Immediately after the location of the college in Blacksburg, Governor Walker appointed Joseph R. Anderson, Robert Beverly, Harvey Black, Joseph Cloyd, D.E. DeJarnett, William A. Stuart, and William J. Sutherlin to the first Board of Visitors for the new college. By law, the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Virginia was to serve on the board ex officio. This provision brought William H. Ruffner to the board for the next ten years. He filled that position so ably that the college, by then a university, in 1976 created the Ruffner Medal to be awarded to the highest honor in the power of the Board of Visitors to award to anyone that the board so wished to honor.
The newly appointed board held its first meeting in Richmond, on March 25 and 26, 1872, and appointed Harvey Black as rector and Ruffner as clerk of the board. At the same time, a committee with Ruffner as chairman was appointed to draw up and present to the board a plan stating the purpose, the organization, and the plan of institution for the college. By agreement the next meeting was to be on July 18, 1872, at Montgomery White Sulphur Springs, a finishing resort near Blacksburg.
At that meeting, the board agreed that the purpose of the school was to further the education of the industrial class defined by the board as those who handled the tools or worked in the fields, mines, or workshops. It may be added that the records clearly indicate that "the people" of all walks of life ignored the definition and simply sent their sons to the college to be educated.
With the purpose of the new school defined, the board agreed that this purpose could best be achieved, by establishing at Blacksburg a technical school with a liberal appendage. Then after appointing V.E. Shepherd treasurer and secretary, the board agreed to adjourn and meet next at Yellow Sulphur Springs, Montgomery County, to hear Ruffner's report and elect a president and faculty to teach in areas totally new to agricultural schools.
At this same meeting, the board also discarded Ruffner's idea of a strictly technical school and reorganized along the lines of a "literary" one.
Faced with electing a president from several applicants, the board duly elected Charles Landon Carter Minor as the first president of the VAMC. Minor, a native of Virginia at the time was on the faculty of Sewanee in Tennessee.
In electing Minor as president, the board passed over the applications of Thomas N. Conrad, who as president of the Preston and Olin Institute fully expected to be appointed to the presidency of the new college. Following the rejection, Conrad moved to nearby Christiansburg and became editor of the Montgomery Messenger, through which his scathing articles attacked the board whenever the board's actions met his disapproval. These articles often had an unfortunate effect on President Minor and succeeding administrations.