Col. George Piegari (Hon.), longtime professor and honorary alumnus, died Oct. 4, 2020. He was 79.
His relationship with the Institute began in 1965 when he came to post as an instructor of mathematics. Over the next 42 years, he would take what he described as “periods of leave” from VMI’s faculty. The first lasted three years while he attended Vanderbilt University in order to earn a doctoral degree in mathematics. The second period began in 1978 and lasted eight years. During that time, he worked in the computer industry and ended as a manager with Dun and Bradstreet with responsibility for the company’s well-known database of corporate information. In 1986, he returned to VMI in order to help establish the computer science major. The program enrolled its first majors in 1987 and graduated them in 1990. Piegari would become the computer science program’s coordinator and later head the mathematics and computer science department.
Besides service on the academic board while he was a department head, Piegari was the chairperson of several committees, including the tenure and promotion committee, and numerous search committees, including one that searched for a new dean of the faculty. He published extensively and participated in a faculty exchange program at the Royal Military College of Science—now known as the Defence College of Management and Technology—in the United Kingdom. He also served for five years on the prestigious Army Science Board, which is comprised of approximately 100 civilians who advise Army leaders on scientific issues.
A keen supporter of VMI athletics, Piegari headed the VMI Athletic Council and was VMI’s faculty athletic representative to the NCAA, the Southern Conference, and the Big South Conference. He retired in 2007 as a professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science. When he retired, VMI named the computer science lab in his honor. Piegari later worked as a consultant in software engineering and project management for The Rushing Center at Furman University.
A two-time recipient of the VMI Distinguished Teaching Award, Piegari was renowned for his ability as an instructor. While always rigorous, he never failed to be understanding and encouraging, and he took immense pride in his students’ accomplishments as cadets and alumni. He also received the VMI Corps of Cadets Faculty Mentor Award in 2000.
Piegari’s concern for cadets did not stop at the doors of Mallory Hall. He and his wife, Melou, took a deep interest in cadets’ lives. They established enduring relationships with many cadets they came to know through his teaching and Melou’s involvement with VMI theater. Both highly valued these relationships. “For us,” Piegari said in 2015, “it’s a great honor that to this day many former students still visit us.”
Recognizing his invaluable service to the Institute and the Corps, the VMI Alumni Association named him an honorary alumnus in 2011. At the time the honor was announced, Randolph M. Blanks ’67, then the VMI Alumni Association president, commented that this “rare designation clearly recognizes the service and affinity between the Institute, the individual, and VMI alumni in a very special way.”
Active in the community, Piegari was a member of the Lexington Rotary Club, taught mathematics for the College Orientation Workshop program for a decade, and was involved in the Lexington Christmas Basket Program.
Such was Piegari’s desire to serve the Institute that he became a trustee of the VMI Foundation in 2015. According to Stephen E. Hupp Sr. ’84, VMI Foundation president, “George brought extensive experience and exceptional perspective born of decades of working at VMI to his role as a trustee. He provided invaluable advice and made many important contributions to the work of the Foundation at all levels. Everyone on the board respected and admired him immensely and was inspired by his example of selfless service to VMI.”
Piegari is survived by his wife of 53 years, Melou; two children; three grandchildren; and two brothers.
Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects
The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.