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Obituary - Mildred Tate

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 24 - March 21, 1996

Mildred T. Tate, who was instrumental in re-establishing the Department of Home Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), died Sunday, March 10, at her home in Blacksburg.

She began her tenure in 1937 with the assignment to develop and administer the home-economics program and to teach and conduct research in home economics. In her first year, she began the development of a strong academic curriculum and recruited the teaching and research faculty to implement it. The program had been disbanded in 1933, and when it was re-established, most of the faculty members were Extension faculty members temporarily assigned to the program.

In 1939, Tate was promoted to full professor and appointed dean of women and head of the Department of Home Economics, appointments she held until her retirement in 1958. She also led the undergraduate and graduate programs in child development and family relationships throughout her tenure.

"Dr. Tate initiated the department's relationship with the Agriculture Experiment Station," said Janet M. Johnson, interim dean of the College of Human Resources. "She conducted the first home-economics research through the experiment station. She was also instrumental in getting Hillcrest Hall built as the first dormitory for women.

"I remember Dean (Laura Jane) Harper saying that Dr. Tate was a pioneer in making opportunities available for women at Virginia Tech when it was not a popular thing to do," Johnson said. (Harper, who followed Tate as head of the Department of Home Economics and later was the first dean of the School of Home Economics, died February 27.)

"Dr. Tate was known for her caring for people" said Polly Lemon Jarvis, a former student and long-time friend of Tate. "She would encourage students, and make them believe in themselves. Thanks to her encouragement, many students discovered they could do the work and complete their studies."

"She also cared a great deal about the home-economics program" Jarvis said. "I remember her taking several students down to Richmond to petition the legislature to disentangle the two-school program." (In 1944, the General Assembly designated Radford College as the Women's Division of VPI when it mandated that there could be no duplication of women's programs at state colleges and universities.) The full program returned to Virginia Tech in 1964, after Tate retired.