The History of Virginia Tech is a long and proud one. Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown into a world-renowned research university. The university has produced many notable alumni, including two U.S. presidents, and has been ranked among the top public universities in the country.
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The Virginia Tech story begins in 1872 with the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. The college was established as a land-grant institution during the Reconstruction era to provide education and training to the state’s citizens in agriculture, engineering, and military science. The college’s first president, John M. McBryde, oversaw the construction of the original buildings and the admissions of the first students.
Virginia Tech is founded in 1872 as a land-grant school
In 1872, Virginia’s General Assembly established a normal school--now known as a teachers college--in the southwest corner of the state in Blacksburg. Governor John Letcher named it Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (V.A.M.C.). The fledgling school struggled in its early years--faculty came and went, enrollment was low, and finances were tight. But Tech survived, thanks in large part to support from the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, which allocated federal funds for agricultural and mechanical colleges in each state.
In 1896, under the leadership of President John McBryde, V.A.M.C. underwent a transformation. The school began offering degrees in engineering and liberal arts as well as teaching, expanded its curriculum, and began to attract more students from across Virginia and beyond. Four years later, V.A.M.’s name was changed to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), reflecting this transformation.
Over the next several decades, VPI continued to grow, adding new programs and expanding its facilities to meet the needs of a growing student body. By the mid-20th century, VPI had become one of the largest state universities in the South, with an enrollment of more than 5,000 students. In 1962, following a resolution by the General Assembly, VPI became part of the newly created Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University--now known simply as Virginia Tech--consolidating VPI with nearby Radford State Teachers College
The school is first known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College
The school is first known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. It is located in Blacksburg, Virginia, and opens in 1872 with 46 students. The school is land-grant college under the Morrill Act. Under the act, each state received a piece of land that they could sell to raise money to build a college that would teach agriculture and engineering.
The school opens its doors in 1874 with 24 students
The school opens its doors in 1874 with 24 students, all male. The first six years of the school’s existence, it is known as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. The school offers a wide range of subjects, such as Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, drawing and painting, but with a focus on science and engineering.
The 20th Century
Virginia Tech began in the late 19th century as a land-grant school in Blacksburg, Virginia. In the early 20th century, the school began to expand, adding a women’s college and a graduate school. In the mid-20th century, the school began to focus on engineering and science. Today, Virginia Tech is a research university with a wide range of programs.
The school becomes known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1944
In 1944, the General Assembly directed all state colleges and universities to be known by the name “Virginia State College for Negroes,” “Virginia Polytechnic Institute,” or “University of Virginia.” In the same year, the institution awarded its first bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and industrial engineering.
The school became known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1944 and admitted its first female students in 1946. It awarded its first doctorate in 1954. Through the years, programs have been added and deleted, and facilities have been built and expanded to meet the changing needs of the university and its students.
The school expands rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s
In the 1950s and 1960s, Virginia Tech experienced tremendous growth. The number of faculty more than doubled, and enrollment increased five-fold. New programs in architecture, business, forestry, and engineering were established. The school’s role as a research institution also increased during this time. In 1960, the Virginia General Assembly created the Graduate School, which consolidated all graduate programs at Virginia Tech.
In 1963, the school officially changed its name to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) and State University. The name change was made to reflect the school’s expanding mission beyond engineering and agriculture.
During this period of growth, the campus expanded rapidly. New residence halls, classroom buildings, and research facilities were built. The playing field for football was moved from downtown Blacksburg to its current location on campus in 1965. In 1974, Virginia Tech opened its first veterinary hospital.
The school becomes known as Virginia Tech in 1970
In response to the recommendations of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Board of Visitors in 1967 approved a resolution that renamed the university Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The name “Virginia Tech” gradually came into common use, especially when referring to the athletic teams, and by 1970 the university community had generally accepted this as the official name.
The 21st Century
In the 21st century, Virginia Tech has continued to grow. The university’s endowment increased seven-fold from $579 million in 2000 to $4.3 billion in 2018. Virginia Tech’s budget also grew significantly, from $664 million in 2000 to $2.1 billion in 2018. The university has also expanded its physical footprint, with over 30% more square footage in 2018 than in 2000.
The school experiences tragedy in 2007 with the Virginia Tech Shooting
On April 16, 2007, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the university, opened fire on students and faculty members on the campus, killing 32 people and wounding 17 others before taking his own life. The tragedy led to an outpouring of support for the university community and sparked a national conversation about gun control and campus safety.
The school continues to grow and expand its programs in the 21st century
In the 21st century, Virginia Tech has continued to grow and expand its programs. The school added a number of new majors, including cybersecurity, data science, and computational modeling and data analytics. The school also added a number of new research centers, such as the Center for Human-Computer Interaction and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.
In addition to its academic growth, Virginia Tech has also seen a number of campus expansion projects. The most notable of these is the Innovative Research Building, which houses the new Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. The building was completed in 2015 and cost $96 million to construct.
Virginia Tech has also seen a number of its athletes achieve success in the 21st century. In 2004, women’s basketball player Ieva Kublina became the first Virginia Tech athlete to win an individual national championship when she won the shot put event at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. In 2007, men’s basketball player Deron Washington became the school’s first NBA draft pick when he was selected in the second round by the New Jersey Nets.