In Memoriam: Charles ‘Jack’ Dudley, Former Director of University Honors

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Charles ‘Jack’ Dudley
Charles ‘Jack’ Dudley

Charles “Jack” Dudley loved Virginia Tech, and Virginia Tech loved him right back.

One civil engineering student gave thanks to Dudley for “helping a shy, frightened kid to succeed in a big place.” Another former student noted that Dudley’s unofficial motto inspired achievement: “Why the hell not?” Still another credited him with helping him become a better sociologist with a simple, “Jack Dudley, my captain, my mentor, my friend.”

Dudley, director of the University Honors program at Virginia Tech for nearly two decades, died on March 25 at the age of 78.

Dudley joined Virginia Tech as an associate professor of sociology in 1974 and assumed leadership of University Honors in 1990. Soon after his retirement in 2008, Virginia Tech honored him with emeritus status.

Through his leadership and guidance, the honors program grew significantly. He created its first two residential communities, a new curriculum designed to integrate students into citizenship, and four new honors diplomas. The program has since become the Virginia Tech Honors College.

As director, Dudley mentored countless students toward national and international scholarship awards, including one Rhodes Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, 11 Fulbright Scholars, two Truman Scholars, three Howard Hughes Scholars, 81 National Science Foundation Scholars, 33 Goldwater Scholars, 11 Udall Scholars, and six USA Today Academic All Americans.

“Dr. Dudley’s greatest legacy, perhaps, is his generosity of spirit, which animated everything he did and touched everyone he knew at Virginia Tech,” said Paul Knox, a University Distinguished Professor who serves as dean of the Honors College.

As a member of the Department of Sociology, Dudley won numerous teaching awards; achieved outstanding teaching evaluations in courses related to social organization, political sociology, and the sociology of family; and developed innovative methods for using theater as a tool of instruction.

Dudley, a native of Georgia, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and his doctorate in sociology from the University of Oregon.

After earning a doctorate in public administration and policy from Virginia Tech, his wife, Larkin Dudley, served as a professor in the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies. There she directed the Center for Public Administration and Policy before her own retirement. The university granted her emerita status in 2010.

In addition to his wife, Dudley leaves his daughter, Drenan, and his granddaughter, Mary Abigail “Abby” Dudley. He was preceded in death by his son, Charles “Chris” Dudley.

Jack Dudley’s funeral service will be held on Friday, April 5, at 2 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church at 120 Church Street, NE, in Blacksburg. A visitation will be held before the service starting at 12:30 p.m. Both the visitation and a reception following the service will take place in the church.

In lieu of flowers, Dudley had suggested that friends do an act of kindness in his memory. Donations may also be made to the Carilion New River Valley Hospice, the Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, Christ Episcopal Church, or the Charles “Jack” Dudley Honors Excellence Fund at Virginia Tech.

“Jack was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, teacher, colleague friend, and my best buddy,” his wife wrote in a notification of the service. “His legacy is the high regard in which so many held him.”