Inaugural Address

by Thomas Marshall Hahn, Jr.

April 4, 1963

Rector Rice, Governor Harrison, Mr. Secretary, Members of the Board of Visitors, Members of the Platform Party, Distinguished Delegates, Members of the Faculty, the Student Body, Alumni, and Friends of VPI:

It is with a deep sense of humility that I accept this charge and formally accept the awesome responsibility of presiding over this institution. I solemnly affirm I will serve faithfully, dedicating all of my energies, all of my abilities, and all of my devotion to the continued advancement of VPI. I pray for the guidance, the strength, and the courage required to give the quality of leadership the fine citizens of Virginia are entitled to expect and require for their land-grant university, with its programs of instruction, research, and extension so vital to the continued forward progress of the Commonwealth.

May I acknowledge with pleasure and with gratitude the greetings expressed by the various participants on the program on behalf of so many friends of VPI. While I cannot help valuing personally these warm messages, in a much larger sense they represent expressions of affection, loyalty, and respect for all that VPI means.

It is a pleasure to thank Secretary Hodges and Governor Harrison for taking time from their busy schedules to grace and enrich this program today by their presence and participation, which add so greatly to the significance of this occasion for all of us.

I also wish to recognize the members of the General Assembly, the distinguished leaders from across the state and nation, alumni, faculty, students, and friends who honor VPI today by their presence.

Finally, may I express my deepest appreciation to Dean Bell, Chairman of the Inaugural Committee, and to the various members of the Committee, for their long and diligent efforts in effecting all of the arrangements for the Inauguration.

These exercises of ancient tradition are being held today after I have completed nearly a year in office. Perhaps this delay in formal installation has become traditional in higher education to determine whether the marriage between President and institution can long endure. It certainly makes clearer the magnitude of arduous responsibilities one has accepted and can only deepen his dedication, devotion, and duty to the university.

Certainly my pre-inaugural service has enriched my appreciation for the strengths of VPI developed under the leadership of my predecessors. It has added to the enthusiasm with which I formally accept my responsibilities and to the honor I experience in having the privilege of standing in the distinguished line of men who have presided over VPI.

This first year has been challenging but satisfying. I wish publicly to express my deep appreciation for the confidence and support given during this period by our distinguished Governor and his aides and associates, by all of my colleagues here at VPI, and by all friends of the university.

At the same time, I must point to the major challenges faced by the institution today and in the years to come, and I must call on you for greatly increased support and efforts on behalf of VPI.

Higher education is set down today in a different framework , a different environment, than was the case even a few years ago. Society is undergone rapid transition; we see an exploding population, a growth of knowledge, and an accelerating advancement of our technology. A higher institution today, particularly a land-grant university such as VPI, to which citizens of the State look for service, leadership, and the quality education of our youth, must be able to change to serve best; yet it must also preserve those components of traditional education which retain value.

Under the progressive leadership of our Governor, Virginia has embarked on a soundly conceived, rapidly expanding program of industrial development and economic growth. This institution not only has a major investment in this expanded economy from which must come the greater support for higher education of increasing quality for more and more young Virginians, but we also have a vital role in enlarging the reservoir of knowledge and knowledgeable personnel on which such economic growth is based.

The contribution must be made in a changing and advancing technology, reflecting the changed and increased needs of our times. Not many years ago, industrial expansion meant only more steel mills, more boiler factories, more heavy industry of various types. Our economy was largely based on manual productivity, education was chiefly classical, and society could afford the luxury of educating only a small portion of the population.

Today, we have seen such invasion of industry by science and technology that knowledge and educated people are valuable resources. The term 'knowledge-workers' has been coined to identify personnel who are neither labor nor management, who sell in our economy their knowledge and know-how rather than their manual efforts.

Industry today means not only heavy machinery but also such items as masers and lasers, liquid and solid propellants, transistors, digital and analog computers, inertial guidance systems, slip rings and torque motors, klystrons and synchrocyclotrons, and a host of other items non-existent even a few years ago. The time lag between the discovery of new knowledge and engineering application has essentially vanished. New knowledge today results overnight in new products, new processes, and new industries.

This accelerating advancement of our technology generates pressures which must be met by the instructional and research programs of educational institutions. Research and development activities result in new industries every day. The economic impact of research programs at leading doctoral degree-granting universities is rapidly increasing. VPI's programs of both basic and applied research not only must provide the instructional experience required for developing the next generation of research workers on whose efforts will depend the continuing advancement of our technology and growth of our knowledge capital on which today's industrial growth can be based. Our research programs must emphasize not only applied research answering the immediate problems of technology, but also basic research on which all applied research answering the immediate problems of technology, but also basic research on which all applied research is based and without which we should soon deplete our reservoir of fundamental knowledge.

We must respond in our instructional programs to the thought-provoking challenge of educating today's youth for careers in tomorrow's world in fields that do not yet exist. We must devise and strengthen education curricula which will generate maximum effort on the part of each student, with emphasis on excellence. We must view the objective of our educational program as not primarily the amassing of information, but as the enlargement of mental capacity so that the members of each graduating class can continue to learn and to develop intellectually as our total capital of knowledge and technology continues to grow.

For as Euripides has observed: "Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future."

In order to combat the tragic trends in today's society resulting in the erosion of individual responsibility and achievement, it is imperative that the emphasis in educational programs be centered on the development of each student to the maximum level of his capabilities with maximum recognition of the importance of individual achievement. This broader concept of education is expressed by John Milton when he says:

I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.

These pressures for greater emphasis on excellence are even more critical when viewed from the perspective of the greatly increased numbers of young people of college age in the years to come. These greater numbers must be accommodated, but not by dilution of the quality of educational opportunity available. These greater number of young people must be viewed not as problems but as our most precious assets, as investments which will yield the richest dividends.

The rate of growth which must be accommodated by Virginia's land-grant university is indeed striking when viewed in relationship to the first ninety years of the institution's history, itself a period characterized by amazing growth. Ninety years ago, Tech opened the doors of its one small, three-story brick building to a student body of 132 students taught by a faculty of 4, with an annual budget of $20,000. Today this institution, with the largest full-time enrollment in the state, enrolls at its central campus of more than 80 principal building valued in excess of 75 million dollars a student body of approximately 6,000; and the staff now numbers more than 2,000 persons actively engaged in significant programs of instruction, research, and extension. The annual budget has grown to more than 17 million dollars.

The institution is recognized today among the forefront of land-grant universities, emerging rapidly in increasing national distinction, multi-purpose, with the doctorate offered in numerous fields.

The College of Engineering is the seventh largest in the country, with its graduates among the most highly sought in the nation.

The College of Agriculture is the seventeenth largest in the country, and enjoys national prestige, with the members of the faculty constantly in demand as consultant scientists all over the world.

The programs in Architecture, Business Administration, and Arts and Sciences are rapidly growing in strength with an emphasis on excellence and a productivity in research which adds to the luster of the institution.

The instructional, research, and extension activities in Home Economics are unexcelled in this area of the country.

The Graduate School is the most rapidly growing component of the institution, and time cannot begin to permit a recital of all of the exciting research undertakings in which graduate students and faculty are currently engaged.

Particularly in relationship to the prodigious rate of development of VPI up to this time, it is almost impossible to comprehend the growth and development which must be achieved in the years to come.

Even with the growth of technical institutions and community colleges, with which VPI will be increasingly involved in the years to come, and in addition to the continuing education and extension programs which VPI must provide for a growing and more urban Virginia population, the resident enrollment at VPI in Blacksburg must more than double by 1975. This is the most conservative projection and assumes the same percentage of young people of college age seeking a higher education, and in fact we recognize this proportion will actually increase.

The frightening impact of these numbers becomes clear when it is noted that, even with continued increases in the efficiency of utilization of the physical plant, in little more than a decade as much physical plant must be added at VPI as has been developed in the entire previous history of the institution.

It is difficult to see how the funds can be provided for such growth, growth which must be effected in the face of equally strong pressures to retain and upgrade the excellence of programs.. It's hard to see how we can provide the cost of educational excellence. We should ask how we can afford the funds necessary for the level of faculty salaries required to attract and retain a distinguished faculty. The outstanding library which must be the center of a distinguished university is not easy to acquire. Significant amounts of funds are required for the buildings, laboratories, and complex scientific equipment necessary for educational excellence in today's technology.

We know, however, that the funds necessary for excellence must be secured, since, above all, we know we cannot afford the wasteful ineffectiveness of educational mediocrity. Nor can we fail to provide the necessary educational preparation for the increasing numbers of young persons entering our labor force, our greatest asset, if Virginia is rapidly to move forward with its economy.

These greater numbers of young people must receive the highest quality education simply to assure full employment. From 1960 to 1970, this country's labor force will have increased from 73,000,000 to 87,000,000 workers, an increase of 14,000,000. Forty-seven per cent of this increase in number of workers will be in the group who are less than 25, the age group from which jobs requiring minimal educational preparation are normally filled. Not only is this number of young workers increasing so very rapidly, but also the number of such jobs is declining as a result of increasing automation. In addition, the number of workers in the 35-44 age group, the bracket from which so much of our managerial, supervisory, and technical leadership derives, will have actually decreased. These conditions require for more young people higher education of the highest possible quality.

We can see then that the challenges are formidable equally so, however, are the opportunities.

I accept the responsibility represented in the entrusting to VPI of Virginia's most valuable resource, its youth, and the responsibility represented in more than 4 million Virginians looking to their land-grant university for leadership through outstanding programs of instruction, research, and extension. In accepting this responsibility, I solemnly declare that all of my efforts will be devoted to meeting these challenges VPI must face.

Simultaneously I call on every public official, every citizen, every faculty member, every student, and every alumnus for his support and maximum efforts to these same ends.
Last updated August 4, 1998