Wilbert Thurston has worked at job sites up and down the East Coast. None fills him with as much pride as working at Virginia Tech.
Thurston is a skilled concrete mason working on a maroon brick sidewalk that will make up the largest “VT” on the Blacksburg campus.
He also is a Hokie parent.
His son, Chad Thurston, graduated in 2011 with a degree in environmental economics. While at Virginia Tech, Chad Thurston met his wife, the former Atiyeh Davis, who graduated in 2009 with a degree in civil engineering.
“I’m very proud to be here because my son went to school here,” Wilbert Thurston said.
Thurston, originally from Louisa, Virginia, works for Faulconer Construction Company, one of the subcontractors Barton Malow Company hired for the sweeping Upper Quad renovation for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
Projects for military organizations fill Thurston’s resume, which started when his father, also a concrete mason, gave him his first paying job in 1981. Today he has three brothers and two first-cousins who are concrete masons, too.
Thurston installed the white walls and the black tile for the Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, which opened in 1997. He’s repaired the breezeway walkways at the Pentagon. He most recently did a job at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
For the last three months, the Faulconer crew has been laying the concrete and maroon brick sidewalk that is bordered by Lane Hall, Pearson Hall, and the newest corps residence hall and will eventually lead to a large flagpole. The maroon brick will form a giant “VT” that will be visible from Alumni Mall.
The larger project recognizes the corps’ continuing growth and its need to house more than 1,000 cadets.
Rasche Hall was demolished to make way for Pearson Hall, a 230-room residence hall designed specifically for a cadets’ needs that opened in 2015. A second, mirror-image residence hall to replace Brodie Hall will open this summer.
The sidewalk and surrounding landscaping will complete the Alumni Mall side of the project, as the flagpole and the statue of Addison Caldwell, the university’s first student and cadet, move forward from their temporary locations behind Lane Hall.
This summer, the final two old residence halls, Montieth and Thomas, will be razed, adding more green space to the quad.
Finally, the proposed 63,000-square-foot Corps Leadership in Military Science Building would replace the Mechanical Arts Building. It would consolidate corps and ROTC operations now scattered among five buildings. Faculty and administrative offices for the Military Sciences Department and the Corps of Cadets will be located here, along with modern classrooms, a new corps Tailor Shop, and an expanded corps museum.
Alumni and friends of the corps have already pledged enough money to cover the private portion of the construction costs. The preliminary design has already been completed, but the state has not yet released construction funds.