A Virginia Tech group charged with reviewing the university’s history in the wake of a national discussion over such issues as divisive monuments will have a public presentation on the first day of spring.

Wednesday, the Council on Virginia Tech History will present some of its findings and plans to the public at 3 p.m., on the second floor of Newman Library. The council will host a reception after the event’s conclusion at 5 p.m.

The council will showcase some of its projects including:

  • Adding inclusive public art to campus that will examine the histories of the land and the people who lived here.
  • Revisiting historic markers. Tech is inventorying its public markers and looking at constructing new markers and reviewing existing plaques.
  • Expanding VT Stories, an existing oral history project that collects stories of Virginia Tech community members to better illustrate the school’s history.
  • Live performances proposed by the School of Performing Arts to represent pieces of Virginia Tech’s history.
  • For the university’s 150-year anniversary, Tech professor and historian Peter Wallenstein will
  • publish an updated and more comprehensive history of the school, its people and programs called “Maroon.”
  • The group also proposed an augmented reality tour of the university using innovative digital techniques that reflect the full diversity of the university’s past.

Last fall, the council’s findings and plans were endorsed by Tech President Tim Sands and he authorized $250,000 in startup funds for the group to continue evaluating Tech’s history and coming up with ways to further tell the university’s story from the past.

Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said much of those funds are still being used to get the council’s work started. More funds could and likely will be earmarked for projects related to the council’s work in the future, he said.

The council was created in 2017 in the wake of national discussions about how Confederate and white supremacist histories are remembered in public spaces across the country.

“The Council was... adamant that complicated histories not be hidden, but instead, be related in full context,” a council report for the university president said. “For example, rather than renaming buildings whose namesakes have become controversial, the Council would prefer to acknowledge the full histories of the individuals on historical markers.”

Bob Leonard, the council’s chairman and Tech performing arts professor, declined to be interviewed about the group’s work.

He did provide a statement to VT News about the project in a news release.

“Virginia Tech started out as a land-grant institution formed right after the end of the Civil War, with an intent on educating people into the engineering, farming, and military frames,” Leonard said in the news release. “Over the years, it has become far more inclusive than it was when it was started. Each step along the way represents significant histories, with different people coming into the institution and bringing different perspectives and experiences. It’s important for those stories to be told and honored. Each one is a celebration.

“I believe sincerely that the stories we tell ourselves are who we are, individually and collectively. As we move into our own future, the stories that we hold dear and the stories that we hold publicly are really formative for where we’re going.”

Get the day's top stories delivered to your inbox with our email newsletter.

Robby Korth covers higher education at Virginia Tech and Radford University.

Recommended for you

Load comments