Hyde C. Tucker
Class of 1956, BS
When Wall Street was recording its transactions for 1991, a Virginia Tech engineering alumnus figured prominently. Hyde Tucker, President and CEO of Bell Atlantic International, and a 1956 electrical engineering graduate, scored the third-largest business deal on Wall Street that year.
The technology guru brokered a contract that allowed one of the Baby Bells to acquire half of Telecom New Zealand. His Bell Atlantic team invested $1.2 billion, a sum that was matched by the partners Mr. Tucker brought to the table.
“This deal represented the first operating overseas telecom acquired by a Baby Bell,” Mr. Tucker says. Fifty-seven years old at the time, he needed the energy of a teenager. “I worked more 24-hour time periods during my time in this position than at any other time in my life,” he reflects. “I was trying to invent a new business, a global business. It was tough. Everything was new. It was like being a linebacker on a football team — you are in every play. And there were lots of failures, not just successes.”
The pursuit of success played a pivotal role throughout Mr. Tucker’s life. He started his engineering career because he wanted to prove he could be successful in this academic discipline. “My dad, also an EE from VPI, was skeptical of my academic abilities. I was scared to death entering college. At the time, I felt it was my last chance to succeed.” His self-imposed pressure worked and by the end of his sophomore year, he was 17th in his class of 444 engineering students, so he allowed himself to participate in extramural activities. When he graduated he had interviewed with 14 companies and received 14 offers, a feat he is nonchalant about. “This was not unusual at the time,” he suggests.
Mr. Tucker selected C&P Telephone Company and remained with some form of the communications industry for his entire career including his four-year stint with the Air Force. The year was 1956 and it represented significant changes for the young Virginia Tech graduate: he took his first professional job, married his high school sweetheart, Jo Anna, and was called to active duty. He spent most of his Air Force career in Spain, a country he still enjoys visiting. Senator Margaret Chase Smith made a personal plea to the young lieutenant to remain in the military, but as he recalls, “I was too ambitious. I was not a pilot and I knew a flier would become the chief executive in the Air Force.” He left the service with the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Back in the states, Mr. Tucker wasted no time moving up the corporate ladder at C&P. He served as West Virginia’s state Vice President and led the growth of the company’s net income by $10.3 million in less than four years. He was promoted to Vice President for Information Systems in 1983, Vice President for Finance and Special Assignment for the greater Bell Atlantic company in 1986, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for C&P Telephone Companies in 1989, President and CEO of Bell Atlantic International in 1990, and Vice President of Operations and Engineering of Bell Atlantic in 1992. He retired from his last job (that was similar to being a chief engineer) in 1995.
The last two jobs represented two of the top positions at Bell Atlantic. “I held two of the jobs I most wanted in my career. When the time came for my retirement, I was more ready than I realized,” he says. However, his retirement just allowed him to redirect his energies. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Goodwin House, a church-related retirement community, and with a host of activities with Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. He led the volunteer efforts of the engineering alumni in the last capital campaign that exceeded its goal for the College of Engineering by some 33 percent and directed the marketing committee for the college. He was named the College’s Distinguished Alumnus in 1998. He received its Distinguished Service Award in 2002.
JoAnna, his wife of 43 years, passed away after a long illness in 1999. He has four children: Cliff Tucker, Jr., of Washington, D.C.; David Tucker of Mooresville, North Carolina; Brenda Tucker of San Francisco; and Matthew Tucker of Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.
Class of: 1956
Year Inducted into Academy: 2003