The twelve members of the first graduating class of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College organized an Alumni Association on August 11, 1875, and elected officers. William A. Caldwell, the first student to enroll at the College in 1872, was elected secretary in 1876.
The first Alumni Association was loosely organized and, in 1891, the members decided to reorganize. They drew up a constitution, decided to publish an Alumni Register, and declared that they would participate more actively in the affairs of the College. The Association later was incorporated on June 23, 1924.
Development of early alumni records required a great deal of voluntary work on the part of Col. J. S. A. Johnson '98 and H. H. (Bunker) Hill '04. The basic alumni records system was established by Hill. The first paid executive secretary was Henry B. Redd '19, who was hired in 1926 and served until his death in 1960. New bylaws were adopted by the Association in 1964, linking the Association more closely with the university and the V.P.I. Educational Foundation (Virginia Tech Foundation). Gifts to support the Association were then and continue to be deposited with the Foundation.
Also in 1964, the alumni secretary became Director of Alumni Affairs (changed to Executive Director in 1972, Executive Vice President in 1980, and Vice President for Alumni Relations in 1991). Chief executive officers of the Association have been: H. B. Redd, 1926-60; M. L. Oliver, 1960-65; Philip Oliver (acting) 1965-66; C. B. Ross, 1966-67; H. L. Pritchard (acting), 1967-68; G. E. Russell, 1968-1995; T. C. Tillar, Jr., 1996-present.
Membership in the Alumni Association was originally achieved by paying annual dues of $1 a year (later raised to $3). An Alumni Loyalty Fund (later Alumni Annual Fund) was established in 1938, replacing dues with annual contributions. An Alumni Fund Council was established in June, 1938. A University Development Council was established in 1964 to coordinate all university fund-raising activities.
The Alumni Association currently is supported through designated gifts to the Virginia Tech Annual Fund. Additional support is provided through merchandising, group tours and affinity programs. The Virginia Tech Foundation also provides operating funds for the Alumni Association.
All former students of the university who have matriculated at least one term for academic credit are considered members of the Alumni Association. Donors are considered "active members" of the Association for a period of twelve months following the date of their gift.
An official Homecoming Day for alumni was designated by the Association in September 1928. The earlier class reunions were held at Commencement until 1941, when they were discontinued because of World War II. They resumed as part of Homecoming weekend in 1952. Today, six classes each year celebrate reunions on campus in the fall (each class at five-year intervals, starting with a class' 25th reunion), and three classes from the 80's, 90's and 00's for joint class reunions.
Tech's women graduates organized a V.P.I. Alumnae Society in 1933 to serve their special interests. The Society was succeeded by the Women's Chapter of the V.P.I. Alumni Association, organized in April 1955, and dissolved in May 1971. An "Old Guard" association, restricted to those who have been graduated at least 50 years, was formed in June 1967. The Old Guard Reunion is held each spring.
Contributions to the Virginia Tech Annual Fund afford alumni the status of active chapter membership. Through the years, over 130 alumni chapters have been organized around the country and internationally to provide opportunities for alumni to gather socially and hear speakers from the campus, and to maintain mutually beneficial contact with the university.
In addition to its chapter and class reunion programs, the Association assists with the university's Fall Faculty and Staff Awards program, academic college homecomings and special interest group reunions. A student affiliate organization, Student Alumni Associates, was organized by the Association in 1975 to better orient undergraduates concerning the programs of the Association.
In January 1991, a stronger relationship was forged between the university and the Alumni Association when the Association was formally aligned administratively with the university. The former Executive Vice President of the Association was named Vice President for Alumni Relations, and a Director of Alumni Relations was appointed. While the Alumni Association remained a private non-profit corporation, its staff became employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia, joining the other university employees.
Now, twelve full-time professional staff, twelve full-time support staff, two part-time support staff, and seven part-time or shared staff, headed by a Vice President, administers the programs and services of the Alumni Association. A 32-member board of directors governs the Association, meeting twice annually on the campus. Several directors are elected each year by "active members" of the Association to serve three-year terms. Officers of the Association are elected by the board members. In addition, the university president and the vice president for development and university relations serve as members of the Association Board.