ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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ECE Alum Turns Novelist

Cover of Reunion

Reunion by Jim George

After a long and successful career in the semiconductor industry, Jim George (EE '64) published his debut novel, Reunion, last month.

Borrowing from his experiences growing up in Appalachia, George crafted a compelling coming-of-age story of a narrator who navigates high school in West Virginia during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The book deals with the complex themes of desegregation in a small town community, the culture clash of a family composed of both prim Virginians and casual Kentuckians, and the effects of alcoholism on a father-son relationship.

Creative writing is a change from George's professional background in engineering. After receiving his bachelor's degree at Virginia Tech and his master's at Arizona State University, George spent 38 years working in the semiconductor industry. Most of his career was spent at Motorola, where he filled several positions, including General Manager of the Imaging and Storage Division and Director of Strategy for the Wireless Systems Group. Most notably, George served as Corporate Vice President for 15 years until he retired in 2002.

Though he was working halfway across the country in Austin, Tex., George made it a priority to maintain ties to his alma mater. He served as the executive liaison to Virginia Tech in its partnership with Motorola Semiconductors. In this role, he supported corporate recruitment programs, cooperative research initiatives, and equipment donations.

Photograph of Jim George

Jim George

George was also a member of the Virginia Tech Microelectronics Industrial Advisory Board, which was integral in guiding the 2000 construction of a new undergraduate teaching laboratory in Whittemore Hall. The laboratory was designed to enable education on microchip fabrication so that a minor in microelectronics engineering could be added to ECE curriculum.

In addition to these positions, George served as the chair of both the College of Engineering Advisory Board and the Microelectronics Committee. He was also a founding member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board, serving from 1991- 1997 and functioning as the chair in 1994.

In 2004, George was recognized for his success in the engineering field and his commitment to the university by being elected to the College of Engineering's Academy of Engineering Excellence.

Upon his induction, George spoke of the personal and professional impact of his education at Virginia Tech: "I really respected the honor code...and I think I graduated with a strong sense of integrity. I am sure that I have made my share of mistakes, but I have remained totally honest, and have valued the integrity at Tech a great, great deal."

"I loved my education at VT, and would not have traded it or the school for anything."

George and his wife will leave their legacy at Virginia Tech through the George Family Scholarship. By basing selection for this award on merit, he hopes to "attract and support the best students to Electrical and Computer Engineering."

"I liked the industry, but found a passion in writing," says George, who turned to writing from a successful career in engineering as he explored his own story. "There was a story in there, a story that was, to me, serious and unfulfilled," he says.

George describes his first manuscript, written with a ball-point pen, as "a monstrosity, a script of 192,000 words." Nineteen revisions later, "the critter was honed to 86,000 words." It didn't become computerized until the revisions process. George was impacted by Homer Hickham's novel "The Rocket Boys," which although different in many ways, "is a great story with some similar parallels," he says.

George's associates at Virginia Tech have shown a deep interest in his writing. The reviews of Paul Torgersen, president emeritus, and Bill Stephenson, dean emeritus for the College of Engineering, are featured on its back cover.

"Jim George clearly displays a creative and engaging style that holds the reader's attention and causes the reader to think back on his own life," Stephenson wrote. "This is a wonderful book, written with great sensitivity, and is deserving of a very wide readership."