, and I deny that 2:00that's because I'm a slow learner.  

Ren: Right. Wow. 

Bob: But I was lucky. I didn't have any of the normal after-affects that people had. By the time I was 14 or so I was able to live a pretty normal life. 

Ren: You said your father was a farmer?

Bob: Yes.

Ren: What about your mother?

Bob: My mother basically spent much of her life being a caregiver to her parents, she had three old-maid aunts that she took care of, so she did not work. It was actually hard work. 

Ren: Right. What kind of things did you get into after this illness that really I guess crippled you in a way as a young child? Once you kind of came out of that what kind of things did you do? What were you interested in as a child?

Bob: Well, I was not allowed to play sports throughout high school because of 3:00the Richmond School system insurance would not cover me. I love sports, so I played sandlot ball wherever I could. I enjoyed going to University of Richmond basketball games and football games. That was the main thing that interested me. From a student's standpoint math was probably my only interest. 

Ren: Math.

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: Not being able to play sports as a child growing up in a city like Richmond, what was that experience like? Was that tough or was it just kind of something you--?

Bob: Well, you were not in the in-crowd that's for sure. It was a void that you had to fill with other things to do. In some cases, some of the things I pursued weren't as healthy as sports would have been. It was an impairment, but on the 4:00plus side of that, I didn't come out with any heart murmur or any of the byproducts that can happen, so I'm very lucky.

Ren: Do you feel like having that illness shaped your childhood in a way pretty drastically had you not had it probably?

Bob: It certainly made a difference. When I reached a certain age, in retrospect I think I probably felt like I needed to catch up two years of my life I missed, and I tried to do that, which was not the right thing to do.

Ren: You said you had a particular interest in math. What role did education and getting good grades, how important was that to you and your mom and dad when you were a child?

Bob: Well it was very important from my parents' standpoint for me to go to 5:00college. My dad did not graduate from high school, but he graduated from Tech, which you could do back then. He was an avid reader.

Ren: Wow. What year did he graduate?

Bob: 1920. So he was older than most when I was born. But in the fifth grade I was way behind and fortunately I had a teacher that had a number of students that she felt were way behind. So she decided we needed to catch up and math was the area on which she placed the highest emphasis. Math just made sense to me. 

Ren: Where did you attend high school?

Bob: I went to Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond.


Ren: When you first started thinking about college how did Virginia Tech come into the picture?

Bob: Well, my father said that he could afford to send me to a state school, but not a private school and not an out-of-state school.  

Ren: Right. Kind of narrowed it down didn't it? 

Bob: It narrowed it down. The schools that were accelerating in athletics then were Tech, William & Mary to a degree. UVA, Tech had good basketball and decent football, so that was important. VMI had a very good football program at the time.

Ren: Right.

Bob: The one bright thing that I did at the time was recognize that I was not a 7:00serious enough student, and I certainly was not disciplined enough to deal with college, so I narrowed my choices down to Tech and VMI. Tech was my first choice and it's actually the only school I wanted to go to. So I did, but for the wrong reasons. It had some good athletic programs, even though I wasn't an athlete, and it did have a good math department. 

Ren: You talk about your father was a graduate. He kind of gave you the parameters of where you could attend. Did he kind of say, "Why don't you check out Virginia--?" Did he ever force Virginia Tech at all?

Bob: Not at all. No, I had never seen the University until he brought me up here the summer before I enrolled to get fitted for a uniform.


Ren: So to that time in your life, being 17-18 years old.

Bob: I was 17. I was a bit young coming out of high school actually.

Ren: Right. My brother was the same when he came here as a 17-year-old. What do you remember about that day when you first saw the campus at Virginia Tech? Do you remember how you felt, what it looked like, smelled like?

Bob: It was huge, compared to what I was used to. I had no idea what I was really getting into to be honest about it. But the architecture was attractive to me, and in fact it's very similar to the architecture at the University of Richmond. Both campuses were laid out by the same architect. But the size of it was a little intimidating. 

Ren: So when you came in as a freshman you obviously entered the Corps of Cadets, being fitted for your uniform, and then the infamous rat year. Can you 9:00talk a little bit about that year, 1958?

Bob: It was a very different experience, one I had not anticipated it being what it was. And the first person I encountered was a sophomore who helped me move in and I thought well that was nice. My parents were there, and the minute my parents left his whole personality changed. He said, "You're not going to survive here and I'm going to make sure of it." And he tried everything he could to do that.  

Ren: Yeah.

Bob: But it's something that I needed. I didn't like him for it for a number of years, but I recognized that his challenge to me is what carried me through 10:00here. I just wasn't going to let him have his way.

Ren: Where did you live freshman year?

Bob: Thomas Hall. All the time I was in the Corps I lived in Thomas Hall, three years and one quarter. I got sick and had to quit school my senior year.

Ren: Oh, okay. I want to get to that. VT Stories is housed in Shanks, so I always see the cadets walking around and the squaring of the sidewalks. Is that the correct terminology?

Bob: Yes.

Ren: When you came in as a freshman in that rat year, did you immediately come in interested in statistics?

Bob: No, I didn't. I, for whatever reason, and I can't give you a good one, I chose chemical engineering. I took mechanical drawing or graphics I think they 11:00called it, and I would still be trying to pass that. When you study as hard as you can for a final exam and think you aced it and come out with a 36, there's a talent gap there somewhere. 

Ren: [Laughs] 

Bob: I had liked game theory, and I had come to the conclusion at the time that being an actuary would be something I would enjoy. Statistics gave me that route, so that's why I switched over to statistics. 

Ren: I was talking to Bud a second ago about this, but one thing that we hear a lot and one goal of VT Stories is to talk to alumni who were mentored or advised in some way either by a professor they had or someone in their department. When 12:00you made that switch to statistics are there any notable professors or advisors that you remember that were influential in your academic career? 

Bob: Not at that time. No. I was not one to seek help, and help was not readily offered back then, so you were kind of on your own. But as I went through the University yeah, there were definitely some.

Ren: Do you remember any names by chance?

Bob: You know, Bud and I were talking about that as he left. Yeah, Clyde Kramer in statistics would be one. He was not the department head, but he was kind of, I don't know how to call him, but he was one people could go to and talk to, very approachable. I never had him for a class, but he was someone that you could easily talk to.

Ren: Yeah, right.

Bob: There was a Dr. Layman in mathematics. Theoretical calculus was a total 13:00different way of thinking than applied mathematics was, and the number of us struggled with that. Dr. Layman was willing to go the extra mile and volunteered his time to hold a second class one night a week for whoever showed up for as long as they wanted to be there to help us understand what we were missing. And I never will forget one night he had tried every way he could think of to explain something. It finally came through and one of the guys that was there said, "Why didn't you tell us that in the first place?" He said, "What the heck you think I've been trying to do all night?" But it made it become 14:00understandable, and he didn't have to go to all that trouble. 

Ren: And that was probably pretty rare in that day.

Bob:  Very rare.

Ren: To have someone so engaged with their students and trying to help them out.

Bob: Yeah, very rare. In fact, I think he's the only one I can remember that actually did that.

Ren: Obviously being the Corps you were under very, even more so back then than you are today, very strict routines and regimens and things you have to do, the way you walk, eat, dress, talk, all these things. Are there any favorite memories or experiences that kind of stick out in your mind that you remember most about your time in the Corps at Virginia Tech in the late '50s or early '60s?

Bob: Well, your freshman year is a challenging year. Finishing that and coming back as a sophomore is almost like being sprung from jail I guess in a way. 15:00There was a degree of freedom then that by today's standards is anything but. 

The thing that I remember are the people, the classmates that stuck together, the upper classman who were corrective but not abusive. They were there doing it the right way. Most of them were, some of them -- there was hazing, there's no question about that. The Corps is one of the biggest pleasures I see. It is outstanding in every way for the development of the young person. Back then the Corps was take everybody down to the lowest level you could get and then build them back up. That take-down coming from being a senior in a large high school 16:00was tough to take. But the build-up was very constructive, and I realized later in life when I got into the business world and I was competing with graduates of other colleges what it had done for me. I was able to deal with things that others couldn't from a decision-making standpoint, from a don't quit standpoint. You've got a mission, do it, get it down whatever it takes. I think young people today are more focused than people my age were, and the Corps is a great teacher. Today's cadets are truly remarkable.


Ren: You really took a lot of life lessons from those hard times, didn't you?

Bob: Yeah, you do, you do. I tell young people the College of Science gave me the tools to make a good living. The Corps gave me the tools to have a good career, and I think that's a very fair statement.

Ren: Yeah, absolutely. We've interviewed a lot of alums who were members of the Corps, a significant amount actually. And I'm always fascinated to hear some pranks that happened or things that they had to do. I've heard everything from mattresses on the roof, on the floor, shoes being tossed into a pile and you had to find your shoes, which I thought was kind of interesting. I don't know if you've ever heard any of these or experienced any of these, but are there any Corps pranks or memories that you can remember?

Bob: Oh yeah. In Monteith Hall during the middle of winter one night.


Ren: For the record.

Bob: At 10:30 on a Friday night Twilight Zone would come on television. Everybody would be in the one room that had a TV down on the first floor watching it, usually with the lights out. Well, two people from Thomas Hall found a skunk outside and managed to somehow get it into a trashcan. They took the trashcan into Monteith and rolled it down the three steps into the TV room, and you can imagine what happened. The lights came on. The windows opened, and people in pajamas or whatever they had on going outside in subfreezing temperature. That one I will never forget. Every time I see a Raid commercial I think of that night.

Ren: Oh my gosh. [Laughs] That's a great story.


Bob: Yeah, it was interesting. More enjoyable for us than for the people in Monteith. 

Ren: Another thing we hear a lot from people that were in the Corps, the Ring Dances. How big of event was that to you and how much did you participate in things?

Bob: Oh yeah, I went. It was a big thing. It was the biggest single thing probably in your college career. I think Benny Goodman was scheduled and had to cancel out, so we got Arty Shaw, which was just as good.

Ren: Right.

Bob: It was a great weekend, it really was. It made you feel like you were going to make it through. 

Ren: That's great. On kind of the reverse side of that question, and you 20:00mentioned about being ill your senior year, so that and were there some other difficult experiences during your time outside of kind of the rat year and things? What were some maybe trying times?

Bob: Being in the Corps and the academic side could be challenging, particularly if you can be mischievous and particularly if you've got a roommate that can be mischievous. There were challenges paying attention to what we should be paying attention to, and my roommate was smart enough to realize that before I did and we split. We stayed friends, but we split, and we each had a room by ourselves, 21:00and that turned around the academic side of it. 

Ren: Do you mind if I ask about your senior year? You said you were pretty sick I guess.

Bob: I had what turned out to be a highly infectious case of mononucleosis. I developed a real high fever and no energy, and getting out of bed and going to class turned out to be pretty impossible. It was in October and I dropped out, came to Richmond, the doctors diagnosed it and put me in bed where I stayed until mid-December.


Ren: Wow.

Bob: I lost my student deferment and I got a letter from Uncle Sam saying, "We need you." We showed it to the doctor who was not going to allow me to come back to school in January, but given the options he did, under a lot of restrictions. I could take no more than 12 hours. I had to get at least 12 hours of sleep a day, preferably more. The concern was the damage it could do to the pancreas and spleen. So I had to get out of the Corps and I roomed with a high school friend. I don't know what had happened to his roommate, but we roomed together in Major Williams. When I came back for my second senior year he had graduated and was 23:00going to graduate school in nuclear physics. Three of us rented an old dump outside of Blacksburg and finished up there.

Ren: When you were diagnosed with this was there any correlation to your rheumatic fever as a child did they think?

Bob: No. There is a funny story here though.

Ren: Okay, yeah.

Bob: It probably was precipitated by me not getting much sleep at all. At homecoming I had been active in the Circle K Club on campus and we had a float. We spent long hours putting together that float and stuffing crepe into wire fencing. 


Ren: Wire, right.

Bob: At about Saturday morning, homecoming, about 2am we ran out of white crepe paper. So the only thing we could to use was toilet paper. Some of us went back to our dorms and got toilet paper and finished it 4:30. Well, at 6 o'clock there was screaming going on because nobody in the dorm had any toilet paper. We hadn't focused on that fact. I wasn't about to tell anyone where they could find it. [Chuckles]  

Ren: In the float.

Bob: In the float, yeah. So I kind of hid. But I think all of that led up to my immune system being lowered. 

Ren: Right, just down. Being here in the early 1960s, looking at that time 25:00period in our nation was pretty tumultuous and there was a lot of protests and turmoil and things going on. Did you see anything in Blacksburg or do you remember any events during that time that stick out to your mind that were related to national politics or conversations that would have been happening?

Bob: Not really. The campus to me was pretty quiet and lived within itself. Those of us in the Corps, those of us actually by class figured sooner or later we were going into the service. I had flunked the eye exams, so I wasn't offered an Air Force commission. I just figured that I would graduate and I would try for OCS in the Navy and Coast Guard. But no, that was none of that that I saw.

Ren: It was pretty quiet, yeah.

Bob: I think the cadets knew what was going on and accepted it. I think the 26:00civilians from what I could tell just they wanted to get their degrees and go on with their lives.

Ren: So you graduated I guess would it be the spring of '63?

Bob: Yes.

Ren: '62, okay, with a bachelor's of science degree in statistics. Once you graduated from Virginia Tech where did life take you and what happened after that? I know you have MBA from the VCU.

Bob: Well, I came back to Richmond. I had been introduced to computers on campus my second senior year. Because of a grad student who overheard a conversation in 27:00the hall of two of us undergrads having to invert a 32 x 32 matrix on a Friden calculator. He offered to get us into the computer lab, which we didn't even know existed. So he said, "Meet me there at midnight," and I'm going, "Well I'm not sure about this one." But he had keys. It was in an old wooden building. He cranked up his IBM 1620 and we punched cards. Half an hour later it came out and that beats spending 40 hours in front of a calculator. I thought well you know there's got to be a future here somewhere. I had a job offer in Richmond as a programmer trainee with the Department of Highways, which I took assuming that 28:00soon I would end up in the service. 

Ren: You thought you were going to be drafted?  

Bob: I was trying to schedule appointments with the Navy and the Coast Guard to go to OCS.

Ren: So you really wanted to be in the service?

Bob: Yeah, I did. I wanted the experience and I wanted the education that it would bring. And unfortunately, because of rheumatic fever the Department of Defense classified me as 4F, so that didn't materialize, and by this time I was very happy being a computer programmer. I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was a 29:00year and a half later that I decided that I really wanted an MBA. But I wanted to go part-time. I wasn't going to ask my parents to fund a graduate degree, having stuck them with five years of undergrad. The VCU would allow you to go part-time so I could keep my job, and I didn't want to get out of the industry. 

Ren: You mentioned the Computer Center, and I wanted to ask you because I interviewed someone last week, Doug Montgomery, and he is a professor at Arizona State. He told a story about the Computer Center when it caught fire. I'm not sure if you were here during those years. This might have been in the later 60s, and he talked about students running in and trying to grab their work, and hightail it out of there, because he said it was an old wooden building like you mentioned. 

Bob: Yeah. I think the building was built during World War I maybe. 


Ren: That's what he was saying.

Bob: It doesn't surprise me it caught fire. I don't even know how they got enough electricity in the building to support the two 1620s they had.

Ren: He was telling me that story, so I wasn't for sure if it was around the same time.

Bob: It doesn't surprise me.

Ren: After your MBA at VCU, and the College of Science needs to correct that on their website, because I think it says UVA 1973, where did your life career take you after that?

Bob: Well, I had worked a deal with the Department of Highways to work for them half-time and go to school half-time. A friend who had worked with me told me the Richmond Public Schools needed someone to do some programming that understood disk storage. She knew that I had worked on disk storage, which was 31:00not that prevalent back then. It turns out my junior high school homeroom teacher was in charge of IT for the city schools, and fortunately didn't remember me but to well, and retained me to write some programs. He subsequently offered me a job, including time off to go to school.

Ren: Oh wow.

Bob: I went there as assistant director of the department. It was the most fun job I ever had, so I stayed in the industry and then got into management.

Ren: So actually, that was A. H. Robins, Inc., and then vice president of operations for Cliff Weil, Inc.? 

Bob: Right.

Ren: And now president of Quisenberry & Warren Limited. Can you talk a little 32:00bit about your business and kind of what you do?

Bob: Yeah, I can. Cliff Weil was a small privately-owned wholesale distributor that I knew the family that owned it. They knew me. They contacted me and said that their IT was a mess, which it was, and made me an offer that included some ownership to come in there and take over it, which I did. I stayed there and redid the entire IT Department. We cut out about a third of the operating overhead in three years. His objective at that time was to grow the business and take it public.


Those objectives changed due to his lifestyle, getting married and having a family and wanting to leave it to them. And I felt like what I had done all I could for them, and I had worked my way out of a job. So I decided that I was going to attempt to do similar things for similar companies, which I did. I worked with a number of organizations to set-up their IT Departments with hardware and software to service their business. When IBM changed their method of marketing they hired partners to sell their hardware as well as provide these 34:00services, and approached us, but I wasn't interested in doing that. I wanted to be independent of anybody except the clients I worked with. But we had to compete against those guys. The industry changed because the IBM mainframe business started decreasing and the PC network type solutions increased. 

We went more into the management side of it and less into the technical side, and developed an opinion surveying system for a client that we ended up buying back from them and then ran surveys for educational institutions and medical practices. When the recession hit a lot of that business dried up. It didn't 35:00make sense at my age to try to ride that out and try to recreate it, and so it was a good time to retire.

Ren: Yeah. So that was in 2009, 2008?

Bob: Yeah, '08, yeah. It probably should have been sooner, but we had some clients and we didn't want to just leave them.

Ren: Leave them empty-handed. One thing that I think is interesting is you came in wanting to do engineering, switched to statistics. It just seems like you really have like a really interesting career and been able to do a lot of things it seems like. If someone was listening to this and wants to get into this kind 36:00of work that you did with consulting and is a math major, a statistics major, what kind of advice would you give them?

Bob: It would be easier getting with a company that does that and then breaking out on your own. If you're going to do it yourself the one thing you've got to make sure of is you don't need a monthly paycheck. You have to think in terms of start-up, think in terms of an annual income, not monthly. It's fun because you get to go into a lot of different types of businesses. You see different things. You learn different things, and you can carry what you learn from one industry into another and apply it. Scanning was very popular in retailing for example. 37:00Wholesale distribution had never heard of it, so I was able to bring scanning technology to a wholesale distributor and that made a big difference. There are pluses and there are minuses. There's no security doing it by yourself or with a small group. But yeah, it depends on what you want to do with your life. 

My dad always told me, because I asked him why he worked so hard on his farm, and he said if you can make a living doing something you absolutely love you are blessed, and he was right. Don't follow somebody else's passion, follow your own.

Ren: Right. That's good advice. I know you've been involved with Virginia Tech since you graduated in the 1960s. I don't know where to start, but I would say 38:00you are an inaugural member of the College of Arts and Sciences Roundtable Advisory Board, a former chair of the College of Science Dean's Roundtable, and you were one of the 12 alumni inducted in the inaugural class of the College of Science Hall of Distinction, along with Kim Mueller who I met and interviewed when I was in Houston.

Bob: A great guy.

Ren: He welcomed us into his house, provided us with some really tasty food and just had a good time talking with him. And I know you and your wife Susan are members of the Ut Prosim Society and the Legacy Society. You chaired the Corps of Cadets Gold Cord Committee, all these awesome things to do with Virginia Tech, which leads me to this question, if someone just kind of simply says the words Virginia Tech what's the first thing that you think of?

Bob: Community. It's the best community I've ever seen.

Ren: Yeah. I really like that. Thank you. Why do you think that, there is this 39:00Gallop survey that a lot of people talk about a couple of years ago about alumni have alumni have an affinity for Virginia Tech and really loving their University? That doesn't always translate to them supporting the University by giving as we are often reminded, but was it about Virginia Tech and this place that alumni have such a close connection with do you think?

Bob: My wife went to the University of Richmond, and by the way, she's now also on the Dean's College of Science Roundtable. She had never been to Tech until she met me, and she is very involved with the University of Richmond. She's a trustee there.

Ren: How did you all meet?

Bob: In the basement of City Hall in Richmond at 2 o'clock in the morning. That's another whole story.

Ren: Oh gosh. [Laughs] Okay. 

Bob: But to finish this one, she is convinced that every student that comes here 40:00is required to take Brainwashing 101. She said you cannot find anybody that doesn't love this place, and I agree with her, you can't.

Ren: Absolutely. 

Bob: And I think that's the key point, because you don't have to fit a specific mold to be welcome here. Everybody is welcome here and that's not true at a lot of other places. 

Ren: Right, right.

Bob: And I think a lot of alumni my age, that don't live in the area, equate Virginia Tech to being what it was then and don't fully understand what it is now.

Ren: Right.

Bob: And they also were the benefit of the state paying the vast majority of the 41:00cost of going here. They don't realize the state doesn't fund that now. So I think it's a question of communication, of personal contact. The money will be there if we ask for it. For a lot of years of my life after graduation nobody asked me for a cent. The only people that ever approached me to give money was the Athletic Club. The College of Arts and Sciences didn't.  

Ren: Right. 

Bob: They do now.

Ren: Things have changed a little I guess.

Bob: Things have changed.

Ren: All these things that I mentioned, the roundtables and these halls of distinctions and these societies, can you briefly talk about your experiences with some of these and what's that been like to kind of give back to a University who seems to have given a lot to you?

Bob: Well, the University has given a lot to me, and I got a lot more value from 42:00this place than I paid for, so I owe it a debt, and I'm glad to pay that back. I'm blessed to be able to pay that back. But Tech is unusual in that the more you give the more you get, and the scale will never balance. I can't give it enough to do that. It's been very rewarding, because I feel like they value me and it's nice to be valued. But I think they value every student and alum, I think they really do.  

Ren: When I mentioned this before we started recording, but in 2014 you were 43:00awarded the Ruffner Medal, which is Virginia Tech's-- I'll let you talk about it.  

Bob: Well it was the surprise of my life. I had no idea. Frankly I knew it existed, but I didn't know much more than that about it. I asked why, why me? And I never got an answer to that except to say that I earned it, but I don't know that I did. I know other people and you've mentioned some of them. There's no question in my mind they've earned it, but I'm not going to give it back. [Laughs] 

Ren: I wouldn't either. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Ren: That's wonderful. When you kind of look across this campus and Virginia Tech as a whole, what inspires you? And then kind of on the reverse side of that 44:00question, what concerns you about this place and its growth and things?

Bob: Oh, well, the thing that inspires me are the students. If you want to sell Virginia Tech introduce them to students, and they are the ones best qualified to judge this University, not me. The parents of some of them that I've met surprise me and inspire me. After one of the Lecture Series events I was up here by myself and I walked over to the Inn to visit and I thought I would have a drink and see if there was somebody over there I knew, and John Larson waved at 45:00me and we had a couple of drinks. There were four women sitting at the next table talking, and they joined into our conversation. It turns out they were mothers of cadets who had come down for the Lecture Series from out of state. 

Ren: Wow. 

Bob: One of them made this statement, she said, "I love how the Corps is molding my son." And she was not only talking about the Corps, but she was talking about the University. I think that's exactly right.

Ren: Yeah. What concerns you?

Bob: Growth without the resources to support that growth. I think Virginia Tech does they try to do with quality. We are growing fast. We are moving fast I 46:00think absolutely in the right direction. Dr. Sands is the right person at the right time at the right place. The dean of the college of science, I would say the same thing, the Commandant of Cadets I would say the same thing. They are absolutely the right people at the right time. I think that's true of the Business School. I'm very impressed with him. I'm impressed with everybody I've met here, but Charlie Phlegar has got a huge job on his hands. He's the right person at the right time. Can we get the resources and keep the quality up at the pace we're going is the only thing that concerns me. 

Ren: I got to interview Charlie Phlegar in December, so we're working on his 47:00story right now, so that's someone else we've talked to. When you kind of think about Virginia Tech and everything that's kind of happened in your life, did you come back to Virginia Tech a lot? Did you visit often or was there gaps and large times that you didn't come back to campus?

Bob: There was gaps and large times, yeah. I would come back occasionally to a football game. I was asked to join the Hokie Club for 25-bucks, I did that. But what got me involved was a phone call from the College of Arts and Sciences asking me to join the Roundtable. I didn't even know what it was. I thought it was a crank call and I was lucky to get it. I came home at lunch because we had some construction going on at our house and I wanted to check on it. The phone 48:00happened to ring at that time.

They said they sent me a letter, but I didn't remember getting it. I agreed to participate, and it was a transformative experience, because it was a dean getting a group of diverse people together to talk about where his college was going.

Ren: Was this Bob Bates?

Bob: No.

Ren: Lay Nam Chang? Dean Chang?

Bob: No. Bob and Lay Nam I can tell you were transformative. Herman Doswell, and he was good. He did a great job. I don't think he really quite realized what he was getting into when he created the Roundtable, because he got two messages pretty quickly in a nice way. He started to give a presentation and he was 49:00interrupted by a couple of questions which got down into the weeds on some things. He came back the next day much more prepared to--

Ren: Answer?

Bob: Well not only to answer, but to talk about some issues. And the second message he got is we come up here to work. You don't need to wine and dine us. We don't care about anything else, we came up here to work to help you, so use our time wisely. We are here for 24 hours. Don't feel like you have to deal with just 8 hours. We're here to help. When Bates took over he was the one that got hit with the budget cuts, and he did a marvelous job of dealing with that. He brought the College through some very very rough times.


Ren: I had the opportunity to interview him in the fall, so his story we just posted it today actually on our website, you can read about it, and he was wonderful to work with, and really even, because he's in Washington State and just great. He worked with one of our undergraduate interns I mean and this is a dean who was a dean of a college, a provost of a University, and he was just really hands-on. 

Bob: Oh yeah.

Ren: A great guy. 

Bob: And Lay Nam, what can you say about Lay Nam? He had the toughest job of all because he was put in there with instructions to split the college. Politically that's suicide. There's not many people in the world that I think could have done it with the grace, the talent, and the patience that he exhibited.

He's one of the most completely competent people I've met in my life, and I 51:00couldn't say enough good things about him. If you interviewed anybody on that Roundtable I guarantee you they will tell you the same thing. 

Ren: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob: And he's somebody to interview too.

Ren: Yeah. Jenny has been helping me. We've been trying for sure. Thank you for sitting down with us and being so generous with your time and talking to VT Stories. I just have a few more questions. 

Bob:  Sure. 

Ren: This is kind of a big one, but what does Virginia Tech and what does this place mean to you?

Bob: Oh, hmm. Home. Best way I can say it. 

Ren: It is. Even for me. That's a good answer. Is there anything that you would 52:00like people to know about you that maybe they don't know about you?

Bob: Uh, probably not. I think I'm a pretty transparent person. I can't think of anything to add. 

Ren: I want to ask you about your class ring.

Bob: Okay. 

Ren: Any good stories about, do you wear your ring often?

Bob: I wear it all the time except when I'm doing things physical like playing tennis or working in the yard. It stays on my dresser and I don't wear it if there's any chance it's going to damage it. 

Ren: Is this the same one you've had?

Bob: No. Our house was broken into one night and I had taken it off to go play basketball back in the 60s. Somebody broke in and stole a bunch of stuff 53:00including the ring.

Ren: Wow.

Bob: So this is a remake.

Ren: That's great. I didn't want to leave this out that you are a member of the West Richmond Rotary Club and the First Baptist Church in Richmond.

Bob: Yes.

Ren: What role has faith and religion played in your life?

Bob: For a period of time it didn't to be honest. I grew up in First Baptist. It was a good church. I had good friends. When I got out of college I felt like I had a lot of ground to make up and pursue a career and get a degree. I had started playing tournament bridge. I traveled and played the bridge circuit for a number of years. My mother was dying and one thing she asked of me was to 54:00attend church. I have, and it's meant the world to me. 

Ren: Wow. Great. Your last name, do you know family lineage? 

Bob: [Chuckles] I knew my dad. I met my grandfather, his father. I never met his mother. She died when he was young. My grandfather on his side was very aloof. We didn't have a relationship. Going back beyond that I knew my two uncles. Dad had three brothers, one died young. I knew the two that were alive. But no. The only thing I know, or I think I know is it's a German name. 

Ren: So Quesenberry or Quisenberry?


Bob: The original name is neither.

Ren: Oh.

Bob: This is a funny story. My dad in his early '90s got involved in rehabbing a burial ground up in Louisa County, because a cousin who was a confederate soldier was buried there. I don't know how he got involved in that, but he did and he got me involved a little bit. I met a cousin up there whose last name was Clemons, but her grandmother was a Quisenberry, so she had her name changed to Quisenberry. But that wasn't enough for her, she went back to the original spelling, hyphenated it with Quisenberry. I don't know how she ever signed a check, or filled in an application. I don't know how she did anything.


Ren: Right. [Chuckles] 

Bob: But the original first name was like 15 or 16 characters. I couldn't pronounce it if I had to. 

Ren: Right. Do most people say Quisenberry? Do they get it right?

Bob: Yeah. Oh, I've been called everything. But yeah, most of them will spell it Quesenberry. It's more prevalent in southwest Virginia than it is in the flatlands. 

Ren: I grew up in Richland in southwest Virginia, I always--I didn't know if it was Quisenberry or Quesenberry, so I just wanted to ask.

Bob: I pronounce it Quisenberry. I've learned to answer to most anything.

Ren: Again, thank you so much for your time and talking with us. Is there anything you want to add, anything you would like to say? It's an open floor if you have anything you would like to add here. 


Bob: Well I'm glad you're doing this. I congratulate you for it. 

Ren: Thank you very much.

Bob: It's a great way to tell the world what this place is like. I don't know -- hopefully we do it justice by doing this. You know what you say, you don't know what people hear. I would love to think that parents and perspective students would take advantage and find out what people who have come through here have said about it.

Ren: Yeah. That's the goal. Do you claim class of 1962?

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: That's usually how it works. 

Bob: That's the official one. I had friends in '63 too. By the way, one thing I will say, getting sick and quitting school was a blessing, because it goes back 58:00to a question you asked. I took a course in -- I had to find 12 hours, and I couldn't get the courses I needed to graduate, so I took a course in English Lit. I wish I could remember the professor's name, because I did it thinking it would just be easy. I wasn't a good reader and I never read for pleasure and he turned that around. I can't remember his name, but it was a wonderful course. It's something that's carried me forward, and there were some other courses like that too. I took some business courses that helped prepare me for an MBA. Things happen in life that you think are a disaster that can be an advantage to you. That's certainly been true for me.

Ren: Wonderful. Bob Quisenberry, Class of 1962, Ruffner Medal Award winner in 59:002014. Thank you so much. It was nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Bob: The pleasure is mine. 

Ren: Thank you very much.