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Newman, Walter S. (Walter Stephenson), 1895-1978



  • Existence: 1895 - 1978

Biographical Note

Walter Stephenson Newman (1895-1978) was the first individual to hold the office of Vice-President at Virginia Tech. His tenure began 15 May 1946 but only lasted until 1 September 1947, when he became the tenth president of Virginia Tech, serving from 1947 to 1962. As president, Newman conferred more degrees than all his predecessors combined and oversaw more than $20,000,000 in campus construction. Newman put greater emphasis on research and graduate programs than any previous president, and several new graduate degree programs were established while he was president. In 1953, the first black student was admitted to Virginia Tech, notwithstanding Newman's active opposition to integration. Also during Newman's term, the status of the Corps of Cadets was studied, then strengthened with the appointment of the first full-time commandant of cadets since World War I.

Walter Newman was born in Woodstock, Virginia, on July 20, 1895. He earned an undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney College in 1917, a Masters of Science in agriculture from Virginia Tech in 1919, and a Ph.D. Degree in agriculture from Penn State in 1931. He was Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education at Virginia Tech from 1922 to 1936, when he became Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Virginia. He also served as state administrator of the National Youth Administration from 1936 to 1942.

Newman returned to Virginia Tech as Vice-President in May 1946. He assumed many of the duties of the office of the president in December 1946, when President John Hutcheson was hospitalized. The Board of Visitors appointed Newman Acting President in May 1947 and President on September 1, 1947.

Newman's presidency saw "the beginning of a strong effort to strengthen the offerings in the humanities," Duncan Lyle Kinnear writes in A Short History of Virginia Tech. Courses in Russian, philosophy and ethics were introduced, and the Department of Philosophy and Religion was organized in 1955.

Masters programs were added in City and Regional Planning, Engineering Geology, Aeronautical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering Physics, and Mathematics, and doctoral programs in Applied Mechanics and Geology, Mathematics, Aeronautical Engineering, and Civil Engineering. The Departments of Forestry and Wildlife Conservation, Veterinary Science, and Entomology were created from the Department of Biology; the Department of Extension Education was begun in the School of Agriculture; and the School of Home Economics was created. Roanoke Technical Institute, a division of Tech's School of Engineering, opened its doors in 1961.

In 1957, the university acquired a wind tunnel for use in its aeronautical engineering program. A nuclear reactor simulator, the first in the country owned by a college, began operations in 1957.

Dormitory capacity increased from 1,976 to 3,904 between 1947 and 1962. Buildings constructed while Newman was president include Newman Library (1955), Femoyer, Thomas, and Monteith dormitories (1949), Smyth and Henderson Halls (1950), the first wing of Randolph Hall and Williams Hall (1953), Commerce Hall (now Pamplin Hall, 1957), and Memorial Chapel (1960), and construction was begun on Cassell Coliseum and Schultz Dining Hall, and Vawter and Barringer dormitories (1962).

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute Educational Foundation, Inc., was established by the Board of Visitors in 1948 to increase gifts and endowments, and a Director of Development was hired in 1958. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute-Blacksburg-Christiansburg Water Authority was organized in 1954-1955, ensuring the campus with an abundant supply of water on campus beginning in 1957.

President Newman suffered a heart attack in March 1961. He returned to work in July but presented the Board of Visitors with his formal resignation soon afterward. Newman's resignation was made official December 4 , 1961.

Jenkins Mikell Robertson, compiler and editor. Historical Data Book, Centennial Edition(Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1964 and 1972), 21-24; Duncan Lyle Kinnear, The First 100 Years: A History of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University(Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Polytechnic Institute Educational Foundation, Inc., 1972), 357-413; Peter Wallenstein, "The First Black Students at Virginia Tech," Diversity News, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Fall 1997), 3.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Henry J. Dekker Papers,

Identifier: Ms-2012-055

The collection consists of papers relating to Henry Dekker's tenure as rector of Board of Visitors, service on Pamplin Advisory Council, interest in Pamplin College of Business, and the history of Virginia Tech.

Dates: 1949 - 2009

Walter S. Newman Collection,

Identifier: Ms-2015-006

This collection consists of an undated photograph album, program from his Inauguration as President of Virginia Tech, The Techgram, May 1, 1949 and an official photogram taken by The Foster Studio in Richmond, Virginia. There are several postcards and letters sent to Ella Boyer, possibly a housekeeper in the Newman family.

Dates: 1930-1968, n.d.

Records of the Office of the President, Walter S. Newman

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-02-10

The Records of the Office of the President, Walter S. Newman consists of correspondence, financial documents, enrollment statistics, architects' contracts, audits, commencement and inaugural ephemera, statements to the Federal Power Commission, photographs, and reports on Virginia's public school system submitted to the Moses Commission.

Dates: 1947 - 1962; Majority of material found within ( 1947-1961)

Records of the Office of the Vice-President, Walter S. Newman

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-03-01

Walter Stephenson Newman (1895-1978) was the first individual to hold the office of Vice-President at Virginia Tech. His tenure began 15 May 1946 but only lasted until 1 September 1947, when he became the tenth president of Virginia Tech, serving from 1947 to 1962. This small collection consists of correspondence concerning curriculum revisions, letters from and replies to other colleges on various matters, and copies of memoranda to faculty and department heads.

Dates: 1946 - 1947

Charles K. Payne Papers

Identifier: Ms-1949-003

This collection consists of a letter from Payne to Walter S. Newman, VPI President (1947-1962), a letter from Newman to Miss Elizabeth Woolwine in the library, and a completed questionnaire regarding VAMC in the 1870s and 1880s.

Dates: 1949

Walter S. Newman, Sr.

 Collection — Frame 1
Identifier: Art-163