Building the Future: Lane Hall
Cadets still gather each evening in front of Lane Hall
By Albert Raboteau
The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences may occupy Lane Hall but, for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, it's still considered home. The VTCC was moved out of its former Barracks No. 1 years ago, but today's cadets continue a 120-year-old tradition by standing retreat in front of the hall each evening.
One of the oldest buildings on campus, Lane Hall still bears hundreds of signatures scratched into its bricks and mortar by cadets. Some of those etchings date back more than 100 years.
Yesterday's cadets, many of whom actually roomed in the hall, are likely to gaze fondly on it when returning to campus. "It's like visiting an old homeplace," says Raymond Reed of Waynesboro (industrial engineering '57) who served in the corps' Band Company.
It's been decades since he lived in Lane, but Reed still remembers old details, like the single phone for all the cadets and the maple floors of his room.
"They had four-inch boards," he recalls. "We sure had to keep those things waxed."
With help from Reed and others, a multimillion project that will return Lane Hall to the VTCC is in the works. Along with his wife Peggy, Reed recently pledged $1 million in future support for the project. The plan is to extensively update Lane Hall to hold offices for not only the corps, but the campus-based ROTC programs for the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Ray and Peggy Reed
Along with modernizing the building's electrical, mechanical, and information technology systems, the renovations will include additions at the rear of Lane Hall to provide classrooms and a more suitable space for the Corps of Cadets Museum. The current museum in Rasche Hall lacks appropriate climate controls and lighting. Raising millions in additional donations is crucial to financing the project.
Built in 1888, Barracks No. 1 was renamed half-a-century ago for the corps' first commandant, James H. Lane. He headed the organization from the university’s founding in 1872 until 1888. The building is considered the centerpiece of the Upper Quad, which is still the section of campus where the VTCC's offices and residences are clustered.
While the return to Lane Hall would have symbolic meaning for the corps, officials believe it would also help them showcase their program to prospective students and build on their success of recent years in increasing the number of cadets.
"The renovation and addition to Lane Hall are needed to provide adequate facilities for Virginia Tech's ROTC programs, which are among the very best in the nation," says Maj. Gen. Jerrold Allen, the corps' commandant. "Completion of this project will be a strong signal of the university's commitment to the long-term viability of the corps of cadets' effort to develop leaders for the future."
Some cadets plan civilian careers but believe the discipline, sense of community, and leadership training offered by the corps adds to their college experience. Other cadets aspire to become military leaders, and the corps program has tight links to campus ROTC offices for all branches of the military.
For the moment, however, the VTCC and ROTC programs work out of separate facilities. The corps is headquartered in Brodie Hall. The ROTC programs for the Army and Air Force are in the Military Building. The Naval/ Marine ROTC program, which commissions more officers than any program other than the Naval Academy in Annapolis, is in Femoyer Hall, on a fourth floor that is not accessible to the disabled.
Capt. Tom Rubenstein, who heads the Navy program, says the proposed move could help him accommodate growing enrollment. "My first real graduating class was 20 years ago and we commissioned six people. ... This coming year, [we] will graduate 45 people."
Rubenstein also said that being in the same building with the other ROTC programs, and the corps, would be beneficial.
"The partnership between the ROTC units and the corps mission is crucial,” agrees Col. Russell Walden (sociology '82), who heads the Air Force's ROTC program. "Even though we're not that far away, to be co-located in one facility ... would be fantastic."
Col. Mike Bumgarner, who heads the Army’s program on campus, adds: "We very much like to work with our sister services and with the corps. Being able to house us all in one location, that would enhance our overall mission accomplishments."
And that mission is becoming even more important, Bumgarner said, because the Army increasingly has been looking to senior military colleges -- such as Virginia Tech, the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel -- as alternative sources of officers to West Point.
Members of the VTCC have a strong track record of achievement in annual competitions for military trainees. For example, at Army Summer Camp 2008, Virginia Tech cadets had a 100 percent pass rate and the top scores for all senior military colleges in physical fitness, marksmanship, and water survival.
Reed, the alumnus who pledged $1 million toward the renovation, says "the corps of cadets is the heartbeat of Virginia Tech," and he and his wife believe "we need to reward good performance on the part of our corps leadership and ROTC leadership and say, 'Hey, you deserve better; we're going to give you the facilities you need." I think, if we do that, it will make our product even better. There's always room for improvement."
A version of this story first appeared in the Winter 2008 Virginia Tech Magazine.