Virginia Tech honors engineer Michael Quillen for his career achievements

Michael Quillen of Bristol, Va., who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1970 and in 1971, respectively, is a 2013 inductee into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Academy of Engineering Excellence, joining an elite group of 119 individuals out of more than 60,000 living engineering alumni.

The Academy of Engineering Excellence was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, past dean of the college of engineering, and the College’s Advisory Board. The inductees are engineering graduates of Virginia Tech who have made continuous and admirable engineering or leadership contributions during their careers. This year marked the fourteenth anniversary of the first induction.

Right aligned image, portrait orientation, 150 by 200 pixels

Pictured from left to right: Paul Torgersen, president emeritus of Virginia Tech; Michael Quillen,
Richard C. Benson, dean of the college of engineering; Sam Easterling, department head
of civil and environmental engineering; and Greg Adel, department head of
mining and minerals engineering.

Quillen’s robust professional reputation was built through his lengthy career with the mining industry, often working in the deep pits side by side with the operators.

The straight A high school student was accepted at Virginia Tech on partial scholarship, but learned college professors had different ways of grading.

He credits Paul Torgersen, president emeritus of Virginia Tech, with his decision to remain in engineering at Virginia Tech. A low score made him consider leaving engineering until he met with Torgersen who explained to him how a grade of 40 could be rounded up on an academic curve. He stayed in the program and even opted for a master’s in civil engineering.

Throughout the 1970s, Quillen worked two to three jobs: a mine superintendent during the day and chief engineer for another company at night. And he was surveying in his minimal spare time with a startup engineering company he formed with a Virginia Tech classmate.

Quillen was named president of Paramont Coal Company in Wise, Va., by the age of 31. His duties increased when he became president of WR Grace’s Eastern Coal Group, managing three different coal companies.

The mining engineer became president of six of Pittston Coal Company's in 1994, managing divisions in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, representing 15 million tons of production. A year later, Pittston promoted Quillen to executive vice president of sales and marketing and president of Pittston Coal Sales for the Pittston Coal Co., of Lebanon, Va., where he gained experience in international business, especially in the Far East.

In 2002 he along with others formed Alpha Natural Resources of Abingdon, Va. Quillen developed the company to become the Commonwealth's largest coal producer with revenues in excess of $1.6 billion annually.

In the spring of 2012, he formally retired as the chairman of this company, traded on the N.Y. Stock Exchange.

Quillen continues to be involved with his alma mater. He currently serves as the rector of the University’s Board of Visitors, and is a past member of the College and CEE Advisory Boards. He was the 2006 Distinguished Alumnus of the College. Most recently, Quillen was named 2011 Virginia Business Person of the Year.

Lindsey Haugh 

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