On October 21, 1918 Virginia Tech president Joseph Eggleston received a letter from a concerned parent. The parent, W. T. Goodloe, wrote to inform Eggleston that he had asked his son to resign from school and return home. Goodloe explained that his son entered Virginia Tech expecting to receive a normal education and that he would only be a cadet of the institution, not in the “regular army.” Unfortunately this was not a possibility since the War Department’s Student’s Army Training Corps program affected the entire curricular structure of the university. All students, regardless of age and military status, were required to complete additional military studies at the expense of their non-military education.
Since Goodloe’s son was only 17 and would not be of draft age until September 1919 his father thought it best if his son returned home. Eggleston agreed that Goodloe did the right thing in asking his son to resign, lamenting that “We [the Virginia Tech administration] have been compelled to subordinate everything here to the wishes of the Washington officials.” In a moment of frankness Eggleston told Goodloe that he believed “it will take the colleges years to recover from present conditions.”
Remarkably I’ve found a number of other letters from parents asking Eggleston to allow their sons to leave the university, drop out of the SATC, and return home. Unfortunately the ones I’ve found so far were not as lucky as Goodloe. These students were 18 or older, since they were old enough to be conscripted into the Army and the SATC, they were not allowed to return home. A fact that these parents may have failed to understand or a fact that these parents did not wish to accept.
I these two particular letters remarkable due to the frankness in which Eggleston replies. Due to his position as president of Virginia Tech, Eggleston may have held back his opinions in his letters due to the public nature of his occupation. But in his response he hints at his reservations about the War Department’s use of colleges and universities during the war. Additionally, Goodloe’s letter represents one of the diverse reactions parents of Virginia Tech students had to the SATC and curricular changes associated with it. Goodloe clearly does not want his underage son to participate in the SATC before he is of age, other parents do not want their sons to participate in the program at all, while some parents make inquiries about joining the SATC on behalf of their children. There not one unifying response on behalf of parents, but Goodloe’s letter reveals the careful consideration and reasoning behind his motivation to bring his son home.
Here are the letters so you can read them for yourselves:
Both letters can be found in: Joseph Dupuy Eggleston papers, Office of the President, RG 2/7, Box 5, Folder 439, University Archives: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University