$35 million gift aids project to replace Randolph Hall at Virginia Tech

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 8:29 AM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ/Virginia Tech Release) - The largest ever gift by a Virginia Tech alumnus will advance a project to replace an aging engineering building with what will be the largest building on the university’s Blacksburg campus.

Virginia Tech reports Norris Mitchell, class of ‘58, and his wife, Wendy, have committed $35 million to the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. The gift will go toward construction, as well as activities and programming for a showcase building for the college, which will replace the more than 60-year-old Randolph Hall.

Per approval of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the new building will be known as Wendy and Norris E. Mitchell ‘58 Hall, according to Virginia Tech.

Plans are for Mitchell Hall to be 284,000 square feet and contain classrooms, instructional labs, space for student team projects, research labs, and office spaces for faculty, staff and students.

Norris Mitchell entered college on scholarship and worked his way through Virginia Tech in a co-op program. Mitchell earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1958.

“My mother was a schoolteacher and principal, and the value of education has been clear to me ever since I was a boy,” said Mitchell, who was an aerospace executive with several leading firms before transitioning careers to found companies in real estate and banking. “Virginia Tech equipped me with the knowledge and skillset to have an extremely fulfilling career across several industries. I appreciate the university’s key role in my life. Wendy and I are happy to be able to make this gift to help Virginia Tech prepare tomorrow’s engineers.”

Wendy Mitchell attended Virginia Tech for a brief period before leaving to help address a family emergency, then embarked on a career in banking that saw her rise to senior leadership positions at several institutions.

“Out of all the ways that we could give money to Virginia Tech, we thought this building project was the right choice,” she said. “You can have as many bright students as possible, but if you don’t have places for them to get together and work on projects, they’re not going to get as far. We hope this money will be a turning point for this great building the university has in mind to get built.”

Randolph Hall was built between 1952 and 1959 in the university’s North Academic District, according to Virginia Tech, which says after more than a half-century of use, there is a need to replace the building. Along with having modern spaces and resources, Mitchell Hall is projected to be more than 70 percent bigger than Randolph Hall, providing space to accommodate growth in the university’s engineering programs and account for shifts in how research and teaching take place today.

“The Mitchells’ inspiring story illustrates the power of education to create new opportunities for service and achievement,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “Their extraordinary gift will make this important project a reality, and I look forward to seeing Mitchell Hall become a nexus of ideas, innovation, and learning experiences that support the success of our students, our university, and the commonwealth.”

Total project costs are projected at $248 million, most of which would come from state funding, according to the university. The gift from the Mitchells satisfies the university’s obligation to provide funding to the project. Depending on the timing of approvals from the General Assembly, the project could be ready for construction funding by summer 2023, according to the university’s capital budget request to the state.

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