The Virginia Tech Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise will celebrate half a century of faculty and student accomplishments with a series of anniversary events April 8 and 9.

The highlight of the 50th-anniversary activities will be an open house on Saturday, April 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the Wallace Hall Atrium. Interested community members are invited to meet current students and faculty members and learn about the department’s teaching, research, and outreach programs. The open house’s 12 stations include displays of posters and interactive exhibits, a tour of the nutrition counseling room, stops at various research and teaching labs and the new Advising Center, and an opportunity to talk to the department’s dietetics interns.

A welcome reception and awards ceremony will kick off the weekend’s activities on Friday, April 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Peggy Lee Hahn Garden Pavilion. On Saturday morning, a 9 a.m. 5K run and a 9:30 a.m. 1-mile fun walk at the Virginia Tech Cross Country Course will benefit the Forrest W. Thye Scholarship and the Michael Houston Memorial Scholarship Award. The 50th anniversary will conclude with campus tours and a student mentoring luncheon on Saturday afternoon, followed by a banquet at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center on Saturday evening.

Susan Hutson, professor and head of the department, explained that the anniversary gives Virginia Tech an opportunity to reflect on the dynamic changes and accomplishments the department has experienced in the last 50 years.

“[The Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise] excels in its established programs and is offering new academic opportunities that extend innovative learning experiences to students,” Hutson said. “Faculty members are conducting exciting research on a wide spectrum of topics, engaging students and the community while making a difference across the commonwealth through Extension efforts. [Human nutrition, foods, and exercise] students and alumni are winning prestigious awards and securing cutting-edge positions in the workforce. Our department is highly visible in the college, throughout Virginia, and in the world.”

In 1961, the Department of Foods and Nutrition formed within the School of Home Economics. Although this marks the department’s date of establishment, the study of foods and nutrition at what is now Virginia Tech goes back much further. In the 1920s, the Department of Home Economics organized in the School of Agriculture, and in the 1930s, Mildred Tate, who was instrumental in establishing the department’s relationship with the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, served as department head and instituted courses to meet standards for registered dietitians.

The 1950s and ’60s saw the formation of the School of Home Economics with Laura Jane Harper serving as the first dean. One of the school’s four departments was foods and nutrition, and S.J. Ritchey was appointed department head. In 1964, the name changed to the Department of Human Nutrition and Foods. The growing department added a doctoral program and became a part of the renamed College of Human Resources in the 1970s and ’80s. In 1994, it merged with the Department of Exercise Science and renamed itself the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise. The department later joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

With more than 800 students, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise is one of the largest departments at Virginia Tech today. In addition to Wallace Hall, which has provided teaching and laboratory space since it opened in 1968, the department has facilities in War Memorial Hall, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and Virginia Tech Riverside in Roanoke.

To learn more about the department’s 50th-anniversary celebration, contact Jamie Lucero at (540) 231-9666 or Carol Papillon at (540) 231-8769.