As the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets prepares for its future with a major redesign of the Upper Quad, it had to move its past. To do that, experts from the Department of History and the University Libraries jumped in to help relocate the Corps of Cadets Museum from Rasche Hall to Newman Library and other spaces.
The museum traces its roots to 1985, when then-Commandant Lt. Gen. Howard M. Lane pitched the idea to Col. Joseph Reich, a member of the Class of 1975 and an Air Force ROTC instructor. Since then, the museum has grown into a diverse collection of corps memorabilia, such as old uniforms and other artifacts donated by alumni.
In its early years, the museum was small enough to fit in Rasche Hall’s small guard room. But as the collection grew, so did the need for space, and the museum took over an old study lounge in the residence hall.
In March 2013, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors took its first formal action to set a redesign plan for the Upper Quad in motion. The plan includes replacing Brodie and Rasche halls with new buildings to house more than than 1,000 cadets. A new Corps Leadership and Military Science building will house the Corps of Cadets administrative staff, the Rice Center for Leader Development, Military Science staff, and other program needs. Lane Hall will be placed on the National Registry of Historic Sites and steps will be taken to preserve it.
For the corps, planning efforts began much earlier. Among them was the need to find a temporary home for the museum until it can be moved into the new Corps Leadership and Military Science building.
Calls for help went out, and the response was overwhelming.
In late fall 2012, a small team with expertise in handling historical collections from the History Department and Newman Library joined corps Alumni Director Col. Patience Larkin, corps alumni, and cadet historians to plan the museum’s move to the fourth floor of Newman Library, adjacent to Torgersen Bridge.
Two interns from the history department, Tyler Bergeron of New Ipswich, N.H., a master’s degree candidate in history, and Cort Rushton of Springfield, Va., a senior majoring in history, inventoried the museum’s collection. They spent spring 2013 photographing, tagging, and describing close to 1,000 items before carefully wrapping each one for storage or preparing it to be moved to the library.
Other members of the team were the library specialists led by Event and Communications Relations Coordinator Therese Walters. Adrienne Serra of Special Collections and Scott Pennington of Digitization and Collection Management worked the details behind the effort and made sure that storage space was secured, the correct paper was used to wrap sensitive items, and the pieces were photographed correctly.
Serra; Class of 1964 alumnus Jim Flynn; Ensign Christopher Sturgill, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in wildlife science; and Cadet Dustin Rhoads of Lansing, Kan., a senior Army ROTC member majoring in management, ensured that all museum items going to the library were identified, packed, and tagged. The team helped move boxes from Rasche Hall, while the university’s carpentry shop moved the display cases.
The original Skipper cannon was relocated to the Holtzman Alumni Center’s museum. Knowing how important Skipper is to the corps and the university, it was a priority to ensure the original cannon and its history continue to be displayed and shared with all of the Hokie Nation, said Vice President for Alumni Relations Tom Tillar. In keeping with tradition, the cadets of F-troop, Foxtrot Company continue to polish the cannon during the school year.
Support from partners in Student Centers and Activities, Housing and Residence Life, and Dining Services also allowed for some of the museum’s art and displays, as well as those from the former Shultz Dining Hall, to be on display in Squires Student Center, the Corps of Cadets dining room at Lavery Hall, and in the corps’ temporary home in Main and West Eggleston halls.
Recognizing the continuing growth of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and its need to house more than 1,000 cadets, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in March 2013 initiated planning efforts to address the buildings on the Upper Quad while honoring the historic nature of that precinct.
In November 2013, Rasche Hall became the first of four Upper Quad residence halls to be torn down.
Rasche included an old section — the former Barracks No. 2 completed in 1894 — and newer section built on site of the old First Academic Building added in 1957. It was named for William H. “Bosco” Rasche, a professor of mechanism and descriptive geometry from 1895 to 1951.
In 1963, three cadets came together with one goal in mind: to have the biggest game cannon the world has ever seen. In 2013, the Corps of Cadets celebrated the 50th anniversary of their accomplishment.