Virginia Tech grad donates special collection to Corps of Cadets Museum

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) - You may remember the story of Virginia Tech's Corp of Cadets Museum Curator who was working to restore what she thought was the oldest existing cadet blouse with the "Virginia Polytechnic Institute" lettering.
She turned out to be wrong in the best way possible.

Back in April, Samantha Riggin found an unidentified gem hiding among the Corp of Cadets Museum collection.

"Then I began to understand how important it was."

Her investigation revealed the blue blouse hidden in plain site in a display case was actually an 1890s era jacket. She believed it was the first to sport the lettering for the new university name : "Virginia Polytechnic Institute."

She wrote about the discovery in an alumni magazine, which was read by a man on the other side of the state who was making a discovery of his own.

“I was sitting there and saying,‘I have a uniform that’s I think event better than what they have.’”

Page Herbert, a Cadet graduate of the 1950s, had more than just a uniform.

“Having a lot of these things, it was just interesting,"Herbert said, a surrounded by items on a large table inside Lane Hall. "Can I show you a picture of this?”

He has pictures, yearbooks, a diploma, literary magazines and a jersey all belonging to his grandfather Paul Hobday: an 1898 cadet graduate of Virginia Tech. The items include Hobday's masters diploma for civil engineering, signed by Virginia Tech legends like Pritchard, Davidson and Smyth. There's an orange and maroon stiched sweater, in near perfect condition. Riggin said Hobday likely belonged to a club called The Rooters: an all-male cheer club that rooted for the school's baseball, football and track teams.

“You can see a cannon over here and Lane Hall," Herbert said, pointing to a picture from 1898 with cadets in formation. "It was called Dorm One then.”

That means Hobday's jacket is even older than the one Riggin originally found, which is why it's coming home.

“This is where they should be," Herbert said. "so here I am.”

Herbert has returned to campus this week.

“Tom Hanson lived in that room," he said pointing down a hallway.

He starts the day checking out his old dorm in Lane Hall, now converted to offices.

"And this would have been mine, he said, pointing at office room 324. "This is where we lived."

And he makes a stop outside his grandfather's room, in the bay just next door to his.

“Bay One, corner room,” he said, pointing.

But the biggest item of the day is donating his grandfather's precious items to the museum.

“I got chills I mean I just, see? I can’t help it," said Riggin.

Herbert said his grandfather was likel involved in some way in the Spanish-American war. The man he called "Pop" went on to work as a civil engineer, an oyster surveyor, and a designed of many of the schools in Matthews County. He and Pop shared an interest in boxing, stamp collecting and Herbert said his grandfather wouldn't be found without his corncob pipe.

He believes the man who greatly influenced his life would be happy to see the items come back.

"We hope he'd like it," he said, "but we think he'd appreciate it."

And Riggin has made a discovery in a new connection, one she believes is the most valuable thing of all.

"This is a huge day," she said. "...It is that exciting to a curator, to somebody that, I love the cadets and I love this school.”

Riggin said she has a third uniform that she found from the same era, only about the same age as the first one she found.

All three will be sent to a conservator for restoration and will eventually be displayed in the museum.