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Virginia Tech Historical Data Book, Section 1.12:
The Newman Years (1947-1962)

The Newman administration, covering a span of 15 years, was marked by the record enrollments, the greatest construction activity in the history of the college up to that time, and by a greatly strengthened academic program.

The peak enrollment of veterans was reached in 1948-49 with the population at the Rad-Tech campus hitting 805. Total enrollment for the session was 5,689. Enrollment during the 1949-50 session was 832 less than the previous year, and with the completion of three new dormitories (Femoyer, Monteith, and Thomas), Rad-Tech closed at the end of the 1949 fall quarter.

Plant Expansion-More than $20 million in additions to the physical plant were made during the Newman years. In the period from 1947 through 1962, dormitory spaces were increased from 1,976 to 3,904 with the completion of Vawter and Barringer dormitories.

Major buildings added to the campus were: Femoyer, Thomas, and Monteith dormitories (1949); Smyth and Henderson halls (1950); the first wing of Randolph Hall and Williams Hall (1953); Carol M. Newman Library, $1 million of which came from Paul Mellon's Old Dominion Foundation (1956); Commerce (now Pamplin) Hall (1957); additions to Major Williams, Shanks, Brodie, and Rasche dormitories (1958); the second wing of Randolph Hall (1959); the first wing of Norris, Physics (now Robeson), and Memorial Chapel (1960); and the Biochemistry and Nutrition Building (1961). Under construction before Newman left office were the second wing of Norris, the Coliseum, Vawter and Barringer dormitories, and Shultz Dining Hall.

A huge stability wind tunnel, valued at $1 million, was obtained by the college in 1957 for about $1,700 as surplus equipment from the Langley Field aeronautical laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now National Aeronautics and Space Administrationa). The college and the town of Blacksburg joined forces in 1954 to form a water authority, with the ultimate aim of bringing water from the New River to the often drought-stricken community. Christiansburg joined the authority in 1955. The filtration plant, completing the $1,750,000 system, was dedicated in October 1957. An emergency water supply to Blacksburg on Aug. 15, 1957, inaugurated the system.

Academic Expansion-In the academic area, Newman put greater emphasis on research and graduate work than any previous president had. In 1946, Tech was offering the master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees. Master's degrees numbered 18 that year, and one lone scholar received his doctorate. The master of education degree was added and first awarded to four students in 1952. The first master of architecture degree was presented in 1961, and the first master of urban and regional planning degree in 1962. Graduate degrees conferred at the 1962 commencement (Newman's last as president) numbered 211 (M.S., 155; M.Ed., 30; M.Urpl., 1; Ph.D., 25; M.Arch., 0). The bachelor of architecture degree, requiring five years of study, was added in 1956.

Revisions in the academic organization included separation of business administration, economics, and accounting curricula from the School of Applied Science and Business Administration into a new School of Business (authorized in 1960; effective fall 1961). Home economics was separated from agriculture and became the School of Home Economics, both at Tech and at Radford College (authorized in 1958; effective 1960).

The position of dean of the college was abolished on Sept. 1, 1949, and the office of the vice president assumed the duties of director of graduate studies.

A master of science program in city and regional planning (later urban and regional planning) was established in 1957. A course in Russian was offered for the first time in winter 1959. Master of science degrees were authorized in engineering geology in 1950, in aeronautical (now aerospace) engineering in 1954, and in mathematics in 1956. Doctoral programs in geology (1953), mathematics (1959), aeronautical engineering (1959), and civil engineering (1960) were also authorized.

Tech entered the atomic age in a big way with the establishment of the master of science program in nuclear engineering physics in 1956, in which the departments of mathematics, chemistry, chemical engineering, metallurgy, and mechanical engineering cooperated. Director of the program was T. Marshall Hahn Jr., then head of the physics department and later Tech's eleventh president. Tech was the first college in the country to have a nuclear reactor simulator, put into operation in 1957. The Atomic Energy Commission granted the college its maximum $350,000 in funds, from which a 10-kilowatt (UTR-10) critical reactor, specifically designed for college use, was purchased. It was the first of its type in the country and cost $179,000. Dedication of the reactor came in January 1959.

Departments of forestry and wildlife conservation, veterinary science, and entomology were formed from biology, which survived (authorized in 1959). A department of plant pathology and physiology was formed in the fall of 1949, and philosophy and religion became a department in 1955 (courses in philosophy and ethics were taught for the first time in the fall of 1951).

A Basic Division was started in the fall of 1952 to help freshmen make the adjustment from high school to college more easily (discontinued after June 1955). The Cooperative program in engineering and science was established in 1952.

Legislation to establish the Roanoke Technical Institute as a division of Tech's School of Engineering was introduced in the General Assembly in January 1958. First classes at the new division, originally operated as a terminal two-year school, were held in the fall of 1961. New community colleges, operated as Tech branches, were approved by the General Assembly in early 1962 for Wytheville and Covington-Clifton Forge.

Commencement was held for the first time in Miles Stadium in 1950 because the record number of graduates (1,440) and commencement guests would be too crowded in Burruss Auditorium. Dual graduation ceremonies in Burruss Hall were initiated in 1958 because rain had complicated several of the outdoor ceremonies. The dual rites were held with part of the class graduating in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. During his administration, Newman presented more diplomas than all previous presidents combined.

Development Program-Establishment of the VPI Educational Foundation Inc. was authorized by the board of visitors in 1948 to "work toward increasing gifts and endowments made to the college." Hutcheson, then Tech chancellor, was named president of the foundation. He later retired as chancellor on June 30, 1956, to devote full time to that post.

Plans to raise money for a Continuing Education Center were begun in 1953. A director of development post was established in 1958 to aid in fundraising for the center, endowment, and other projects.

A 635-acre farm (Walnut Grove) was given to the college in 1954 by the heirs of Cyrus McCormick, who had demonstrated the first successful reaper there. The property, located between Steele's Tavern and Raphine, was used to establish the Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Experiment Station, dedicated in 1958.

Appalachian Power Company gave the college a 90-acre plot on the southern shore of Claytor Lake in 1947.

Student Events-The corps of cadets came under close scrutiny in 1950 when the board of visitors undertook a study of whether to require future Tech students to take military training. Nothing was heard again of the situation until 1952, when the board decided instead to strengthen the corps through appointment of the first full-time commandant of cadets since World War I. The ranking ROTC officer had been acting as commandant.

New student life regulations and a basic policy for student life were put into effect in the fall of 1952, along with the first official dormitory counselor program.

"High School Day," which had been held on campus from 1936-1941, was resumed in the spring of 1950 but was abandoned again after 1953, since an Engineering Conference (started in 1940) and an Agricultural Exposition (started in 1954) seemed to fill most of the functions. The engineering and agricultural events were absorbed into the first "Tech Festival" weekend in 1963, a bigger, but similar program to the old "High School Day." The festival was dropped after 1970.

The first black student ever admitted to Tech (Irving L. Peddrew III) entered classes in the fall of 1953, but failed at the end of his junior year in 1956.

A woman from Richmond, Patricia Ann Miller, earned a place in the history of the university when she became the first Tech coed to receive a commission at regular commissioning exercises in Miles Stadium in June 1959.

Blacksburg and Tech came to blows (via the student body) when the town announced plans in 1957 to annex the campus into the corporate town limits. The students, fearing they would have to buy town auto tags if they did not already have a municipal tag, staged a six-hour demonstration on May 31, 1957, and boycotted all downtown stores for one day. Police had to use tear gas to break up the demonstration and arrested two students who had let air out of patrol cars tires. College officials also, but more mildly, opposed the annexation, and the town council later voted to drop the plan.

Newman suffered a heart attack in March 1961, and was not able to return to his office until July. Later that fall, he presented the board of visitors with a formal retirement request, because "I did not feel that I could carry on as vigorously as I had been able to do the past 15 years." The board, at a special meeting in Richmond on Dec. 4, 1961, announced that Newman's retirement request had been granted and that T. Marshall Hahn Jr., then dean of arts and science at Kansas State University, had been elected Tech's eleventh president and would assume his post on July 1, 1962.


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Last Modified on: Tuesday, 25-Sep-2001 08:16:06 EDT