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University History

85 Great Moments in ODU History

September Moments: University History


The Start of Something Big...

On Sept. 12, 1930, the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary opens its doors in the old Larchmont School building, an abandoned elementary school, on Hampton Boulevard. In all, 206 students register for classes. The first to enroll are Albert E. Wilson, Ruth Wilson and Rufus Tonelson. H. Edgar Timmerman is the Division's first director. The following year, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, through an arrangement with W&M, offers the first two years of its standard engineering program at the Norfolk Division.


Old Larchmont SchoolPhoto of Norfolk Division Building (Old Larchmont School), 1930 (Click on image to see full photo)
Old Larchmont SchoolPhoto of Norfolk Division Building (Old Larchmont School), side view, 1930 (Click on image to view full photo)
Aerial view of land available for Norfolk Division, 1930Aerial view of land available for Norfolk Division, 1930 (Click on image to view full photo)

Joseph E. HealyHealy, 1960 (Click on image to view full photo)

Joseph E. Healy

In 1924, Joseph E. Healy became director of the William & Mary Extension in Norfolk -- organizing classes and finding rooms where William & Mary faculty would teach. In 1930, as Principal of Blair Junior High School, he worked with Robert M. Hughes, Sr. (alumnus of William & Mary), Dr. J. A. C. Chandler (President of William & Mary), and A. H. Foreman to create the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary. He was interviewed by Robert H. Land of William & Mary on June 9, 1960.


A. Rufus Tonelson Tonelson, 1970s (Click on image to view full photo)

A. Rufus Tonelson

A.Rufus Tonelson was one of the first three students enrolled at the Norfolk Division in 1930. He was later a professor and administrator at Old Dominion and was also principal of Maury High School.

He discusses his memories of ODU's beginnings in a 1975 interview.


College of William and Mary Sign in NorfolkClick on image to view full photo

The College of William and Mary in Norfolk



Independence Day

On Feb. 16, 1962, Gov. Albertis S. Harrison signs General Assembly legislation dissolving the Colleges of William & Mary system, in effect granting independence to the Norfolk Division. Six months later, the board chooses the name Old Dominion College over such possibilities as College of the Atlantic, Thomas Jefferson College and College of Hampton Roads. Some 33 years later, ODU bestows an honorary degree on W &M President Tim Sullivan.

Old Dominion College signClick image to view full photo
1963 ODU Troubadour Yearbook Click on image to view yearbook

1963 ODU Troubadour yearbook is dedicated to the Board of Visitors who were appointed in July of 1962 and "are working with their utmost energy towards establishing Old Dominion as the greatest college in Virginia."


Lewis W. Webb, Jr., 1960s Webb, 1960s (Click on image to view full photo)

Lewis W. Webb, Jr.

President Lewis Warrington Webb, Jr. was considered "the Father of Old Dominion." After serving 10 years as an instructor at the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary, he was appointed Assistant Director in 1942. He also served as Director of the Defense and War Training Program at the College from 1940-1944. In 1946 Webb was appointed Director of the Norfolk Division and served as the first President of Old Dominion College from 1962-1969.

He discusses his recollelctions about the Norfolk Division's separation from William & Mary in a 1975 interview.


Charles O. Burgess, 1960sBurgess, 1960 (Click on image to view full photo)

Charles O. Burgess

Dr. Charles O. Burgess came to the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary in 1955 as an Instructor in the English Department. He was appointed the University's first Dean of Graduate Studies in 1970, became Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs in 1972, and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters in 1985.

He discusses his recollelctions about the Norfolk Division's separation from William & Mary in a 2010 interview.


E. Vernon PeelePeele, 1969 (Click on image to view full photo)

E. Vernon Peele

Dean E. Vernon Peele served ODU from 1948-1975 as Assistant Director from 1948-1956, Dean of Instruction from 1956-1966, and Dean of Arts & Sciences from 1966-1975.

He discusses his recollelctions about the Norfolk Division's separation from William & Mary in a 1974 interview.



Batten Legacy Begins

Frank Batten, 1960s

Frank Batten, publisher of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star and a member of the Norfolk Division's advisory board, is chosen on May 27, 1962, to serve as the first rector of Old Dominion College. Batten, who would become one of the most influential and philanthropic figures in school history, serves until 1970 and plays a leadership role in Old Dominion's evolution from college to university. The Batten Arts and Letters Building is dedicated in his honor in 1972, and the College of Engineering and Technology is named for him in 2004.


W. Frank Latham, President Webb, Albert Gornto, and Frank Batten at Alumni Event, June 9, 1962 W. Frank Latham, President Webb, Albert Gornto, and Frank Batten at Alumni Event, June 9, 1962 (Click on image to view full photo) Director's Advisory Committee, Winter 1955 Directory Advisory Committee, Winter 1955 (Click on image to view full photo)

Lewis W. Webb, Jr.

The "Father of Old Dominion," Lewis Webb became the Director of the Norfolk Division in 1946 and was the first President of Old Dominion College from 1962-1969.

He discusses Frank Batten in a 1975 interview.


Albert Teich, Jr. Teich, 1960s (Click on image to view full photo)

Albert Teich, Jr

Albert Teich, Jr. was a student at the Norfolk Division from 1945-47 and joined the faculty in the College of Business from 1957-1992.

In a 1976 interview he says the following about Frank Batten:

Frank Batten was the strong man on that and basically what Frank wanted, Frank got. (pg. 29)



Transition from College to University

Old Dominion University sign, 1970s Click on image to view full photo

With the dream of university status realized, Lewis Webb steps down and James L. Bugg Jr. takes over as president of Old Dominion in July 1969. During Bugg's tenure, the university offers its first doctoral programs in engineering and oceanography. He establishes the Office of Information Services to keep the community, as well as the legislature, apprised of university progress and successes. During Bugg's presidency, the school articulates its mission to be known as an urban university.


Charles O. Burgess, 1970s Burgess, 1970s (Click on image to view full photo)

Charles O. Burgess

When the college transitioned to a university, Charles Burgess became the University's first Dean of Graduate Studies in 1970. In 1972, he became Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs. He worked closely with President Bugg.

He discusses the transition to a university in a 2010 interview.


davidhager-1980sHager on a visit to Fort Bragg, North Carolina at an A.R.O.T.C. event, 1980s (Click on image to view full photo)

David Hager

Dr. David Hager began teaching at ODU in 1969 as it was transitioning to a university. He has held a variety of administrative posts since 1973, including Department Chair, Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Dean of Graduate Studies, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Acting Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

He discusses the transition to a university in a 1999 interview (no audio available).


Most of the oral histories and digital materials are from the University Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives. See Resources.