Virginia Tech launches observance of its sesquicentennial anniversary
In 1872, Addison Caldwell trekked 30 miles from Craig County to Blacksburg, Virginia, inspired by the opportunity for an education. Today, nearly 150 years later, students looking to find the answers to big questions, to solve complex problems, and to serve the world still seek those opportunities at Virginia Tech.
As the university community emerges from an unprecedented year, alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends will find numerous opportunities for celebration connected to Virginia Tech’s 150th year, or sesquicentennial, a milestone moment for Hokies everywhere.
“Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial will foster a renewed engagement with the university at a historic moment, bringing our community together after a long season of being apart,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “It is an opportunity to reflect on where we began, celebrate how far we’ve come, and look to our future as we continue advancing Beyond Boundaries.”
From July 2021 through December 2022, Virginia Tech will observe the 150th anniversary of its founding. The first official sesquicentennial event, which is slated for October in tandem with Homecoming 2021, will be followed by ongoing celebrations that will extend across the commonwealth, nation, and even internationally.
This summer, feather flags and post banners designed to commemorate 150 years are being installed in public areas, and Burruss Hall will be illuminated in orange and maroon as the campus dresses for the celebrations ahead.
“The sesquicentennial is everyone’s celebration,” said Angela Hayes, associate vice president for advancement and sesquicentennial director. “Everyone who is or has been connected to the university over the years will have this opportunity to reflect on their Virginia Tech experiences.”
Celebratory plans to mark the 150th year include special events, reunion festivities, programs offered by numerous university units and groups, and a challenge to Hokie Nation to strive toward a goal of 150,000 combined hours of service.
Over the course of the celebratory period, the university will highlight several key milestones that coincide with the sesquicentennial timeline. These include 100 years of women, 30 years at the international campus at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, and the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the Reynolds Homestead property to the university.
The celebrations also coincide with Virginia Tech’s most historic and ambitious philanthropic campaign, whose current goal of $1.5 billion was established to align with the 150th year celebration.
“Virginia Tech has made an indelible impact on Blacksburg, the commonwealth, the nation, and the world in its first 150 years,” Hayes said. “And, even as we take the time to reflect on the university’s historic contributions, we are actively establishing goals and setting a transformative pace for the next 150.”
The comprehensive celebration will offer programming and events that span all Virginia Tech locations and will highlight special opportunities that feature each of the university’s nine colleges, the Graduate School, as well as various units, such as Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets.
A significant part of the university since its establishment in 1872, the corps has evolved into a world-class leader development program. Today's cadets actively represent the university's core values as displayed on the War Memorial Pylons: Duty, Honor, Leadership, Loyalty, Brotherhood, Service, Sacrifice, and Ut Prosim.
During September, the sesquicentennial celebration will spotlight the corps’ past and present and will feature opportunities to engage with and learn more about plans for the future.
“The sesquicentennial provides us an opportunity to see how far we have come, the amazing opportunities that lay ahead, and how the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ mission has been the constant of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) throughout,” said Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, commandant of cadets.
Importantly, the sesquicentennial will put the university’s past and future in the context of the present and serve as a tool for expanding the Beyond Boundaries vision.
Pushing beyond traditional limits is an integral part of Virginia Tech’s continuing influence, and university leaders believe it is the key to the future.
In the months ahead, the university will share the stories of research breakthroughs, instructional innovations, and student and alumni successes that have positioned it as a global leader in higher education.
In his first State of the University address, delivered in September 2016, Sands introduced the Beyond Boundaries vision, an outline for advancing Virginia Tech as a world leader while remaining true to its land-grant mission and motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
During his remarks, he posed these questions: “What do our history and tradition call on us to do? Where does our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship lead us? What is the best way to honor the spirit of Ut Prosim?
The sesquicentennial celebration provides a unique occasion to revisit each of these questions, to assess progress toward each goal, and to renew a commitment to continued service within the context of the university’s motto.
“Adopted in 1896, the university motto, Ut Prosim, grounds our efforts and shapes our highest aspirations,” said Rosemary Blieszner, chair of Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Human Development, and interim dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
Blieszner will lead an effort to define Ut Prosim as a guiding principle for the university’s research, teaching and learning, student life, and alumni engagement.
“As we reflect on the university’s history and look ahead to the next 150 years, we want to take this opportunity to lift up multiple interpretations and expressions of the university’s motto. We will also explore how this deeply held value can inform Virginia Tech’s future directions.”
Details about planned events for the fall and special stories connected to the sesquicentennial will be available online, through the university’s social media platforms, and featured in various Virginia Tech publications.
“As our community comes back together, I know the excitement about our 150th year will begin to echo through all Virginia Tech campuses and locations from the Drillfield and Lane Stadium to Roanoke and the greater Washington, D.C., area, and far beyond,” said Hayes. “Our alumni and friends around the globe are integral to this celebration, and we’ve tried to plan something for everyone. We’re even taking some of our celebrations on the road. So, share your Virginia Tech memories. Get involved with an initiative on campus. Look for ways to live out Ut Prosim in your community or your workplace. Find your way to join the sesquicentennial fun.”
To find information about all the plans for Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial celebration, including a calendar of events and special highlights, visit vt.edu/150.
—Written by Erica Stacy