June 17, 2015
Tech athletics department to honor longtime employees
Endowed scholarships have been established for Sharon McCloskey, Lu Merritt and Dave Smith

BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech Athletics Department announced plans to endow scholarships in the names of Dave Smith, Sharon McCloskey and Lu Merritt, three longtime employees who have retired or are retiring this month.

Smith worked in athletics communications for nearly 40 years before retiring on June 1. McCloskey began a 30-year career as a football office receptionist before rising to the rank of senior associate athletics director, and she retired on June 11. Merritt has worked for the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund – better known as the “Hokie Club” – for 21 years, helping raise money for scholarships and facilities. He will be retiring on June 30.

The Dave and Debbie Smith Student-Athlete Endowed Scholarship will go to undergraduate student-athletes participating in any sport at Tech with a preference to those who demonstrate an interest in communication or broadcast journalism, or in mathematics, as Debbie Smith serves as a math instructor at Tech. The Sharon McCloskey Student-Athlete Endowed Scholarship will go to undergraduate student-athletes participating in women’s athletics programs at Tech. The Lu Merritt Student-Athlete Endowed Scholarship will go to undergraduate student-athletes participating in any sport, with a preference for men’s or women’s tennis.

“We’re certainly sad to see them leave us, but wish them all the best in their retirements,” Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said. “We also thank them for their tremendous service to the athletics department over the years, and more importantly, for their friendships.

“All three of these individuals have performed their jobs with integrity and professionalism, and they are great examples to others in their professions. It is only fitting that we honor their longevity, their careers and the manner in which they conducted themselves by endowing scholarships in their names.”

These scholarships continue the department’s philosophy of honoring longtime employees. Two years ago, the department endowed the Lester Karlin Athletics Endowed Scholarship, which goes to students at Tech, with a preference for managers participating in the athletics equipment room. Karlin worked in Tech’s equipment room for 36 years before retiring last year. He still works in the room on a part-time basis.

Also, the department announced in April the establishing of the Bill Roth Student-Athlete Endowed Scholarship, which goes to undergraduate student-athletes participating in any sport at Virginia Tech, with a preference to those who demonstrate an interest in communication or broadcast journalism. Roth left Tech in April after 27 years as the school’s radio play-by-play voice to take the same position at UCLA.

For those wishing to make additional contributions toward any of these endowments, please contact the Hokie Club office at 540-231-6618.

Smith, a native of Roanoke, Virginia, came to Tech in 1975 after working two years for the Franklin News Post, a newspaper in Franklin County, Virginia. He worked as an assistant at Tech for 23 years before being promoted to top spot after Jack Williams retired in 1998. He oversaw the office for the final 17 years of his career, working mostly with the baseball and football programs. He handled all of head football coach Frank Beamer’s media obligations during that span.

Smith retired as one of the most respected individuals in the profession. The College Sports Information Directors of America honored Smith with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual convention in Orlando, Florida, on June 15. The Virginia Sports Information Directors presented Smith with a Distinguished Service Award in 2013.

McCloskey, a Falls Church, Virginia, native worked on the grounds crew as an undergraduate at Tech (1975-79) – helping to re-sod the turf at Lane Stadium at one point – and went on to become the No. 2 person in the athletics department, receiving special recognition in 2012 when the department inducted her into the school’s Hall of Fame.

McCloskey got a full-time job in the department in 1984 when she was hired as the football office receptionist. From there, she rose up the ranks to recruiting secretary and then senior woman administrator. In 1988, she became the first woman in college athletics to hold the position of recruiting coordinator at the Division I level. Then-AD Dave Braine named McCloskey an assistant AD in 1992 and promoted her in 1995 to senior associate AD. She served as the interim AD when Braine left for the AD position in Georgia Tech in 1997.

Under Babcock, she served as the sport administrator for football, women's basketball, women’s soccer and lacrosse. She also oversaw the areas of strength and conditioning, sports medicine and the equipment room, in addition to numerous other duties.

Merritt, a Roanoke, Virginia, native, played tennis at Tech and graduated in 1968. He served a 14-month tour in Vietnam after graduation before returning to Southwest Virginia and working in the banking industry for more than 20 years.

In 1994, he decided to apply for the position as the leader of Tech’s athletics development office. He landed the job, and over the course of Merritt’s career at Tech, the scope of athletics fundraising has grown by more than 600 percent. Major projects on which Merritt played a key fundraising role included expansions to Lane Stadium and construction of the Hahn-Hurst Basketball Practice Center, Schott Media Center, Football Locker Room Facility, and the new indoor practice facility.

The National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD) named Merritt a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award and honored him Tuesday at the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup luncheon held in conjunction with the 50th annual NACDA Convention at the World Center Marriott Resort in Orlando, Florida.

All three plan to remain in the area during their retirements. Merritt and Smith live in Blacksburg, while McCloskey – who will work part time for Tech’s Monogram Club going forward – lives at Claytor Lake.

For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter

HokieSports Shop