Ribbon Cutting Celebrates Past and Future

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Dean Rosemary Blieszner (center) joined LaTawnya Burleson, president of the college’s Staff Association, and Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost of Virginia Tech, in the official ribbon cutting for the college’s new headquarters.
Dean Rosemary Blieszner (center) joined LaTawnya Burleson, president of the college’s Staff Association, and Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost of Virginia Tech, in the official ribbon cutting for the college’s new headquarters.

At the end of April, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences celebrated the official opening of its new headquarters in the oldest Hokie Stone building on campus.

For its first three decades, the building — constructed between 1900 and 1902 — housed Blackburg’s Young Men’s Christian Association. For the next 30 years, it served as the university’s Military Building before becoming the Student Personnel Building for six years and the Performing Arts Building for 36 years.

Now administrative home to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the building houses both the Office of the Dean and the Center for Humanities.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost of Virginia Tech, congratulated the college on its new headquarters and quipped that Burruss Hall, the university’s main administrative building, was close, but — fortunately for the college — not too close.

Rosemary Blieszner, dean of the college, noted the fittingness of the building’s central location on campus. “Our college’s many disciplines thread throughout the intellectual fabric of this university,” she said, “and our teaching touches every single undergraduate on campus and many graduate students as well.”

Blieszner also contrasted the assembled crowd of the present with that of the past.

“When the cornerstone for this building was laid at the end of the nineteenth century,” she said, “the men sported straw hats and the women wore long, flowing gowns and held parasols. Girls stood in pinafores while boys in short pants sprawled on Hokie Stones scattered across a dirt field.”

The building’s recent renovation retained several historical features, such as the building’s wooden floors, wall wainscoting, wood sash windows, original stair bannisters and spindles, roof trusses and tie rods, suspended track floor supports, corner fireplaces, and slate roof.

Yet interior upgrades also included an elevator, a new HVAC system, energy-efficient windows, water-efficient plumbing, enhanced audiovisual offerings, and a 2,316-square-foot addition that allows full accessibility and compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

“As the first Hokie Stone structure on campus, now with 21st-century advancements, the building has a blend of tradition and technology that serves as a reminder of our college’s mission,” Blieszner said. “We bring together the perspectives of the arts, humanities, and social sciences to achieve meaningful solutions to complex human problems.”

Photography by Leslie King

Sylvester Johnson, director of the Center for Humanities, pretends to hide the official ribbon-cutting shears.
Sylvester Johnson, director of the Center for Humanities, pretends to hide the official ribbon-cutting shears.
Brian Shabanowitz, the college’s associate dean for finance and administration, talks with Janet Johnson, a former dean of the college, and her husband, Jim.
Brian Shabanowitz, the college’s associate dean for finance and administration, talks with Janet Johnson, a former dean of the college, and her husband, Jim.
Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost of Virginia Tech, congratulates the college on its new headquarters.
Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost of Virginia Tech, congratulates the college on its new headquarters.
Dean Rosemary Blieszner holds up a student handbook of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute from exactly a century ago — the 1919 to 1920 academic year, provided compliments of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Dean Rosemary Blieszner holds up a student handbook of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute from exactly a century ago — the 1919 to 1920 academic year, then provided compliments of the Young Men’s Christian Association. Its owner — W. N. Stoneman — penciled only a few select notes in the book; his interests seem to have lain chiefly in the Manual of Milk Products, the Chemistry of Common Things and, of course, that year’s football scores, which he carefully recorded.
Members of the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities enjoyed a reception and tours of the building following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pictured, from left, are Charles Taylor, an emeritus professor of political science; Tasia Persson, executive assistant to the dean; and Adnan Saeed, web applications analyst for the college.
Members of the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities enjoyed a reception and tours of the building following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pictured, from left, are Charles Taylor, an emeritus professor of political science; Tasia Persson, executive assistant to the dean; and Adnan Saeed, web applications analyst for the college.