Story of the Virginia Interscholastic Association (VIA)


Read about some distinguished students in the Hall of Fame.

The VIA provided advanced academic opportunities for students who excelled in mathematics and science. There were organized science and math competitions held through a rotating system at Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, Hampton, and St. Paul’s College.

Students were given the opportunity to display their academic skills in chemistry, algebra, physics and biology. There were tests and quizzes given at competitions as well as presentations.  The VIA set rules and responsibilities for teachers in preparing the tests, receiving fees from districts, supervising test taking, and sending test results to schools and universities.

The Executive Committee wanted to make a concerted effort to make sure every student in the state could compete and foster an environment for students to continue excelling in math and science. The qualifications for competing in math and science conferences were often rigorous and students worked hard to do well in the competitions.

Hall of Fame

National Honor Society Conference 1968 - Unknown Photographer.JPG

Distinguished Students


Mary N. Smith High
Accomack County (1958) Aviation


This aviation pioneer was an honor student who graduated third in the class of 1958 at Mary N. Smith High. A Reserve Officer Training Corps graduate of Virginia State University (VSU), he entered the U. S. Army as a second lieutenant in 1962. At a time when few African Americans were army pilots he expressed a desire to attend flight school. After his third rejection as an applicant, he was told that he lacked the “mental dexterity” to be a pilot. He later completed both fixed and rotary wing officer aviation flight training. During his first tour in Vietnam he flew UH-1 Huey Helicopters and was assigned as personal pilot for General William Westmorland, Commander of all U.S. Forces in Vietnam. During his military career he received two Distinguished Service Crosses, three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. Retiring from the army in 1983, Colonel Bailey went to work for Continental Airways where he was asked to help recruit minority and women pilots. Today he is recognized for training more than 1,000 pilots, including about 200 African-Americans. He continues to mentor students through programs supported by the Organization of Black Airline Pilots. He has been a major fund raiser for the former St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, VA and established the Bailey Family Endowment at VSU. He has been selected to the VSU Sports Hall of Fame, the VSU ROTC Hall of Fame and the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.


Crestwood High
Chesapeake (1960)
Science and Technology


Dr. Earls is a 1960 Graduate of Crestwood High in Chesapeake, Va. He graduated from Norfolk State College (now University) in 1964 with a B. S. in Physics; University of Rochester in 1965 with a M.S. in Radiation Biology, and the University of Michigan in 1973 with a Ph.D. in Radiation Physics. He also received an M.S. in Management Development from the Harvard Business School. He began his career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1965. In October 2003, Dr. Earls was appointed Director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC) at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. As Director his responsibilities included research in technology and systems development for space programs. In this position, he managed a budget of $740 million and more than 3,000 personnel. In one year he awarded over $180 million in contracts to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic Serving Institutions. Dr. Earls is co-founder of the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology which awards scholarships to students who attend HBCUs. In tribute to his wife, he established the Zenobia N. Earls Scholarship, which is presented to students who attend Howard University and Norfolk State University. Among his many awards, he was presented the Golden Torch Award by the National Society of Black Engineers and the Man of Achievement Award by 100 Black Men


Southside High
Dinwiddie County (1966)


Dr. Ragsdale is a 1966 honors graduate of Southside High School in Dinwiddie County. She holds a B.A. degree in journalism from the American University, an M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and a J.D. degree from Columbia University. A Middle East specialist and fluent in French and Arabic, Ambassador Ragsdale began her Foreign Service career in 1984. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs selected her to head its Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa in 1999. In 2003, she was nominated to be Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In 2007 she led the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Disarmament Commission and in 2009, served as Deputy Head of the U.S. delegation to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting in New York. Ambassador Ragsdale retired in 2013 and is now working on a memoir of her 30-year career. In retirement, she supports two professional ballet companies in the Washington D.C. area and collects American antiques. In 2006 the Town of McKenney, in Dinwiddie County, VA, celebrated her accomplishments by naming “Marguerita D. Ragsdale Street.”