Virginia Tech Magazine

Volume 13, Number 1
Fall 1990


'Summer on the Drillfield' draws alumni, high marks

July 4th was never quite like this year's for the alumni and their families who attended Summer on the Drillfield on the Virginia Tech campus.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the program included five days of seminars, tours, and special activities, which were kicked off with festivities jointly sponsored by the university and the Town of Blacksburg as part of the Fourth of July celebration.

Alumni came from as far away as the West Coast to participate. "It's great to be back on campus when the pace is slower and we can enjoy it all," commented Tony Carter, Class of 1959, from West Hills, Calif. "The weather was perfect every day. I really enjoyed being back on Tech's beautiful campus," commented Ted King '72, an attorney from Columbia, Md.

Other participants were from Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, and, of course, Virginia. In all, 36 families and five individuals participated.

Seminars with several of the university's leading faculty members focused on such topics as "Why the Civil War Still Lives," "The Magic of Chemistry," and "Gorbachev's Reforms of the Soviet Union." Programs for children included tours of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, athletic facilities, and the Geology Museum, and instruction in water safety and a demonstration in Virginia Tech's robotics lab.

There was also a variety of evening activities, including a tour of the recently renovated President's Home, and a picnic at the Duck Pond, which was followed by a brief presentation on the history and planned renovation of Solitude, the oldest building on the campus. On the final day, everyone traveled to the Mountain Lake Resort, with a traditional "feast" at the hotel and musical entertainment afterwards.

Other activities included a tubing trip on the New River and a hike to the Cascades. There was also ample time for golf, tennis, jogging and use of the gym facilities.

The participants stayed in Cochrane Hall, which has suite configurations, and dined at Dietrick Dining Hall, except for two special evenings out.

All members of the alumni association staff were on hand to help with the program. Two staff members stayed with the participants in Cochrane Hall.

Because the program was such a success, the alumni association has decided to repeat it next year from July 3-7. Watch for more information in future issues of the magazine or contact the alumni association early in 1991 if you are interested in attending.

Alumni association celebrates 115 years
By Tom Tillar

The date was Aug. 11, 1875. The place, Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. The event, 12 members of the first graduating class organized the alumni association. William A. Caldwell, the first student to enroll at the college in 1872, was elected secretary the following year.

This young association was loosely organized, so in 1891 the members decided to reorganize. They drew up a constitution and decided to publish an "Alumni Register." From this point forward, the association became more actively involved in the affairs of the college. In June, 1924, the Alumni Association was formally incorporated as an organization supporting the university.

Development of the early alumni records required a great deal of voluntary work. Two alumni, H.H. Hill, Class of 1904, and J.S.A. Johnson, Class of 1898, were responsible for developing the first system. It wasn't until 1926 that the first alumni secretary was hired. Henry B. Redd, Class of 1919, served in that capacity until his death in 1960. The first permanent offices of the association were in the World War I Memorial Gymnasium, the original front section of which is incorporated in the remodeled War Memorial Gym.

Membership in the association initially cost just $1 per year. It was later raised to $3, and an Alumni Loyalty Fund was established in 1938 to replace dues with annual contributions. The alumni association has conducted annual support campaigns every year since under the Alumni Loyalty Fund, also named the Alumni Annual Fund for a period of time. Donors are considered "active members" of the alumni association.

New bylaws were adopted 1964, linking the alumni association more closely with the university. Gifts to the annual giving program were deposited with the university's foundation (now known as the Virginia Tech Foundation), as they continue to be today. Also, in 1964, the alumni secretary became the director of Alumni Affairs (changed in 1980 to executive vice president). Executive officers of the association following H.B. Redd have been Marcus L. Oliver, Philip Oliver, C. Bruce Ross, Herman L. Pritchard, and G.E. "Buddy" Russell (1968 to present).

Today, as it was 115 years ago, the association's principal role is to involve alumni in the life of the university. It does so through a variety of programs and communications that have evolved throughout its long history and are supported by gifts designated for the association.

Alumni chapters have been organized all across the nation. Alumni return to campus for reunions by graduating class, academic college, and various constituency affiliations -- all arranged or assisted by the alumni association. The association also provides news about individual alumni to the university-published magazine, and also periodically publishes newsletters and bulletins. The alumni staff is also actively involved in major campus weekends such as Homecoming and Founders Day/Spring Weekend, which attract many alumni back to campus.

Also several endowments have been established in the past by the association. Funds are invested by the Virginia Tech Foundation, and the earnings are used to benefit the university. The Alumni Presidential Scholarship Endowment provides several merit scholarships for a full four years. The Alumni Distinguished Professorship Endowment provides salary supplements for six professors who hold permanent appointments at this prestigious designation. Additionally, the association recognizes excellence in several areas of faculty performance with annual honors and cash awards.

The current home of the alumni association is Alumni Hall, the front section of the Donaldson Brown Center for Continuing Education. An office wing of the first floor was remodeled in 1984 to house the association staff. Numerous alumni activities are held in the center and many alumni visit Alumni Hall each year.

Alumni support to the university may be designated to the alumni association, making donors "active members" of the association. Each year, thousands of alumni contribute to the programs of the alumni association as well as to other designations within the university's foundation. Without contributions, the association would not have the resources necessary to serve alumni and sponsor programs that benefit the university.

From the association's early years, it has been fortunate to receive the generous support of alumni to maintain and expand its services. However, it takes considerably more than $1 per alum, as was requested in earlier times. The average gift during the past fiscal year was slightly more than $100. Whatever the size of the gift, "active membership" as an involved alum is key to helping the alumni association help the university.

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association is 115 years strong, with many years of service to the university ahead. Thanks to the generous support of involved alumni who attend chapter meetings, reunions, and other alumni events, the association is stronger than ever. Alumni who are not currently active supporters of the alumni association may wish to consider designating support to alumni programs. Gifts to the Virginia Tech Foundation may be designated by the donor or undesignated for use by the foundation to benefit the university. Gifts of $25 or more designated to the alumni association result in active membership for a period of one year.

Alumni association President Bill Latham, while addressing the association's board of directors in April, emphasized, "Our alumni association has been strongly behind this university for well over a century, which obligates us even more to continue our good work and support. As our numbers increase, our dedication to strengthening Virginia Tech also grows. Our alumni can be proud of all that has been accomplished by our association since its founding. But our work has only just begun."

Tom Tillar is Director of the Alumni Loyalty Fund for the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 12, Number 2 Fall 1990