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The 1917 Smith-Hughes Act transferred national administration of agricultural education from the United States Department of Agriculture to the Federal Board for Vocational Education. In September of 1918 a cooperative agreement with the Federal Board designated VPI as the institution to provide training for Virginia vocational agriculture teachers.  Later that year Dabney Lancaster was hired as the first teacher educator and head of the Agricultural Education Department which was located in the College of Agriculture.

By 1919 both bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a major in agricultural education were approved.  Early issues included establishing and receiving approval of courses and hiring additional professors to teach the courses.  A unique problem for hiring faculty was finding people with backgrounds in Agricultural Education as no such degrees existed prior to this time.  Another issue was building a physical “quarters” for the department.  The university was very dependent on Smith-Hughes financial support to accomplish such goals.  By 1920 it was obvious the Smith-Hughes dollars were not going to be as great as originally hoped.  As a consequence, one professor had to be released and another had to take a pay cut.

In September of 1925 three Agricultural Education professors and a former professor started the process for creating the Future Farmers of Virginia, which would eventually lead to the Future Farmers of America in 1928.  The three professors were Harry Sanders, Edmund Magill, and Henry Groseclose.  The former professor who was also an FFV founder who had recently been named head state supervisor of Virginia Agricultural Education, and eventual president of Virginia Tech, was Walter Newman.  The meeting was held around a departmental oak table kept in the Agricultural Education Department’s building located near the drillfield.  

In 1928 W. B. Coggin was hired full time to teach psychology and education courses in the department.  By 1935 D. L. Kinnear was hired to teach general education and psychology courses.  The same year Dr. Kinnear was hired the name of the department was changed from Agricultural Education to Vocational Education with an expanded role.  These two professors and the courses they taught laid the groundwork for the future College of Education.

In the 1940s many changes in faculty and administration occurred.  Edmund Magill died in 1940 and Harry Sanders replaced him as head of the department.  Henry Groseclose retired in 1945.  With an increasing demand for instruction in farm mechanics, Seward H. Foote was appointed Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering to provide instruction in farm mechanics.  Later that decade T. J. Wakeman (1945) replaced Foote and E. G. Thompson (1947) was also appointed to help with farm mechanics instruction.  Administratively, vocational education was expanded to become a department with several divisions.  Harry Sanders stayed as department head while T. J. Horne was named head of the Agricultural Education Division.

By 1960 E. G. Thompson was appointed head of the Agricultural Education Division replacing T. J. Horne who was appointed Director of Resident Instruction for the College of Agriculture.  Robert Wall filled the Thompson position in farm mechanics.  On September 1, 1960 J. Dale Oliver was appointed to a position providing farm management in-service training for vocational agriculture teachers.  When Dr. Thompson left the division to become director of admissions John Rodgers was his replacement in 1965.  In February of 1969 Alfred Krebs was made head of agricultural education.

In 1971 the College of Education was formed with program areas as part of four divisions.  The Agricultural Education Program Area was in the Division of Vocational and Technical Education.  Alfred Krebs assumed the position of Program Area Leader for Agricultural Education until 1973 when he became director of the university summer school programs.  Dr. Krebs was replaced by Jim Clouse.  Dr. Clouse was replaced by John Crunkilton as the new program area leader in 1978.  In 1980 the Harry W. Sanders’ Scholarship Fund was started with the first donation coming from Agricultural Education Society.  When Dr. Crunkilton became associate dean for the College of Education in 1988, John Hillison assumed the responsibility of Agricultural Education Program Area Leader.

With strong faculty, student, and industry support Agricultural Education moved back to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with the signing of a memorandum of agreement on December 4, 1991.  The initial administrative structure was that of a program within the college and the leader was called a director.  The physical location of the Agricultural Education Program was in Litton Reaves Hall.

In 2001 the Agricultural Education Program was merged with the Extension Program and Development Unit to form the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education.  The leader remained John Hillison with the title department head.  After moving back to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences the lengthy process of establishing a department, having students with a home in the department, and obtaining degrees was started.  A new bachelor’s degree with the title Agricultural Sciences was approved in 2005.  Dr. Hillison retired in 2006 and was replaced by Dr. Rick Rudd.  Both the Life Sciences Agricultural Education - Masters and the Life Sciences Agricultural Education - Ph. D. were approved in 2007.  In 2014 the name of the department was changed to Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education.


Agricultural Education Department Heads, Division Heads,
Program Area Leaders, and Directors

2020-present Tracy Rutherford
2006-2019 Rick D. Rudd
1988-2006 John Hillison
1978-1988 John R. Crunkilton
1973-1978 James P. Clouse
1969-1973 Alfred Krebs
1968-1969 J. Dale Oliver
1965-1968 John Rodgers
1960-1965 Evans G. Thompson
1949-1960 T. J. Horne
1940-1949 Harry W. Sanders
1924-1940 E. C. Magill
1918-1924 Dabney S. Lancaster