Top 50 Hokies Spotlight: Stuart Kent Cassell
Virginia Tech has several prominent structures all over campus such as Buruss Hall, Goodwin Hall, Lane Stadium, Rector Field House, and several more. However, one building has more history than most Hokies might think: Cassell Coliseum.
It was named after 1932 alumnus Stuart Kent Cassell, a man who loved Blacksburg and Virginia Tech.
Cassell was born in 1910 and grew up on a farm outside of Rural Retreat in Wythe County, about an hour south of Blacksburg. He was one of twelve children whose father pushed them to excel in the classroom. Cassell enrolled at Virginia Tech in animal husbandry in 1928 along with joining the Corp of Cadets.
After his four years in Blacksburg and an extra year for a master’s degree, Cassell decided he wanted to stay at Virginia Tech. For the next six years he taught in the agricultural department until being promoted to a director position in 1939. In 1945, the president of the university, John R. Hutcheson (Hutcheson Hall), offered him to become a financial and business manager of Virginia Tech.
Cassell Builds His Empire
Cassell took this position and had a grand vision for Virginia Tech to take it to the next level. Then when president Hutcheson was unexpectedly hospitalized in 1946, Cassell and Walter Newman (Newman Hall) co-assumed the presidential duties for the university.
During these years, Cassell got to work. His first major challenge was finding housing for WWII veterans looking to enroll after the war. He created temporary lodging in the Radford Arsenal and also a trailer park nicknamed “Cassell Heights”, near where Cassell Coliseum resides today
In 31 active years, Cassell had his hand in 51 buildings and structures at Virginia Tech, but his most prominent project was the construction of a new football stadium (Lane Stadium) and a basketball coliseum. According to Clara B. Cox’s (M.A) article in the Virginia Tech Magazine, Cassell was able to get the construction funded by the state making it a “student activity center”.
The coliseum was started in 1961 with its first event in 1962, a basketball game against Alabama which the Hokies (Gobblers at the time) won 91-67. It was fully completed in 1964 and found multiple uses for commencement ceremonies, concerts, speakers, and several other events. It was named the “Student Activities and Physical Education Building”.
Cassell passed away unexpectedly in 1976, but his legendary tenure was not forgotten. Only a month after his passing, the board of visitors renamed his prized building to "Cassell Coliseum", solidifying his name forever at Virginia Tech.