Doc Benoit – Omega

Robert E. “Doc” Benoit passed away on November 18, 2020.

Doc joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1962, was inducted into Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence in 2002 as he received the William E. Wine Award, and was also recognized by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as Virginia Professor of the Year. He served as pre-med advisor, mentoring the next generation of scientists who have become distinguished teachers, researchers, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, and other health professionals.

Doc became convinced of the value of of the Greek system when he became a brother of Lambda Iota Society, the University of Vermont’s first Greek community and the oldest local student society in the nation.

Joe Kincheloe invited Doc so serve as faculty advisor to Sigma Omega Tau in 1965 and he served our fraternity continually since that time. He guided our transition to Lambda Chi Alpha and remained a role model, advisor, and mentor for 55 years, guiding over 500 brothers to become contributing members of their communities. At our 60th reunion, Woody Kessler presented Doc with a Resolution of Appreciation from Governor Ralph S. Northam.

Doc was born in Enosburg, Vermont. He attended a one-room school in Enosburg Center with teachers exacting some of the highest standards of public school education.

He was a lifelong learner and earned the following degrees in order to prepare his future students:

  • 1956 B.S. Agronomy, University of Vermont
  • 1960 M.S. Soil Physics, Rutgers University
  • 1964 Ph.D. Environmental Microbiology, Rutgers University

For 40 years, Doc and his students pursued their interests in microbial ecology of subsurface ecosystems, physiology of microaerophilic and psychrophilic bacteria, and microbial degradation of recalcitrant natural products and synthetic compounds. One of his more rewarding career experiences has been inspiring students as a teacher in such classes as General Microbiology, Microbiology of Aquatic Systems, and Biomedical Ethics. His dedication to teaching these and other classes, as well as advising, has led to numerous awards: Biology Department Teaching (1996), Biology Department Advising (1996,1997), Alumni University Teaching Award (1984), Arts & Sciences Teaching Excellence Award (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1984), Wine Award (2002). Doc served on the Academy of Teaching Excellence continuously since 1984. In 2002 he was also awarded the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Virginia Professor of the Year. In the Biology Department, he served as Assistant Professor of Microbiology (1962-66), Associate Professor of Microbiology (1966-2002), and Assistant Biology Department Head (1992-2002). Doc was promoted to Associate Professor Emeritus in 2002.

After retirement, he continued teaching General Microbiology and Biomedical Ethics, as well as participating annually in the American Society of Microbiologists In addition to his continued involvement with the fraternity, he was also active with the Blacksburg Master Chorale, Opera Roanoke and was a Trustee of Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library. (Source: Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences)

Click for more information on Lambda Iota.

Please read his obituary.

Please submit a memory of Doc to share with others on our site by clicking on the Comments link below and entering your memory in the Leave a Reply box.

2 thoughts on “Doc Benoit – Omega

  • Doc was such an incredible man who had an impact on hundreds of students. I still remember a few of his microbiology lectures. One in particular I will never forget. We were learning about water sanitation and he asked the class “How many of you were partying in Radford last night?”. Several people raised their hands. “And how many of you showered and drank from the tap this morning?”. Most of the class raised their hands. He said “the water in the toilets you puked and pooped in last night in Radford is the same water you showered with and drank this morning before class…hope Radford’s microbiology is on point”. HAHAHA! He had everyone’s attention after that. I also remember spending many days sitting in his office talking about life, fraternity, and getting into dental school. He was one of the most consistent people I have ever known. To have that much patience for a bunch of drunk kids for so many years…amazing. So sorry he left like that but sounds like in the end it was on his terms.

    Jesse Harris ’00 ΣΛ429

    Photo Circa 1998

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  • Doc was like the wise old owl he kept in his office (the mascot of his fraternity Lambda Iota). I spent many a day in his office seeking guidance in my studies and advice on life. He never failed to make time for me. It has been 20 years since I last saw Doc, but I can still close my eyes and see that infectious smile and awful comb-over. He was a great man, and I will miss him.

    Eddie Powers (1987) ƩΛ 182

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