Alumnus gives back to the university ‘that is like a second family’
By Zeke Barlow
In many ways, George Allen, his family, and Virginia Tech have grown up together.
When Allen was 14, he came to Blacksburg for the first time for a 4-H Short Course (now called 4-H Congress) and was immediately struck by his surroundings.
While walking across the Drillfield, the boy from Bland County gazed up at newly constructed Burruss Hall, with its Hokie Stone reaching to the sky.
“I thought it was a great big building,” said Allen, 92. “There weren’t many buildings when I first started coming to Blacksburg. It’s hard to believe it has grown so much.”
As Allen matured, so did the campus.
When he came back for the Short Course three times during high school, he saw horse barns, a riding ring, and a cattle barn on the edge of campus — facilities that were eventually relocated to accommodate Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium.
A few years later, when it was time to go to college, there was only once choice for Allen.
“Virginia Tech was the best school in the state,” he said.
But two years into his education, Allen, who was in the Corps of Cadets, was called away to serve in World War II. He returned to Virginia Tech after his stint in the Army Air Corps and realized that he had found a home.
After graduating in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences, he took a job with Virginia Cooperative Extension as an agent in Bland and Grayson counties. A few years later Allen was on a bus to Washington County to help out with a 4-H camp when he met Nadine Cox, who was working for 4-H.
The two immediately hit it off and three years later, they married.
Allen stayed with Virginia Cooperative Extension as a sheep specialist for more than 30 years, during which time he was an integral part of helping the farmers he served. In recognition of his outstanding service to the industry, he was inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame
In 2013 when Allen had two parcels of land he wanted to donate, two recipients immediately came to mind: his church and Virginia Tech.
“They are two organizations I feel very close to and wanted to make a contribution to,” he said.
Allen’s gift to his alma mater will fund two endowments — one is in memory of his late wife in recognition of her lifelong love of 4-H. The fund benefits the 4-H program in Craig County.
The second is in memory of his brother, Donald, who graduated with a degree in animal science and was a WWII veteran and an associate professor at Virginia Tech. It will provide scholarships for students in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences.
The Allen tradition at Virginia Tech and 4-H continues to this day. All four of his children were active in 4-H, and his son Andy is an Extension agent in Craig County.
As the university has grown, so has George Allen’s connection to it.
“I wanted to do something for Virginia Tech,” he said.
“It is kind of like a second family, really. You like it and you want to see it do well.”