In Memoriam: Peggy Lee Hahn, former Virginia Tech first lady, university benefactor
Peggy Lee Hahn and T. Marshall Hahn Jr. in 2004
Peggy Lee Hahn loved gardens. And she had two extraordinary ones.
She planted a spectacular one at Hickory Hill Farm in Blacksburg, where she lived more than three decades with her husband, Virginia Tech President Emeritus T. Marshall Hahn Jr.
But Peggy Lee Hahn, who died Thursday at age 85, also did a tremendous amount to support the university’s horticulture garden, located just off Washington Street. And that garden was renamed for her in 2004, after she and her husband made an extraordinarily generous pledge to the facility.
Since then, a garden pavilion and a meadow garden have been added to the garden. They each bear her name as well.
"She was a terrific gardener and an inspiration and a joy to work with, and such a gracious and lovely person," says Associate Professor Holly Scoggins, director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden. "All of us at the garden will miss her very much and do our best to honor her with our work at the garden that bears her name."
While she may be especially missed by those who worked with her at the horticulture garden, Peggy Lee Hahn was well known across campus as former first lady of the university, who served during a period of tremendous growth.
During her husband's 12-year tenure as university president, what was known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute became a comprehensive research university. Enrollment nearly tripled, increasing from 6,358 students to 17,470. Lane Stadium, Cowgill Hall, and Slusher Hall are just a few of the prominent buildings added to campus during the Hahn presidency.
In interviews, Hahn has credited his wife with helping to make that transformation possible by forging close relationships with people who were important to the school.
The Warren H. Strother and Peter Wallenstein book "From VPI to State University," a history of T. Marshall Hahn Jr.'s tenure as president, quotes the former president saying his "hard-driving approach to achieve rapidly as much progress as possible for the university sometimes left some ruffled feathers, and these were quickly smoothed by her charm."
When the garden pavilion was dedicated in honor of Peggy Lee Hahn in 2006, current university President Charles W. Steger said: "Much of what the university is today is a tribute to Dr. Hahn's vision and his devotion to Virginia Tech. At every step, Peggy was there with him, supporting his efforts and cementing relationships with hundreds of people, both on campus and across the commonwealth."
In retirement the couple continued to support Virginia Tech as major donors. Along with her husband, Peggy Lee Hahn was a member of the President’s Circle of the Ut Prosim Society, the Legacy Society and the Hokie Club.
Born Margaret Louise "Peggy" Lee on Dec. 17, 1923, on a dairy farm in DeWitt, Va., she grew up one of seven children and attended public schools before going on to graduate with a degree in home economics education from what is now James Madison University.
She taught home economics at Bladensburg High School in Hyattsville, Md., before marrying T. Marshall Hahn Jr. in 1948. According to her obituary, she died peacefully at home in the arms of her husband of nearly 61 years and their daughters.
The funeral will be officiated by Rev. Reggie Tuck and Rev. Herbert Hobbs. Burial will follow in Westview Cemetery, Blacksburg.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech. Donations may be mailed to: Virginia Tech Foundation, Virginia Tech, University Development (0336), Attn: Gift Accounting, Blacksburg, VA 24061.