Technology Hall of Fame
The RBTC Hall of Fame award recognizes a person that has made a lasting impact on the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. These individuals have a meaningful connection to the region and encompass the spirit of integrity and innovation that serves as an inspiration to other companies and entrepreneurs. The honor is presented at TechNite – our annual celebration of the technology community.
Russ Ellis has been a regional technology entrepreneur for over 25 years. In 1991, Russ founded Data Systems Consulting (DSC), a software development company based in Roanoke, VA. The company developed FASTFORMS, an electronic forms automation system for the Insurance and Financial Services Industry, which provided fillable forms with built-in intelligence, and distributed via CD-ROM and the Internet.
In 1997, DSC merged with InSystems Technologies, Inc., a Toronto based document management company also serving the insurance market. InSystems Techologies was acquired by Standard Register Company, a NASDAQ listed company, in July of 2002.
Since that time, Russ has been engaged in a variety of businesses including manufacturing Bloody Mary mixes for national distribution and web based social media development. While serving on the board of a local EdTech company, Interactive Achievement, Russ ‘volunteered’ to move to London to start up the company’s international office to begin executing on their global expansion plans. In early 2016 Russ wound down operations in the UK and he and his wife Kelly moved back to Roanoke in May 2016. Currently, Russ is President of Common Wealth Growth Group, a regional investment firm focused on funding and growing regional technology companies.
Dr. Joe Meredith
Dr. Joe Meredith President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC) in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he has served in that role since 1993. What began as a vision, today the CRC consists of over 180 research, technology and support companies that employ over 3,000 people in 33 buildings totaling over 1 million square feet of space. Dr. Meredith is a pillar in our technology community and well known for all that he has accomplished professionally and has done to help our technology community flourish over the years. He has been an integral part of the collaboration, growth and success of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region and continues to be a progressive thought leader. Dr. Meredith has served on numerous boards of civic and professional organizations and his leadership style is best embodied by a popular saying his staff loves to here him say, “Here’s how we run this organization. We simply do the right thing. Then everything else works out just fine.”
Leon Harris is President of Keltech, Inc., an electronic contract manufacturing company located in Roanoke, Virginia. He comes from a humble beginning in Floyd County is a graduate of Virginia Tech in electrical engineering. Prior to embarking on his business career, he was a combat engineering officer in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. His career started at GE building parts for locomotives. Later he was involved in two start-up businesses making small electric components. He was also part owner of a radio broadcasting company. His success has afforded him time and capital to help others with business and venture capital. One of his most rewarding roles has been the launch of RBTC formerly the NCTC. His dedication to serving the public through his work on school boards, education foundations and bank boards makes him a deserving recipient of this honor. He served on the RBTC Board of Directors for many years and now serves on our Advisory Board.
Mary Miller is president and founder of Interactive Design and Development, Inc. (IDD), an award-winning information technology firm in Blacksburg. Under her leadership and guidance, IDD has created multimedia products, web design and development, interactive touch screen kiosks, and custom information technology solutions for a wide range of organizations, including many Fortune 500 companies. She has served on many boards and advisory committees, including Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering’s Committee of 100, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Advisory Board and the Dean’s Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for the Department of Computer Science, the Virginia 4-H Foundation’s Board and will be its next president. She was recently inducted into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Academy of Excellence, joining an elite group of 97 individuals out of 55,000 living engineering alumni. Last May, she was named the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumna and was recently presented with the 2014 Business Woman of the Year Award. She has served as past President of the RBTC.
Tracy is the co-founder of TechLab, currently serving as Chairman of the Board. He has been recognized internationally for his research on intestinal diseases and disorders and innovative work developing diagnostic tests for these diseases. Tracy was the 2013 recipient of Virginia Tech’s University Distinguished Achievement Award and has made significant contributions to the region as a scientist, educator and entrepreneur.
Ray Pethtel was the first RBTC president when the organization was known as the NCTC. He was instrumental in launching the organization. Ray has 25 years of experience in transportation policy and operations. He has served as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as chairman and vice chairman of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Ray has been a fearless leader in the technology community and has served as an ambassador for this region for years.
Vinod Chachra is an internationally recognized lecturer and consultant in the field of information system planning. For several years he served as the Senior Consultant for NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.) Beginning in 1975, he designed the original software that in 1980 became Virginia Tech Library System (now called VTLS). In 1985, in partnership with VTIP (Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties) he founded VTLS Inc. which provides state-of-the-art library automation systems to more than 1900 libraries in 43 countries worldwide. VTLS was the first tenant of the Corporate Research Center more than 25 years ago and is still the biggest employer. After earning his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Virginia Tech, Dr. Chachra served that university in many capacities. From 1972 to 1985 he successively assumed roles of Director of Software Development, Director of Computing and Information Systems, Vice Provost and then Vice President of Computing and Information Systems. During his career, Dr. Chachra received many honors and awards. Most recently, in 2012, he was in the first group of inductees for the Virginia Tech Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.
Bonz Hart founded Meridium in 1993 with the vision of helping the world’s asset-intensive industries improve availability and reduce unplanned events through effective asset performance management. To help meet client needs worldwide, he leverages his years of experience: in industry, from working for other industrial software providers, and consulting to many Fortune 500 companies. Today, he leads a unique worldwide company that is committed to protecting people, our planet, and client profits/jobs by continually expanding the ways that Meridium software and services can help companies improve and manage the performance of their production assets. Bonz is committed to serving Meridium employees so they can effectively support the success of their clients.