L. Preston Wade
Class of 1955, BS
Preston Wade is often described by his competitors as “their worst enemy,” says one of his best friends, Robert Jebson, president of Environmental Systems Service Ltd. Over the years, “Preston has proven his business prowess and marketing abilities. Much of his business has been in the area of utilities and Preston is one of the state’s leading authorities on annexation issues, having been involved with approximately 30 court proceedings.”
Mr. Wade, the chairman of the board and CEO of Wiley & Wilson since 1980, began his career as a draftsman and field surveyor in the firm’s Lynchburg, Virginia, office during the summers of 1953 and 1954 while he was a student at Virginia Tech. After earning his B.S. in civil engineering in 1955, having served as regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets his senior year, Mr. Wade then pursued post-graduate work while serving as a full-time instructor of applied mechanics.
Called to active duty in the U.S. Air Force in late 1956, Mr. Wade served as an installations engineer at Eglin Air Force base in 1957 and 1958. He then returned to Wiley & Wilson. His work with the firm of architects, engineers, and planners included engineering survey planning and design work primarily for civil and environmental type ventures. These include water supply and treatment, sewage disposal facilities, dams and highways, storm drainage facilities, utilities distribution systems, numerous state agencies and installations, and a variety of industries.
In 1964, Mr. Wade became an associate member of Wiley & Wilson and was named a partner and director of project management and construction administration in 1969. He was named president in 1973 after the firm was reorganized from a partnership to a professional corporation, and in 1980, he was elected Chairman and CEO. Wiley & Wilson has offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Tidewater, and Northern Virginia and does a variety of engineering, architectural, and planning projects throughout Virginia and selected states.
Wiley & Wilson is particularly noted for its pioneering efforts in the design of printing plants. A critical component of the printing operation is to ensure that there is no movement in foundations since they might cause faulty registration alignments. Wiley & Wilson’s design became a model for the U.S., and it designed numerous plants around the country. The company also developed the design of a solvent recovery system to recapture volatile vapors from the ink-drying process, preventing these poisonous vapors from entering the atmosphere.
Another environmentally oriented design credited to Wiley & Wilson is its work to revamp the City of Lynchburg’s combined sewer overflow lines. When cities first developed, it was accepted practice to combine storm and sanitary sewers. With today’s criteria for treatment dictating the need to separate the two systems, Wiley & Wilson developed cost-effective designs to revamp the old method.
Mr. Wade is registered as a professional engineer in 19 states and the District of Columbia. He has served his profession as a former Director of the National Society of Professional Engineers and President of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers (VSPE), and in addition is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Virginia Association of Professions, Tau Beta Pi, Chi Epsilon, and Omicron Delta Kappa. VSPE recognized Mr. Wade’s contributions with the society’s Distinguished Service Award in both 1971 and 1980, and named him the Virginia Engineer of the Year in 1982.
An active community leader, Mr. Wade is a past long-time member of the advisory board of the Salvation Army in Lynchburg, former board member and past President of the Greater Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, past board member of the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center and of the YMCA of Central Virginia, and a former member of the advisory board of the Miller Home of Lynchburg. He has been a deacon, elder, and Sunday School teacher at the Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church. He is also a past board member of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
In service to his alma mater, Mr. Wade has been a member of the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100 since its inception and served on its initial advisory board. He is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, President’s Council Membership Committee for Lynchburg, and the Virginia Tech Economic Development Advisory Board. In the past, he has served on the board of directors for the Alumni Association and as the annual fund chairman for the College of Engineering. In 1984, he established the L. Preston Wade Endowed Professorship in Engineering.
Preston Wade and his wife, the former Jett Gale Preble, live in Lynchburg and have three daughters and three grandchildren.
As Bob Jebson reflects on his friend of more than 45 years, he says, “Preston is the epitome of the ultimate politician, a person who loves to tell a story, and a man who really enjoys dancing. And he’s actually never really left Blacksburg. He always is referring back to VPI.”
Class of: 1955
Year Inducted into Academy: 2001