In 1954, while working for Babcock & Wilcox, John W. Landis made his first visit to what was then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. His purpose was to gather evidence to support an initial decision to locate the company’s Atomic Energy Division in Lynchburg. Thanks in part to the information he included in his formal report to the Babcock & Wilcox Board of Directors, the move was approved.
That visit also made a great impact on Landis personally. After graduating from Lafayette College, he had promised himself that he would help future generations of young people have the opportunity for the same kind of eye-opening experiences. Touring the R-MWC campus revived that resolution, and he began saving money for what he considered to be a fundamental duty.
After Babcock & Wilcox opened its facility, Landis became increasingly involved with the College. He served on president’s advisory committees from 1958 to 1969 and on the Board of Trustees from 1963 to 1991. He was chairman of the Board for 13 years. His daughter, Maureen, graduated from the College in 1967.
In the 1970s, he endowed scholarships at his alma mater, R-MWC, and the American Nuclear Society. He continued to establish and fund scholarships until 2010. At Randolph, he has also funded the Creative Writing Program and Summer Research. Now 94 and living in Roanoke, Virginia, he has financially supported the College for more than 38 years, giving more than $500,000 during that time.
“I realized years ago that civilization will not improve unless adults help future generations of young people financially,” he said.
His desire to make a difference in the world also played a part in what would become a 70-year career in the nuclear industry. A Navy officer who took part in the invasion of Normandy, Landis was at home in the United States when he learned of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those events prompted him to shift his career to the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The nuclear power industry was in its early stages, and Landis quickly became a respected leader. He managed the nuclear segments of several large companies and served on more than 30 government boards, commissions, committees, and task forces. He earned numerous awards, including the American National Standards Institute’s Howard Coonley Medal and the American Nuclear Society’s Weinberg Medal.
“John Landis has devoted his life to making the world a better place,” said John E. Klein, Randolph’s president. “Here at Randolph, his support has significantly impacted the lives of students and faculty. He is an amazing individual, and we are grateful for his longtime support.”