The Virginia Tech College of Science recently inducted five new members into its Hall of Distinction.

Started in 2013, the Hall of Distinction ceremony honors alumni and friends of the college who have excelled in their professional careers as well as in their service and philanthropy to civic groups and the university itself. Honorees also have served as mentors, advisors, and employers of student interns and new graduates and have assisted in defining the college’s mission to pursue science excellence.

This year’s event brings the total number of Hall of Distinction members to 44. This year’s honorees are Lewis L. Lanier, Kathryn Parker Martin, Benjamin Zion Stallings II, Paul M. Thorn, and James D. Watkins.

Lewis L. Lanier earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1975. After earning his doctoral degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Lanier joined the faculty of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), in 1999. Today, he is the American Cancer Society Professor and the J. Michael Bishop M.D. Distinguished Professor and Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. His research group studies “natural killer” cells, which recognize and eliminate cells that have become transformed or infected by viruses. He is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as president of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), receiving the AAI Excellence in Mentoring Award and was later named an AAI Distinguished Fellow. Lanier is a member of Virginia Tech’s Legacy Society.   

Kathryn Parker Martin earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975. After earning an MBA with a specialty in finance while working for United Virginia Bankshares, Martin pursued a job with a niche insurance agency in Tysons, Virginia, specializing in insurance programs for members of trade and professional associations backed by Lloyd’s of London. She worked her way up to managing partner. Following the sale of that business, Martin has been an active leader in her community, serving as a volunteer with several Fairfax and Reston government agencies, taking on tasks as varied as registered wildlife steward, transportation planning committees, and redevelopment initiatives. Martin currently serves as an election administrator and special projects facilitator for the Fairfax County Office of Elections. She is the current chair and a long-time member of the College of Science Dean’s Roundtable Advisory Board and previously served as a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Roundtable, which was restructured in 2003. Martin volunteers for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions as an essay reader and is a member of the university’s Legacy Society and Pylon Society.

Benjamin Z. Stallings II earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1984. Stallings is a board-certified radiologist who currently serves as director of the Department of Imaging at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Maryland, where he has worked for 30 years. He is also president and CEO of Diagnostic Imaging Associates, a radiology practice. Stallings is a member of several medical associations and has served on numerous boards including the Dimension Health Systems, the Prince George’s County Medical Society, and the Maryland State Medical Society, where he served as president of from 2018-19. Stallings is currently chairman of Unity Insurance Board. In his local community, Stallings supports various organizations that primarily address preventive health concerns and also mentors at-risk youth. He coached Amateur Athletic Union Basketball for 10 years, winning two top-three finishes at the AAU National Championship Tournament. At Virginia Tech, he established the Dr. Benjamin Stallings ’84 and Kimberly Stallings Endowed Scholarship, is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, and previously served on the Virginia Tech Foundation Board

Paul M. Thorn earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1976. Thorn enjoyed a successful career with the City of Annapolis, serving as its chief information officer for 30 years. He helped lead the city through the computer revolution, an effort that contributed to Annapolis being recognized as the fifth-ranked digital city in the U.S. by the International City/County Management Association. A second-generation Hokie, Thorn was a founding member of the College of Arts and Sciences Roundtable Advisory Board and remains active on the College of Science Roundtable. He also serves on the Roundtable Scholarship Interview Committee and is a reviewer for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He supports the Paul and Martha Thorn Beyond Boundaries Scholarship in Science. He is a member of the university’s Ut Prosim Society, Legacy Society, 1872 Society, and Pylon Society. Thorn is a long-time Road Runners Club of America certified running coach and currently serves as the 5K class head coach for the Annapolis Striders local running club, where he was recently named “Strider of the Year.”

James D. Watkins earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1971. After earning a doctoral dental surgery degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University-Medical College of Virginia Dental School, Watkins began as an active duty officer in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, where he worked for 22 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves, retiring as a captain in 2002. His career as a dentist has spanned more than 45 years. Watkins has held multiple leadership positions and broken many barriers, including serving as the first African American to be president of the Virginia State Board of Dentistry, where he served five terms. He is a fellow in several dentistry organizations, including the Virginia Dental Association. His awards include the 2022 Virginia Tech Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2022 Old Dominion Dental Society Dentist of the Year Award, and the 2010 Virginia Tech Most Influential Black Alumnus Award. He is involved with numerous professional and civic organizations and has served Virginia Tech as a member of the Minority Advisory Committee for the Board of Visitors, the Black Alumni Reunion committee, and is a member of the university’s Pylon Society.