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Record Group 1 - Board of Visitors

The legislation that created Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) provided for the establishment of a board of visitors as a governing body. Consisting of both appointed and ex-officio members, the board was empowered to select the president and faculty, determine salaries, handle all matters of discipline and student life, and be responsible for all property of the College.

Governor Gilbert C. Walker appointed the first board on 19 March 1872, the day he signed the Bill creating the College, and the first meeting was held March 25 and 26 in Richmond. Various changes have occurred through the years concerning the composition of the board, primarily relating to number and qualifications of appointees and offices to be represented ex-officio. The first board was composed of nine appointed members, with the president of the State Agricultural Society and members of the State Board of Education serving ex-officio. The next year, the makeup was changed so only the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the president of the Agricultural Society served ex-officio. Later, the president of the Agricultural Society was eliminated as an ex-officio member, but the State Superintendent of Public Instruction remained until 1966. The president of the Board of Agriculture and Immigration (now Commerce) became an ex-officio member after 1902, and continues so today, now being the only ex-officio member serving with thirteen appointed members. For a discussion of the current make-up and duties of the Board, see Bylaws of the Board of Visitors (LD5655 A12 1981).

Board appointments have always been made by the governor and subject to confirmation by the Virginia Senate. For a list of Board of Visitor members from 1872-1972, see Kinnear's TheFirst 100 Years. Since its inception, the board has been chaired by a Rector. For a list of Rectors from 1872-1972, see the Historical Data Book, compiled by Jenkins M. Robertson.

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The University Archive contains mainly early records of the Board of Visitors, including unofficial minutes, correspondence, reports, Executive Committee minutes and reports, material from some individual members of the Board, and reports of the Treasurer to the Board of Visitors. Other related items include: index to Board of Visitors minutes from 1898-1958, newspaper clippings, and publications. The majority of material from this body, including the official minutes, are housed in the Records Management office. Permission for access should be obtained through the office of the President.

Finding aid for the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors Records, including the RG numbers below on the Virginia Heritage database.


(RG 1/1)
Board of Visitors minutes are kept in Records Management. The University Archive does have an index to the minutes from 1898-1959, arranged alphabetically by term or name. A Thesaurus of Terms and a Biographical Thesaurus (of names) precede the index. Under each term or name, subjects are listed and citations given.

Academic Building No. 2
--heating problem: II, 490 (6-10-1909)
Thesaurus term
--subject: ledger number, page, (date)

There are some unofficial, handwritten minutes, described below, contained within the University Archives. Copies of various minutes may also be found in individual Board member's papers and in the records of past Presidents and Vice-Presidents.

Unofficial Minutes, Correspondence, and Supporting Materials, 1888-1911

(RG 1/2)
These are primarily handwritten notes of Board minutes with a few of the Executive Committee included. Official minutes were probably written from these notes. Correspondence and reports of agenda items accompany minutes. For some meetings, there are only reports and correspondence, no minutes. Included with the correspondence are memorial resolutions for deceased Board and faculty members and notarized oaths of Board members to faithfully perform their duties and that they had not fought duels. In some years, the Executive Committee was also the State Board of Pest Crop Commissioners, so there are a few references to that part of their work.

Committees of the Board (RG 1/3)

Executive Committee Minutes and Reports
These two volumes contain mostly handwritten minutes from 1896-1933. Volume 2 has some typed items. The Executive Committee also served as Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station Board of Control, so documents pertaining to the Experiment Station are also included within the volumes. Volume 1 covers 19 February 1896 to 18 January 1907. Volume 2 encompasses 17 April 1907 to 5 October 1933. Volume 1 contains some loose items, including: notes of meeting of April 2, 1906; papers relating to cattle quarantine regulations; a request of J.G. Ferneybough, State Veterinarian, to appear before the Executive Committee, and a typed page of College Estimates for 1906/07.

Unofficial minutes of the Board described previously also contain three sets of handwritten minutes of the Executive Board: 17 January 1901; 27 February 1905; and 12-13 June 1906.

Also included in this subgroup are copies of three reports of the Executive Committee to the Board of Visitors for the years ending 14 August 1877, 14 August 1878, and 13 August 1879.

Individual Board Members

(RG 1/4)
Within this subgroup are papers of some of the individual members of the Board of Visitors, primarily correspondence. There are some manuscript collections listed here that contain individual board member's papers as well. Member's personalpapers may be found in other manuscript collections not listed here (see the Manuscript Collection guide).

Black, Harvey

Member of the first Board of Visitors. Correspondence of Dr. Black can be found as part of the Black Family papers.

Finding aid for the Black, Kent, and Apperson Families Papers.

Bocock, Thomas S.

(RG 1/4/1)
Member of Board of Visitors, 1873-1875. This collection consists of fifteen letters and papers, 1874-1876, received by Bocock in his capacity as a member of the Board, including: two letters from C.L.C. Minor, President of VAMC; one letter from G.D. Thomas, Secretary of the Board; an injunction against Henry S. Branson, brickmaker; a printed application with testimonials for position of Farmer from W.F. Pattullio; handwritten application for position of Farmer from Philip Withers, with nine letters of reference.

Wharton, General G.C.

(RG 1/4/2)
Member of Board of Visitors, 1874-1877; Rector, 1875-1877. The collection contains twenty-seven letters, 1874-1878, either addressed to him or forwarded to him. Correspondents include: Charles Martin, C.L.C. Minor, Dr. Harvey Black, John W.C. Davis, C.H. Mellen, V.E. Shepherd, and W.R. Boggs. An inventory to the collection is available.

Landis, John W.

Member of Board of Visitors, 1966-1970. Parts of collection relating to Board include: correspondence with University President and others; minutes (1966-69); reports; financial information (Capital Outlay Requests, Budget Request Summaries, etc.); VPI News Service Press Releases; newspaper clippings; Quarterly Reports of the President to Board of Visitors, 1965-69. Also includes some typed annual reports of the President which are more detailed than printed annual reports.

Finding aid for the John W. Landis Papers.

Rowe, C. Eugene

Member of Board of Visitors, 1968-76; Rector, 1970-76. Most of the collection concerns Rowe's Board of Visitors activities and includes correspondence (1962-76), Executive Committee material (1971-74), meeting material (1970-76), and Board of Visitors minutes (1968-76).

Finding aid for C. Eugene Rowe Papers.

Administration and Governance Structure (RG 1/5)

Reports of the Treasurer to the Board of Visitors
The offices of Secretary of the Board of Visitors and Treasurer of the College were held concurrently by same individual until late 1940s. Thus, the Treasurer's reports contained here were prepared for presentation to the Board by individuals holding those concurrent offices. These reports are statements of transactions of the University for: 1920/21, 1936/37-1941/42, 1943/44.

Newspaper Clippings, 1914-1992

A newspaper clipping file is maintained of articles relating to the Board of Visitors. There are mounted clippings from 1914-63, under the classification "Mb." Vertical files, maintained by record group number (RG 1), contain clippings from 1963 to the present.


The following is a list of cataloged publications, within Special Collections, either by or about the Board of Visitors:

  • Board of Visitors Manual (LD 5655 A4 1944)
  • Bylaws of the Board of Visitors (LD 5655 A12 1981)
  • Present Condition and Outlook at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and the Necessity for the Appropriation Asked for Buildings and Equipment and for an Increase of Annuity; Including a Statement of Moneys Expended (LD 5655 A4 1903 and LD 5655 A4 1906)
  • Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute: Appropriations Asked and Reasons Therefor (LD 5655 A4 1916)
  • Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College: Its History and Organization (LD 5655 A4 1872). Gives details of early Board actions.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute Needs (LD 5655 A4 1918). Evidently used to present needs of VPI to 1918 General Assembly.

For provisions of Code of Virginia concerning Board of Visitors, see sections 23-114 to 23-128 of Code. Appendix to Bylaws of the Board of Visitors also contains sections of Code relevant to Board.

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