College of Natural Resources and Environment: What have you been doing since you graduated?

Don Bright: I married my college sweetheart, Kimberly, and we have raised two wonderful children. Morgan, our oldest, is passionate about eliminating single-use plastics and is a first-year student in CNRE. Preston is a high school junior.

I went to work with Morgan Lumber Company directly out of college and fell in love with the industry and the rapidly-changing manufacturing technology. Owner Ken Morgan was a great mentor who encouraged me to grow within and outside the company. I am currently a deacon of our church, treasurer of the board of directors for our local hospital, and chairman of the Virginia Forest Products Association.

After 12 years with Morgan Lumber Company, Ken was key in helping me make the decision to start Meherrin River Forest Products with three Hokies: Vance ’94 and Laurie Wright ’96 and Gary Robertson ’93. We purchased a small hardwood sawmill in Brunswick County, Virginia, and, ten years later, the company has grown to 135 employees, with three sawmill locations and two lumber drying facilities. We now sell lumber all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and South America. 

I served on the Virginia Board of Forestry from 2012-20, participating in the development of a hardwood reforestation program that will ensure healthy, valuable hardwood resources for generations.

CNRE: What is your fondest memory?

Bright: The small group of “wood people” who went to class together, studied together, played together, and graduated together. One memory that jumps out is a group presentation for our Wood Chemistry class. We were instructed to write our names on the board before we started our presentation. When we returned to our seats, my "buddies" looked like they were going to die laughing. I asked my classmate Dan Cumbo ’98, ’99 what they were laughing at and he just pointed at the board, where I had left off the last letter of my last name. These guys still call me "Don Brigh."

CNRE: What is the most amazing thing that you did or learned?

Bright: Fred Lamb was instrumental in my education and understanding of sustainability. In his Wood Utilization in the World class, I learned that the forest products industry is the cornerstone to any path that leads to a sustainable world. This realization has created a sense of pride in what I can do in this truly “green” industry.

CNRE: What professors inspired you?

Bright: Audrey Zink Sharp gave us a firm foundation in wood science. Bob Smith taught us marketing and sales principles. Earl Kline taught us about mechanical properties of wood. Joe Loferski provided us with a passion for wood and wood as a building material. Mark White taught us the principles of wood processing, drying, log scaling, and lumber grading. All of these courses were crucial to my career and success.

CNRE: If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would tell your undergraduate self?

Bright: Soak it all in, relax a little more, share your faith, and take some pictures, because these are some of the best days of your life.