Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Symposium Opens with Tribute to Founder

FullTextImage/img/@altGen. Peay presents Maria Erchul with the Virginia General Assembly memorial proclamation honoring her father. – VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.

LEXINGTON, Va., April 10, 2012 – Gen J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendant, introduced the 23rd annual Environment Virginia Symposium by honoring the contributions of the late Capt. Ronald Erchul to the nation, to the state of Virginia, and to VMI. More than 760 registrants came to Lexington to participate in the symposium.

Capt. Erchul’s daughter, Maria B. Erchul, was on hand to receive a Virginia General Assembly memorial proclamation. Capt. Erchul was a VMI professor of civil and environmental engineering for more than 25 years. He organized and chaired the first Environment Virginia Symposium in 1990 and coordinated the event in succeeding years until his retirement. The Erchul Environmental Leadership Award, given at the symposium banquet, also honors his contributions.

Erchul spoke of the passion that her father had for life, and she sees that same passion in symposium participants.

“Today, as I stand amongst colleagues and friends, it is evident that you too have experienced this passion,” said Erchul. “You are carrying out what you believe to be true for the good of the community and the state and to lead our nation to become a smarter and wiser country through our talented citizen-students.”

This year’s theme – “Collaboration. Innovation. Results.” – recognizes the need to bring experts together to look at issues in a new light.

“Until we ask the right questions, we cannot find the right solutions,” said Peay. “I think this symposium helps us to ask the right questions.”

Following the welcoming ceremonies, a panel of four former Virginia secretaries of natural resources, hosted by Doug Domenech, the current Virginia secretary of natural resources, took part in a discussion, offering a wealth of experience and knowledge on solving environmental challenges.

Tayloe Murphy, who was secretary from 2002 to 2006, described the progress that had been made through bipartisan cooperation in the past. He emphasized the fact that this type of cooperation is now being stifled by the political climate.

“The threat that I see is in the increased polarization among our citizens and our public officials along partisan lines,” said Murphy. “We must hold our elected officials accountable when they fail to govern in a bipartisan manner.”

Members of the panel emphasized the importance of water conservation and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Bringing Virginians together to explore challenges like these is an essential component of the symposium.

“The commonwealth is filled with wonderful people who care about our natural resources and our environment,” said Becky Norton Dunlop, vice president for external relations for the Heritage Foundation, who was secretary of natural resources from 1994-1998. “People are indeed our most precious and valuable resource.”

The symposium will continue through Thursday.

–John Robertson IV