Alumnus Brockenbrough Honored in Auditorium Dedication
Austin Brockenbrough III speaks during the dedication ceremony. -- VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.
LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 25, 2013 – In a brief ceremony earlier today attended by family members and friends, the auditorium in Nichols Engineering Hall was dedicated in memory of Austin Brockenbrough Jr. ’21.
A portrait of Brockenbrough, and a plaque listing some of his many achievements, was unveiled by Capt. Ned Riester ’78, head of the department of civil and environmental engineering, and Austin Brockenbrough III, son of the honoree.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Brockenbrough family, this room which has served the VMI community for many decades has been transformed from a simple meeting room to a state-of-the-art auditorium for instructional lectures and Corps, faculty, and staff organizational meetings,” said VMI Superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62 in remarks before the unveiling.
“My father loved VMI,” said Austin Brockenbrough III, a Richmond resident who runs his own investment management firm. “I think VMI helped to make him the man he became. I don’t think our family has done anything more important in my memory but this. This is really significant to us.”
In deciding to come to VMI, Brockenbrough Jr. “knew what he was in for,” said Austin Brockenbrough III. “He came from a family that was dedicated to academics and personal character building. He embraced VMI. He loved VMI.”
When he arrived in Lexington to begin his cadetship, Brockenbrough Jr. was following in well-known family footsteps. His grandfather was John Mercer Brockenbrough, VMI Class of 1850, and his cousin, William Austin Brockenbrough, graduated from the Institute in 1860. Other family members had also attended, but did not graduate.
During his years at VMI, Brockenbrough Jr. wrestled, belonged to the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was sergeant of Company B. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering and later earned another civil engineering degree from Cornell University. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Reserves in the South Pacific, earning the Legion of Merit and three awards of the Bronze Star.
After World War II, Brockenbrough founded the engineering firm that still bears his name, Austin Brockenbrough & Associates LLP. Today, Austin Brockenbrough & Associates is a multi-faceted engineering and consulting firm that has done work on the state, national, and international levels.
Up until his death in 1987, Brockenbrough was a generous supporter of VMI, giving to the annual fund and the Class of 1921 Fund.
Brockenbrough III remembered his father as a man of principle. “He was willing to put everything on the line to do the right thing – the harder right thing,” he said. Brockenbrough recalled that as a child, he once heard his father tell his mother that they might lose the house they were living in because the elder Brockenbrough thought he’d surveyed the property incorrectly.
Thankfully, this proved not to be the case – but the elder Brockenbrough was willing to move, at a significant financial loss, if he had to.
“He was a man of character,” said the younger Brockenbrough. “He believed in doing the right thing.”