John Redd Hutcheson, 1945-47

John Redd Hutcheson
John Redd Hutcheson

VPI alumnus John Redd Hutcheson, known as Dr. Jack, agreed to take the job as president of VPI only for a few years. A former school teacher, high school principal, and university instructor, Hutcheson started working for the Virginia Agricultural Extension Service in 1914 as a livestock specialist and became its director in 1919, developing a national reputation as an agricultural leader.

Shortly after the affable Hutcheson took over the presidency on August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to end World War II, and a two-day celebration ensued. When the fall quarter began soon thereafter, enrollment nearly doubled that of the previous quarter. The new president worked to prepare the campus for the influx of returning veterans as the college moved from wartime to peacetime conditions.

The veterans generally had no interest in joining the corps of cadets, and for the first time, during winter quarter 1946, civilians outnumbered cadets on campus. With the explosion in civilian students—3,100 living on campus and another 900 day students—came a need for housing. To help resolve the problem for married veterans, the college installed a trailer court—students called it Vetsville—surrounding Solitude, which was converted into a community center to serve the trailer-court residents. Two additional trailer courts—students called them Cassell Heights after financial and business manager Stuart K. Cassell—followed in the area east of present-day Cassell Coliseum. The college rented dormitory space at the Radford Ordinance Works to house other students and converted several buildings there into classrooms; the new location became known as Rad-Tech.

During this period, the board of visitors created a vice president position, which was filled by Walter S. Newman, to handle curriculum development. Hutcheson himself created an office of admissions to assist C. P. “Sally” Miles, dean of the college, with the thousands of applications for admission that poured into the school.

Under Hutcheson, VPI added a master of science in applied mechanics, permitted day students to drive their own automobiles to and from designated campus parking lots, resumed activities—including football—and organizations that had been dropped during World War II, and created an office of director of student affairs. The board of visitors approved the final plans for an alumni war memorial and the proposed Mall leading to the memorial. The school received the first invitation ever issued to a Virginia college team to play in a bowl game--the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1947.

In December 1946 Hutcheson was hospitalized, and Newman, working with Cassell, took over his duties. In May 1947 Newman was named acting president. Concerned about Hutcheson’s health, the board voted on August 12 to relieve him of his presidential duties but elected him to the new position of chancellor and named Newman president, effective September 1, 1947.

Hutcheson recovered, and in 1948 he became president of the newly established VPI Educational Foundation. He retired as chancellor in 1956 to devote full attention to the foundation, which he served until his death on January 23, 1962.