Advancing his college, and his profession
Billy Almond was right on track. He had a near perfect grade point average and was playing Division I soccer and lacrosse while working toward a degree in a subject he loved: landscape architecture.
But heading into his third year in Virginia Tech's five-year landscape architecture program, financial issues at home made Almond doubt he could complete his degree. He approached a professor, who had been his mentor, with some sad news.
"I went to Ben Johnson and said 'I can't come back. I'll not be able to do this,'" Almond recalls. "Ben basically worked with the college to come up with some scholarship money."
When Almond and a fellow landscape architect student started a business doing landscape construction on the side, Johnson also helped them find work.
"We were building decks, arbors, driveways," Almond recalls. "I think we built something for virtually every faculty member in the college of architecture. ... If I didn't have that work, I don't think I would have been able to afford school. The school did a lot for me even beyond academics. People really bent over backwards to enable me to stay in, from a financial standpoint."
Almond graduated in 1978. Today, he is vice president and managing principal at WPL, a surveying, civil engineering, and landscape architecture practice based in Virginia Beach, the town where he grew up and still lives.
Almond has remained highly involved in his college as both a volunteer and a philanthropist. He served for years on the Department of Landscape Architecture Advisory Board. More recently, he became the first landscape architect to serve on the advisory board for the School of Architecture + Design.
Almond has given regularly to a variety of university programs for decades, and his firm recently made a very generous pledge of support to the landscape architecture department.
"I just have a passion for the school," Almond says. "It was a life-changing event for me, my time in Blacksburg, and I'm just trying to give back to the school."
After graduating he started work for Shriver and Holland Associates Architects, and was involved in several projects on the Virginia Tech campus for that firm, including the design of the plaza atop Burchard Hall (where he is pictured above).
Along with being a major supporter of the landscape architecture program at Virginia Tech, Almond is a strong advocate for his profession as a whole, having chaired a committee that successfully advocated for licensure for landscape architects in Virginia. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the state chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for his role in that initiative.
Almond says he's always loved the outdoors, and his family worked in the construction industry, so landscape architecture was a natural fit for him.
"It married the two interests of mine, the built environment and the natural environment," he explains.