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Record Group 2 - Office of the President

One of the first tasks of the Board of Visitors appointed by the Governor in 1872 was to select and appoint a president for the fledgling institution then known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. At their meeting at Yellow Sulphur Springs on 14 August 1872, the Board chose Charles Landon Carter Minor as that first chief executive officer.

Since its opening in 1872, the institution has had sixteen different presidents:

  1. Charles L.C. Minor (1872-79)
  2. John L. Buchanan (1880-81)
  3. Thomas N. Conrad (1882-86)
  4. Lindsay L. Lomax (1886-91)
  5. John M. McBryde (1891-1907)
  6. Paul B. Barringer (1907-13)
  7. Joseph D. Eggleston (1913-19)
  8. Julian A. Burruss (1919-45)
  9. John R. Hutcheson (1945-47)
  10. Walter S. Newman (1947-62)
  11. Thomas M. Hahn (1962-74)
  12. William E. Lavery (1975-87)
  13. James D. McComas (1988-93)
  14. Paul E. Torgersen (1994-2000)
  15. Charles W. Steger (2000-2014)
  16. Timothy D. Sands (2014-present)

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The University Archives contains the official records of the presidents from McBryde to Hahn. Unfortunately, records of the presidents prior to McBryde were lost in a fire in 1905. President Lavery's records are maintained at Records Management. Permission must be obtained from the Office of the President for access to any records presently housed in Records Management. Of course, President Torgersen's files are active.

In addition to and in lieu of official records, the University Archives does contain a sizeable amount of other historical material concerning each of the presidents, including photographs and newspaper clippings.

McBryde, John McLaren (1891-1907)

(RG 2/5)
Known as the "father of VPI," McBryde was the first president to have a relatively free hand in developing the academic program, selecting associates, formulating policies, and planning the physical plant of the College. Major accomplishments of his administration included: establishing position of Dean in 1903-04 to aid in administration duties; reorganizing the curriculum and creating seven new 4- year courses leading to Bachelor of Science degrees; introducing a program of graduate study in 1891 and establishing a Graduate Department, with its own Dean, in 1907; starting the summer school program in 1904. Also during his tenure, McBryde improved and expanded the physical plant, with six buildings being renovated and sixty-seven new buildings constructed. The faculty increased from nine in 1891 to forty-eight in 1907 and enrollment rose from one hundred and thirty-five in 1891 to a peak of seven hundred and twenty-eight in 1904/05. McBryde was also the first president to encourage student activities, as witnessed by the beginning of an athletic program and resumption of publication of the Gray Jacket, as well as the adoption of school colors.

John McBryde
McBryde, John McLaren (1891-1907)

Hazing controversies plagued McBryde's administration, but his handling of the early cases tended to enhance his prestige as well as strengthen the College's image.

Because of declining health, McBryde was granted a six months leave of absence for rest and recuperation from January to June, 1906. During this interval, the Board appointed Ellison Smyth and Theodore Campbell to serve jointly as president of the Campus and designated the Rector, J. Thompson Brown, as official head of the College. McBryde returned to his duties as president, but since his health did not improve, he resigned effective 1 July 1907.

Records, 1900-1907

7.0 cu. ft.
This collection is primarily correspondence (1900-07), both incoming and outgoing, dealing with pertinent subjects of McBryde's administration, including: Christian case and other hazing problems; Junior class uprising (1904); Jamestown Exposition (1907); fire of 1905; McBryde's refusal of University of Virginia presidency. There is also much routine correspondence including requests for catalogs, letters from concerned parents, and business letters. Included with the 1903 correspondence are letters concerning a typhoid epidemic.

Thirteen volumes of letter books (1900-06) contain copies of outgoing correspondence from McBryde and other members of his administration: C.D. Taliaferro (Secretary to President, Registrar, Acting Treasurer, Superintendent of Book Department); Charles I. Wade (Treasurer, Registrar); Ellison Smyth (Dean). Volume I (14 February 1900 - 5 March 1900) includes some letters signed by McBryde as Director of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. Much of 1901-02 correspondence consists of requests and orders for catalogs and books to replenish the library after the Administration Building fire. Volume 7 (19 April 1901 - 23 February 1903) contains two reports from McBryde to Board of Visitors, 1901 and 1902, and a report from McBryde to Joseph W. Southall, Superintendent of Public Instruction. Volume 12 (15 July 1904 - 23 September 1905) contains twenty-eight letters from McBryde to Board of Visitors and others. Volume 13 (25 July 1904-28 September 1905) contains correspondence concerning Sweet Briar Institute and signed by McBryde as Chairman of Executive Committee, Sweet Briar Institute. Most volumes are indexed by recipients of correspondence.

The collection also includes: bibliography of McBryde's writings (1841-1923); annual reports of the president (1891, 1892/93); applications for employment of students (1900/01); bids and contracts (1900-07); correspondence of William Alwood, Professor of Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology (1901-04); reports to the president and board of visitors (1902-07); shops department records (1902-07); Agriculture Hall material (1905-06); correspondence of Theodore Campbell, first Dean of Academic Department (1905-06); requisitions and orders (1905, 1907/08); fire loss records (1905-07); reports of absentism, tardiness, delinquency, or unsatisfactory work of students (1906/07, 1907/08); Proceedings Had Before the Committee Appointed to Investigate Charges Against the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (23-28 July 1906); and biographical information on McBryde, including newspaper clippings.

Finding aid for the Papers of John McLaren McBryde on the Virginia Heritage database.

Barringer, Paul Brandon (1907-1913)

(RG 2/6)
The Board of Visitors elected Barringer as the sixth president of VPI on 17 May 1907. Accomplishments of his administration included: entrance requirements raised from four to fourteen units; a Farmer's Winter Course established; summer school expanded.

Barringer's tenure as president was not a smooth one, hampered by several investigations. From the start, he was determined to develop the agricultural facet of the College until it was at least equal to the engineering component, which caused some dissatisfaction among certain alumni and faculty. In 1909, the Chairman of the Alumni Association Welfare Committee, Lawrence Priddy, attempted to have the Board of Visitors oust Barringer. The Board ordered an investigation and a public hearing was held 25 March 1910, at which Priddy's charges were dismissed as "unwarranted" and "inaccurate." However, this was not the end of Barringer's problems. In the fall of 1911, the Board again called for an investigation when a former Commandant of Cadets accused Barringer of "countenancing immorality" on campus. The investigation concluded that the charges were "without foundation."

Having survived those investigations, Barringer next ran afoul of Governor Mann, who wanted the College to become involved in agriculture extension work. Barringer did not agree, so Mann said he would appoint a Board of Visitors antagonistic to Barringer if he did not resign. On 10 June 1912, Barringer resigned, but the Board asked him to remain in office another year until a new president was selected.

Records, 1907-1913

2.4 cu. ft.
This collection contains mainly incoming and outgoing correspondence (1907-13) concerning college activities and issues of Barringer's administration including: academic standards; hazing; Hog Cholera outbreak (1908); fires; prohibition; water/sewage system; refrigeration plant; advantages and dangers of football. A few letters from Barringer are to United States presidents: Theodore Roosevelt; William Howard Taft; Woodrow Wilson.

Also included with the collection are the following items: ledger of Board of Visitors Executive Committee minutes, handwritten (24 September 1904 - 1 November 1904 and 2 October 1906 - 12 June 1908); inventories (1908-11); letters of application for faculty positions (1909); several items relating to charges against Barringer by Lawrence Priddy, president of Alumni Association, and ensuing investigation (1910); correspondence and other items concerning Mess Hall investigation (1911); purchase orders (1911); reports to the Board of Visitors (1911); leases and contracts; report by Barringer to Board of Visitors on professors, giving names, ages, teaching hours per week, salary, degrees, and Barringer's personal remarks on each (no date).

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Eggleston, Joseph Dupuy (1913-1919)

(RG 2/7)
Eggleston became the seventh president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1913. His six year administration was most notably marked by the development of the agricultural extension program at VPI. In 1914, the Agricultural Extension Division was established. The Virginia General Assembly transferred control of agricultural demonstration work to VPI, so the Home Demonstration program began in 1915.

Much of Eggleston's presidential tenure was during the years of World War I. The College became a training school for both the army and navy during this time. A Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program was established at VPI in 1916. In January 1919, the College was designated by the War Department as one of twelve "Distinguished Colleges" in the nation for its contribution to the war effort.

In the Spring of 1919, Eggleston resigned to become president of Hampden-Sydney College, his alma mater.

Records, 1913-1919

7.0 cu. ft.
The bulk of this material consists of correspondence (1913-19) including: letters to and from state and national political figures; correspondence signed by Eggleston as Acting Director of the Extension Division (1913-16); correspondence between Eggleston and principals, board members and others of various agricultural high schools relating to financial requests, personnel, etc. (1916-19); correspondence with county agents and state and national personnel connected with agricultural programs; correspondence with Carneal and Johnston, architects, concerning construction of Shop building, Gymnasium, Professor Vawter's residence, VPI Chapel, McBryde building, Athletic building, and Field House. Other material in the collection includes: Sophomore Court matters (1913-14); reports of annual meetings of agents (1913-16); Agricultural Experiment Station reports (1914); U.S.D.A. Weekly Demonstration Work Reports (1914); financial forecasts (1914-15); annual reports (1915); Smith-Lever salary vouchers, 1915; reports of demonstration agents (1916); departmental needs (1917); telegrams (1917-19); resolution creating Athletic Director position (1918); Houston property deeds and contracts; speeches and articles.

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Burruss, Julian Ashby (1919-1945)

(RG 2/8)
Burruss was the first alumnus-President, having graduated with honors in civil engineering from VPI in 1898. A hallmark of his long tenure in the presidency was a major administrative reorganization, which included: abolishing four deanships; broadening the scope and authority of the Deans of Agriculture and Engineering; establishing post of Dean of the College; abolishing College surgeon office and hiring full-time health officer; establishing office of business manager; placing directors of Agriculture Experiment Station and Extension Services under Dean of Agriculture; abolishing Registrar office; and placing athletic activities directly under control of college authorities.

Other highlights of Burruss' administration included: establishment of Engineering Experiment Station, 1921, and Engineering Extension Division, 1923; admittance of women to all departments, except military, 1921; founding of Future Farmers of Virginia, which became Future Farmers of America; first Ph.D. awarded; Radford State Teachers College merged with VPI and became Radford College, the Women's Division of VPI.

When mounting pressures and advancing age began to take a toll on Burruss, the Board of Visitors granted him a six-month leave of absence on 4 January 1945, and named John Hutcheson, Director of the Agriculture Extension Service, as Executive Assistant to the President. On 10 January 1945, Burruss suffered a fractured vertebrae in an automobile accident, so on 12 January, the Rector of the Board requested that Hutcheson assume the duties of the presidency immediately. At the Board meeting on 15 May, Burruss was elected "President Emeritus" and the search for a new president began.

Records, 1908-1945

52.3 cu. ft.
The Burruss collection contains mostly correspondence, including Board of Visitors correspondence (1919-28). Some of the material in this collection pre-dates the beginning of Burruss' presidency.

Also included in the collection are: lecture notes and writings (1906-22, 1930-31); reports to Board of Trustees of the State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg (1908-19); Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station financial reports (1910-21); minutes of Normal School Board (1915-17); payrolls (1918-21); applications for faculty positions (1920-22); budget materials (1920-24, 1926/27-1928/29, 1941-42); reports of various committees (1921-25); invoices and insurance policies (1923-24); contracts (1925-46); departmental reports (1928); library annual reports (1935/36-1939/37); academic reports (1935-40); Virginia Academy of Science Planning Committee material (1940); items relating to the Radford-VPI merger (1943-44); reports of Treasurer to Department of Interior and Agriculture on income from fund derived for Land Grant Act of 1862 or from land grants made in lieu of 1862 grant; Public Works Administration records relating to buildings constructed on campus using PWA funds.

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Hutcheson, John Redd (1945-1947)

(RG 2/9)
World War II ended the day Hutcheson was elected as the University's ninth president, so he was immediately faced with increased enrollment and a housing problem for thousands of returning veterans. To help with the increased enrollment, the first Office of Admissions was established in 1946. Other highlights of Hutcheson's brief tenure included creation of the positions of Vice-President of the College and Director of Student Affairs, as well as the establishment of a branch college in Danville under the supervision of the School of Engineering.

Hutcheson became ill and was granted sick leave to enter a Richmond hospital in December, 1946. Walter Newman, Vice-President of the College, was named acting President during this time. Hutcheson recovered from his illness, but because of his weakened condition and the rigors of the presidency, did not return to his former position. Instead, the Board named him Chancellor on 12 August 1947, and elected Newman as the tenth president. In 1956, Hutcheson retired as Chancellor but continued to work for the VPI Educational Foundation until his death on 23 January 1962.

Records, 1917-1962

11.5 cu. ft.
This collection contains his papers both as acting and official president and consists of correspondence with groups such as the State Board of Agriculture and Immigration; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Association of Governing Boards; Association of South Agricultural Workers; Association of Virginia Colleges; State Board of Education; Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools; Tennessee Valley Authority; American Veteran's Committee; Farm Bureau Federation; State Agricultural Commission. There is a fair amount of material dealing with the American Council on Education, including correspondence, telegrams, course outlines, and other items primarily concerning the University's participation in the war effort. There are also correspondence and reports of the Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities' Committee on Post-War Agricultural Policy. Budget materials and contracts are also included in this collection.

In addition, this collection also contains Hutcheson's personal correspondence and records on topics such as the management of his dairy farm, "Edgemont;" health, life, auto, and fire insurance; the deaths of Hutcheson's son and two brothers; various family members; desegregation of public schools in Virginia; Hutcheson's involvement with the Presbyterian Church; and his illnesses.

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Newman, Walter Stephenson (1947-1962)

(RG 2/10)
Although Newman had been serving as acting President during Hutcheson's illness, he officially became the University's tenth president on 1 September 1947. During his fifteen year tenure, enrollments increased and the physical plant greatly expanded. Newman's administration also was noted for strengthening the academic program, especially in the areas of research and graduate work. Several new masters degrees were offered and the academic organization was revised. In 1948, the VPI Educational Foundation, Inc., was established to "work toward increasing gifts and endowments." In 1953, the first black student was admitted to Virginia Tech, notwithstanding the administration's efforts to resist integration. Also during Newman's term, the status of the Corps of Cadets was studied, then strengthened with the appointment of the first full-time commandant of cadets since World War I.

In March, 1961, Newman suffered a heart attack. Although he returned to his duties in July, soon after that he presented the Board of Visitors with his formal resignation, which became official 4 December 1961.

Records, 1947-1962

23.25 cu. ft.
This collection contains correspondence, budget requests and statements, financial reports, enrollment statistics, architect's contracts, audits, commencement programs and invitations, power system statements to the Federal Power Commission, and reports on Virginia's public school system submitted to the "Moses" Commission. Included with the correspondence are letters to and from Governor Tuck and a letter to Dwight D. Eisenhower and his brother Milton. There is also inauguration material including programs, invitations, clippings, correspondence, speeches, and certificates of congratulations and greeting from other institutions. Other material includes: correspondence with Virginia Attorney General Lindsay Almond, admissions personnel, and faculty regarding strategies for resisting racial integration at Virginia Tech; correspondence, reports, and some committee minutes dealing with the VPI World War II Memorial; correspondence, reports, and some minutes of the Research Council on Education (Governor's Advisory Committee) which Newman chaired; a folder of correspondence by Hutcheson as Chancellor; and correspondence, reports, and other documents relating to the VPI Educational Foundation, Inc. There is also a box of material dealing with the Library Building Project (1949-56).

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Hahn, Thomas Marshall (1962-1974)

(RG 2/11)

Being selected as VPI's eleventh president at the age of 35 made Hahn the youngest man to ever hold the position. During his administration, which began 2 July 1962, VPI became known as "Virginia's Land-Grant University." There was a shift from traditional technically-oriented education to a more comprehensive University-oriented education, with programs being expanded through the doctoral level in many non-science areas. The culmination of this shift and expansion in mission came in 1970 when the Legislature approved a name change reflective of VPI's growth: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Major events of the Hahn administration included abolishment of the VPI-Radford merger, causing a large increase in the number of women students at Tech, and a decision by the Board of Visitors to make participation in the military program optional, which resulted in a decline in Corps of Cadets membership but an increase in male Virginians choosing to attend the University. There were also numerous organizational and academic changes and improvements, including the establishment of a University-wide Research Division and a University-wide Extension Division, both in 1966. Also the physical plant continued to expand during this administration.

T. Marshall
Thomas Marshall Hahn (1962-74)

Some of the later years of the Hahn administration were marked by student demonstrations and protests, like those which occurred at many university campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

After twelve years in office, Hahn sent a letter to faculty and staff in August 1974 indicating his decision to resign as president, stating that "it is not in the best interest of a university for one person to serve as president for too long a time." In November, William Lavery was named to succeed Hahn, beginning in January 1975.


101 cu. ft.
This collection contains primarily correspondence concerning University matters, including letters to and from alumni, faculty, parents, and students. Correspondence with the Board of Visitors and government officials is also included in the collection. There is material concerning the Alumni Association, budget information, Higher Education Study Commission (1965), University Council, Association of Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities, State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, Task Force for Innovative Approaches to Instruction (1973), Consortium for Continuing Higher Education in Northern Virginia (1973), civil rights, proposal for College of Veterinary Medicine (1974, Box 95, folders 3211-3215), and various University committees and commissions. There is a large amount of material dealing with student protests (1970-71, see Boxes 45-47), including correspondence to and from parents, students, and the general public. The collection also includes copies of many of Hahn's speeches (1961-73), such as "Statement on Need of a College of Veterinary Medicine in Virginia" and "Virginia in the Jet Age."

The collection also contains Hahn's files of the Metropolitan Study Commission that he chaired from 1966 to 1968, including correspondence, minutes, and reports. This commission was created by the 1966 Virginia General Assembly to "make a comprehensive study of metropolitan governmental problems and to undertake to develop solutions to such problems."

There is also material on the Virginia Associated Research Center (VARC), including correspondence, reports, and Governing Committee minutes (1963-67). VARC was an off-campus graduate facility sponsored by Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia, in cooperation with the Langley Research Center of NASA. It specialized in applied aerospace research and other basic research in related areas.

The University Archives also contains the records of Hahn's inauguration, including correspondence, programs, invitations, some minutes and other documents of the Inauguration Committee and its subcommittees on Local Arrangements, Reception, and Invitations and Programs. There is a notebook (see Box 98, folder 3277b) containing various articles and clippings on college budgets and campus unrest throughout the United States, plus a handwritten copy of a speech entitled "The Role of the Academic Community in Campus Unrest" (Box 101, folder 3319), and a typed paper entitled "Legislation and Appropriations in Other States Relating to Higher Education" that includes handwritten additions. Also in this collection is a bound volume containing photocopies of press clippings from the Conference on Artificial Satellites (12-16 August 196?, Box 101, folder 3277c).

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

Site of related interest: Campus Unrest at Virginia Tech, Spring 1970

Lavery, William Edward (1930-2009)

(RG 2/12)
William E. Lavery became the university’s president on January 1, 1975. Complementing the years of explosive growth under his predecessor, President Hahn, his presidency not only brought stability to the university but expanded its growth into different areas. Lavery placed a high priority on alleviating shortages of classroom, laboratory, and office space – increasing the total inventory of available space by 50.1 percent. The president also emphasized research, moving Tech into the nation’s top fifty research universities by the fiscal year of 1987. Lavery also enhanced opportunities for research by establishing the Corporate Research Center – receiving an antenna to link Tech to the world via satellite – and the Extension division developed a series of twenty-six downlink sites throughout the State. After a controversial land swap and negative publicity on the university’s Athletic Association, Lavery resigned in 1987.

Records, 1975-1987

31 cu. ft.
This collection contains mainly incoming and outgoing correspondence (1975-1987) concerning college activities and issues of Lavery's administration including admission and records; commencement exercises; inaugural activities; homecoming; the Alumni Association; faculty and student affairs; speeches and speech material. The collection also contains correspondence from alumni expressing their perspectives on the negative publicity surrounding the Athletic Association and Virginia Tech Basketball.

Finding aid available on the Virginia Heritage database.

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