|University Archives of Virginia Tech|
Known as the "father of VPI," John McLaren McBryde (1841-1923) served as president of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1891-1907. He 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 the position of Dean in 1903-04 to aid in administrative duties, reorganizing the curriculum and creating seven new four-year courses leading to Bachelor of Science degrees, introducing a program of graduate study in 1891, establishing a Graduate Department with its own Dean in 1907, and starting the summer school program in 1904. McBryde improved and expanded the physical plant. During his tenure, six buildings were renovated, and sixty-seven new buildings were constructed. The faculty increased from nine in 1891 to forty-eight in 1907, and enrollment rose from 135 students in 1891 to a peak of 728 in 1904-05. McBryde also was 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 the school colors (Chicago maroon and burnt orange).
Hazing controversies plagued McBryde's administraton, 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. Durng this interval, the Board of Visitors 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 his health did not improve, and he resigned effective 1 July 1907. McBryde was given the first title of "President Emeritus" and was granted the first of only three honorary degrees given in the history of the University. McBryde received the honorary Doctor of Science degree at the June 1907 graduation exercises.