Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Taps – Capt. Ronald A. Erchul

FullTextImage/img/@altCapt. Ronald Anton Erchul

LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 10, 2011 – A longtime VMI professor, retired in 2008 and founder of a statewide environmental conference, died Saturday, Oct. 8.

Capt. Ronald Anton Erchul, 73, professor emeritus, was known for thinking big. A professor who taught geology and civil engineering at VMI for 27 years, he created a minor in environmental leadership and management and founded the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Innovative Technology Symposium and the Environment Virginia Symposium. Honoring Erchul’s contributions, the CAPT Ronald A. Erchul, Emeritus Professor, Environmental Leadership Award is awarded annually at the Environment Virginia Symposium.

“He had huge ideas,” said Col. Ned Riester, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “He was always dragging cadets on field trips to mines or caves. … I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody. He always looked to the positive.”

Captain Ronald A. Erchul

Capt. Ronald Anton Erchul, 73, of Rockbridge County was called home to be with his Lord on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. Captain Erchul taught geology and civil engineering at the Virginia Military Institute for 27 years, following 20 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy. He retired from VMI in 2008 and pursued his love of farming on his land along South Buffalo Creek.

He is survived by his wife, Beverly A. Erchul, and one daughter, Maria B. Erchul of Fairfax County, Va. He was preceded in death by one daughter, Deborah A. Erchul, and by his parents, Anton and Agnes Erchul. He grew up in West Allis, Wis.

A 1961 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Erchul earned his master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island in ocean engineering. While on active duty in the U.S. Navy, 1961-1981, he served as a ship driver, a construction scuba diver, an executive officer, and an operations officer. His last tour of duty was at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he taught ocean engineering. While a midshipman at the Naval Academy, he was the starting right tackle on the 1960 football team that finished fourth in the land and earned a berth in the 1961 Orange Bowl.

Erchul was recognized as an important environmental leader in Virginia. In 1990, he founded the Environment Virginia Symposium, an annual statewide event which continues to attract over 700 professionals representing diverse interests to VMI each April. He was an editor of Essays on Leadership in Environmental Management (Virginia Military Institute, 2004), with Marilyn R.D. Maisano and H. Francis Bush. He was responsible for creating a minor at VMI in environmental leadership and management, which was first awarded in May 1997. He was the recipient of VMI’s Matthew Fontaine Maury Research Award in 1990 and again in 2006.

The CAPT Ronald A. Erchul, Emeritus Professor, Environmental Leadership Award annually recognizes a Virginian who has made significant individual efforts to better the environment. Recent recipients of the award include Ann Jennings, executive director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Chapter, and Ward Burton, former NASCAR driver and founder of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. The award is coordinated by the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics at the Environment Virginia Symposium.

Funeral arrangements are being made by Botetourt Funeral Home. A viewing will be held at Rapps Mill Church on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. with the service to follow at 2 p.m. The family would like to express their appreciation to friends and colleagues at VMI, to family members in Illinois, Minnesota, California, and Arizona, and to Mr. and Mrs. James and Shelly Hall of Lexington, Va. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to interdenominational Rapps Mill Church, 3255 S. Buffalo Road, Lexington, Va. 24450.