Proclamation, activities highlight anniversary observance
Clara B. Cox
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 07 - October 9, 1997
Governor George Allen issued a certificate of recognition and proclaimed October 1 Virginia Tech Day as the university celebrated the 125th anniversary of the day it opened its doors to students.
Provost Peggy Meszaros read Allen's certificate during one of two special ceremonies on October 1 and accepted a resolution from the Town of Blacksburg, which was presented by Mayor Roger Hedgepeth, on behalf of the university. The day's activities also included the planting of the first tree in the university's 125th Anniversary Grove, a gift of the Class of 1997; the conclusion of a 26-mile trek by nine students re-enacting a similar walk by William Addison "Add" Caldwell, the first student to register at Virginia Tech on Oct. 1, 1872; and the unveiling in Craig County of a historical marker about Caldwell.
In his proclamation, Allen cited the university's Corps of Cadets for its contributions to the defense of the country, the work of the Agricultural Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension, Tech's education of more than 140,000 students, the contributions of alumni, the success of the football team, and the research contributions of the faculty and graduate students.
The certificate concludes: "Whereas, Virginia Tech rose from humble beginnings to become the commonwealth's largest university and leading research institution, addressing society's most pressing problems and bringing to light new knowledge through inventions and discoveries, and the lives of all Virginians have been improved in some measure by the education, research, and outreach efforts of this great university; now, therefore, I, George Allen, governor, do hereby recognize October 1, 1997, as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia in honor of its 125th anniversary, and I call this observance to the attention of all our grateful citizens who appreciate the outstanding contributions that Virginia Tech alumni, students, faculty, and staff have made over the past 125 years to improve Virginia, the United States, and indeed the world."
The resolution presented by Hedgepeth highlights the university's major contributions to the economic and general well-being of the town; Tech's position as the region's largest employer; the cooperative partnership between the town and university to provide water, sewer, and other infrastructure amenities to the community; and the university's significant contributions to the town, the state, and the nation.
Both the resolution and the proclamation were presented during a ceremony to dedicate the university's 125th Anniversary Grove on the lower section of the Drillfield between Drillfield Drive and West Campus Drive. The trees in the grove are a gift of the Class of 1997. Tiffany Allison, vice president of the Class of '97, spoke on behalf of her class and presented a plaque that will be placed in the grove. She joined Meszaros and Hedgepeth in planting the first tree in the grove.
Tom Tillar, vice president for alumni relations, served as master of ceremonies for the event and related information about the life of Caldwell. Tillar also introduced the nine students who made the commemorative walk from the Sinking Creek community of Craig County. The walkers, who crossed two mountains and camped overnight at Caldwell Fields in the national forest, began their journey at the Caldwell homeplace. They received a special send-off on September 30 by President Emeritus William E. Lavery.
During the morning of October 1, the university joined Craig County officials and members of the Caldwell family to unveil a historical marker about Caldwell at the intersection of routes 42 and 625. During the ceremony, Charles Steger, vice president for Development and University Relations, said Caldwell "never achieved greatness as we might define greatness. He never accumulated wealth as we might define wealth. But he did achieve immortality because Virginia Tech will always remember his singular role in our history. William Addison Caldwell led the way for thousands of students who turn to the state's land-grant institution to acquire the skills and knowledge for a richer life and better future."
Meszaros, who spoke on behalf of the university, compared Virginia Tech today with the school during Caldwell's day. Other speakers included Zane M. Jones, chair of the Craig County Board of Supervisors, and Frank B. Caldwell III, a great nephew of Caldwell and a 1970 Virginia Tech graduate.
The historical marker, which was unveiled by Frank Caldwell and Stephen Carter, the Craig County administrator, reads: "Three miles north of here stands the childhood home of William Addison Caldwell. He walked about 28 miles to Blacksburg on 1 October 1872 and became the first student to register at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical college, now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Graduating in 1876, Caldwell was elected secretary of his class alumni association.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Jones, Meszaros, and William Addison Caldwell, nephew and namesake of the first student, unveiled a photograph of Caldwell that the university presented to Craig County.