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Distinguished Alumni 2020

Robert A. Archer ’69 (left) and Donald D. Sowder ‘59 (right)
Robert A. Archer ’69 (left) and Donald D. Sowder ‘59

This year’s recipients of the Distinguished Alumni of the Corps award found success in both the military and in business and showed the difference a commitment to service can make in their communities.

Donald D. Sowder ‘59 and Robert A. Archer ‘69 were recognized for their achievements during the virtual Corps Celebration Week in September.

Archer is chairman and CEO of Blue Ridge Beverage Co. Inc. The company is one of the largest, full-service wholesale beverage distributors in Virginia.

Archer commissioned into the U.S. Army and served with the 82nd Airborne Division, including service in Vietnam with the 22nd Replacement Battalion. He attained the rank of colonel and retired from the Army Reserve in 1999 after 30 years of service.

Alongside that, he has participated in numerous charities and community organizations, including those benefiting the military and their families, and is currently the rector of Radford University’s Board of Visitors.

Sowder is a retired pharmaceutical industry executive with Lederle/Wyeth Laboratories (now part of Pfizer Labs). 

He worked his way up the ranks to national sales management, earning worldwide responsibility for all U.S. government business and all federal healthcare agencies in Washington, D.C.

In the Army, he served one active duty tour, then transferred to the Virginia National Guard and later to the Army Reserve, where he finished his 30-year career at the rank of colonel as the inspector general at the U.S. Military Academy.

He has remained active in local government, including serving on the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. And he joined the Corps of Cadets’ alumni board in its early years. He helped develop a recruitment-training manual and served as the Government Affairs Task Force chairman.