Challenging education spurs alumnus’ varied career, inspires him to give back

Written by Erica Corder –

John Grizzard – Virginia Tech

John Grizzard walked into his final engineering exam at Virginia Tech three days before his graduation in 1985. With the diploma so close, he and his classmates hoped the professor might take it easy on them.

“We’re all seniors in the class and we’re all thinking, ‘oh, we’re all going to graduate, this is going to be an easy exam, the professor is going to let us get through,’” Grizzard said. “And we were absolutely wrong.”

He passed, of course, but not without learning something he still values today as president of Modesto, California-based defense supply manufacturing company Westland Technologies.

“All the way to the end, Virginia Tech pressed us hard, they pushed us, they never made it easy. One thing it taught me was until you finish something completely, you’re never done,” Grizzard said.

Throughout his career, the electrical engineering alumnus has taken the lesson to heart.

Grizzard has worked across the full spectrum of the electromagnetics field, specifically focusing on radar. He’s done research and development for the Navy, worked at DARPA on a new ship program leading survivability design, run consulting companies, and now, at Westland, leads a manufacturing company.

“So at the end of my career I’ll be able to say I really did everything: from the acquisition program management, to the research and development, to actually making the products,” Grizzard said.

It was the rigor of the education he received at Virginia Tech that Grizzard says prepared him for …

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