Peggy Meszaros, the highest-ranking woman in Virginia Tech’s history, died in the city of her birth — Hopkinsville, Kentucky — on April 18.
She was 79.
At the time of her death, Meszaros held emerita titles for two positions at Virginia Tech, the William E. Lavery Professor Emerita of Human Development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Provost Emerita. These honorary distinctions were conferred on her by the Board of Visitors following her retirement from the university in 2016.
“Our university community has lost a treasure and true friend,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “We are deeply saddened by her too-soon departure and at the same time immensely grateful for all she did, not just for our university, but for the many lives she touched.”
Following a series of administrative roles at Hood College, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Kentucky, Meszaros joined Virginia Tech in 1993 as professor of family and child development and dean of what was then the College of Human Resources.
Two years later, Virginia Tech President Paul Torgensen tapped her to serve as senior vice president and provost of the university, citing both her “strong commitment to helping students, faculty, and staff develop to their fullest potential” and her “deep reservoir of intellect and energy.”
She was the first — and only — woman to become provost of the university.
For nearly six years as provost, Meszaros launched novel interdisciplinary research programs across campus. She developed a strategic plan, instituted an academic agenda, identified and applied the university’s core values, established the Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning, initiated key regional and international partnerships, developed diversity programs, and helped internationalize the curriculum.
From 2000 to 2015, she served as founding director of the Center for Information Technology Impacts on Children, Youth, and Families. There her scholarship made notable contributions to children, youth, and families through her translational research in parenting capacities and adolescent resilience, the effects of emerging technologies on individuals and families, and the influence of gender on information technology education and careers.
Meszaros taught a range of human development courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Avidly following what she called her guiding principle, she mentored graduate students, helping them succeed in both academic and corporate careers.
Passionately devoted to the land-grant mission, she translated belief into action not only through her own research-enhanced outreach but also through her support of such community-enriching programs as the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
“Peggy Meszaros was such an inspiring role model,” said Rosemary Blieszner, a longtime colleague in the Department of Human Development and the interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “She didn’t follow a traditional faculty-to-administrator path. Rather, Peggy quickly achieved significant leadership skills and moved from serving as dean to provost. Then she said she would reinvent herself as a faculty member, and she did. She established a center, taught and mentored students, attracted millions of research dollars, and published books. Even after retirement, Peggy assumed yet another new role, as an alumni association president. Her constant self-reinvention can continue to inspire us all.”
A generous benefactor to Virginia Tech, Meszaros was a member of the university’s Ut Prosim Society of donors.
“I love what I’m doing, and I’m not bored at all — even though I’ve been at Virginia Tech for 20 years, the longest I’ve ever been anywhere,” Meszaros said in a 2013 interview with the University of Kentucky Alumni Association. “My interest has just always been in the human sciences. And that’s where all my energy has gone. And it’s been a wonderful career.”
Upon retirement from Virginia Tech, Meszaros became president of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association. She received her bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky, and a doctorate from the University of Maryland.
Meszaros was preceded in death by her husband, Alexander Louis Meszaros; her sister, Joyce Faulkner; and a granddaughter, Hannah Mackensie Kriss. She is survived by her daughter Lisa Kimberly Kriss and son-in-law, Chuck, of Emmitsburg, Maryland; her daughter Elizabeth Caroline Villarreal of Perry Hall, Maryland; her son, Louis Todd Meszaros, and daughter-in-law, Erin, of Atlanta, Georgia; six grandchildren, Meaghan, Cameron, Andrew, Emily, Alex, and Sophia; five great-grandchildren, Taiylor, LilyElle, Jaxon, Courtland, and Ella Rose; her brother Albert Sisk and sister-in-law Barbara of Hopkinsville; and her brother Eugene Lee Sisk Jr. and sister-in-law Diann of Shelbyville, Kentucky.
A memorial service will be held on May 13 at 11 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church in Hopkinsville. Inurnment will be held at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.