Virginia Tech will observe the 150th anniversary of its founding from July 2021 through December 2022 with an official sesquicentennial kickoff in October and ongoing celebrations that will spread across the commonwealth and even internationally, focusing on themes befitting the roles of a top global research land-grant university and guided by the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). 

The themes were developed by the sesquicentennial Academic Work Group and vetted with key stakeholders and members of four other work groups (Communications, Engagement, Products and Projects, and Operations and Events). In addition, the Engagement Work Group conducted multiple focus groups with alumni and community members, according to Rosemary Blieszner, chair of Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial Steering Committee and Alumni Distinguished Professor of Human Development.

“It’s not surprising that the themes reflect the university missions – after all, that IS what we do and how we do it,” Blieszner said. “Throughout all of those conversations, Ut Prosim was always mentioned, and the themes are embedded in the context of Ut Prosim, which ultimately guides all that we do."

The themes, as described on the sesquicentennial website at vt.edu/150, are:

Solve Problems: We respond to current problems and conduct research to discover answers to emerging questions. Our faculty, students, and professionals collaborate with communities to identify and address problems that affect the human condition.

Expand Knowledge: Teaching and learning are integral to our land-grant identity. We develop and share knowledge using a variety of methods. Some are tried-and-true. Others are at the leading edge of experiential learning approaches.

Create and Engage Communities: The Hokie Nation is broad and diverse. It includes students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the university’s donors, partners, and friends. The Cooperative Extension network and other researchers serve citizens of the commonwealth and offer assistance across the U.S. and around the world.

Four main celebrations focused on each theme and Ut Prosim as the capstone will feature unique opportunities for engagement involving faculty, staff, students, alumni, and all campuses. Current plans call for celebrations in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia.

“We want to celebrate Virginia Tech’s impact and influence on Blacksburg, the surrounding communities, Roanoke, Richmond, the D.C. metro area, and our global presence,” said Angela Hayes, associate vice president for advancement and sesquicentennial director. “We’re trying to reach as many audiences as possible, so we’re including staff, faculty, volunteers, community and corporate partners, industry leaders, and technology partners — the Hokie Nation at large."

The sesquicentennial will also encompass other significant university observances, including the university’s most ambitious fundraising campaign, Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech, Hayes said. “We’ll also be celebrating 100 years of women at Tech, as well a focus on emerging from the pandemic and Virginia Tech’s role in that and our contribution to calls for social justice.”

Importantly, the sesquicentennial will put the university’s past and future in the context of the present and serve as an important tool for expanding the university’s Beyond Boundaries vision of its future.

“During the celebration, we’ll cover the arc of time to focus on our history and present accomplishments,” Blieszner said. “We’re especially interested in ideas for future directions in university programs because we want to keep the Beyond Boundaries momentum moving forward."

Other plans for the 150th anniversary include individual college and alumni chapter events, reunion, programs offered by many other Virginia Tech units and groups, and a recognition of Virginia Tech “firsts.”

“This has been exciting from day one, but as plans and the calendar are starting to come together, the 150th anniversary recognition is becoming very real and even more exciting,” Blieszner said.

For a video slideshow about the sesquicentennial and updates as the celebrations approach, go to vt.edu/150.

Written by Richard Lovegrove