In memoriam: Warren Strother, long time university director of communications
January 23, 2006
Warren H. Strother, 80, long-time director of public relations for Virginia Tech, died Sunday, Jan. 22, in Blacksburg. Strother held a series of positions at the university from 1964-90, including the newly created director of public relations, 1964-66, and director, Division of Information Services, 1966-83, a unit comprised of all university information, visual aid media, and printing services.
After 12 years as a working journalist, including a stint at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, were he was state government and public affairs reporter and also covered higher education issues, Strother was lured in 1964 to Virginia Tech by then president T. Marshall Hahn Jr.
Said Hahn, “I liked his thorough and ethical approach. Virginia Tech was changing very rapidly, growing from about 5,000 to 18,000 students. Warren had the task of conveying to various constituencies the ultimate need for increased support from the General Assembly. I give him a large part of the credit for the improved public climate and increased financial support to Tech.
“He was a great one. We’re going to miss him,” said Hahn.
With Peter Wallenstein, professor of history, Strother co-wrote the history of the Hahn administration. The resulting book, From VPI to State University: President T. Marshall Hahn Jr. and the Transformation of Virginia Tech, 1962-1974, was published in 2004. “When Warren and I were working on the book, I discovered – and he would never let on - that he truly was a spark plug in the Hahn Administration,” said Wallenstein.
Strother was a long-time friend of D. Lyle Kinner and helped edit Kinnear’s definitive history of Virginia Tech, The First 100 Years, published in 1972. Some of Strother’s papers are retained in the University Libraries’ special collections, including interviews with Kendall W. King, biochemistry; papers on the Hahn presidency; and various articles about university leaders.
Strother also worked closely with retired Virginia Tech president William E. Lavery. “I thought the world of Warren. In the 1960s, he helped organize the disparate communication groups into a cohesive unit promoting the university. But just as importantly, he gave me good advice and was an important part of the administration,” said Lavery.
After retirement, Strother remained active in Blacksburg, holding memberships on the steering committee for Friends of the University Libraries and in the Blacksburg Rotary Club.
A South Carolina native, he grew up in Virginia and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. He was a U.S. Army veteran.
Funeral arrangements are being made by McCoy Funeral Home, Blacksburg with visitation, Wed. Jan. 25, 6-8 p.m. and memorial service Thurs. Jan. 26, 11 a.m. at Blacksburg United Methodist Church.