History of Vermont Tech

Founded in 1866, Vermont Tech has a long history serving the educational needs of Vermonters.

Before Vermont was a state in the Union, it had declared itself an independent country and crafted its own constitution. Many remember this constitution because it was the first in North American to declare the abolition of slavery. But more importantly to our history, it was the first to mandate funding for public education. In 1806, the Orange County Grammar School was founded here on our hill in Randolph Center. Mr. William Nutting was its principal and is the namesake of one of Vermont Tech’s residence halls. These were the first steps in our history of educating the citizens of Vermont.

After 60 years at the Grammar School, this location was chosen to become the state’s first normal school for the purpose of educating teachers, again by legislative mandate. The Randolph Normal School’s first principal was Edward Conant, whom an academic building is named after. The school is noted for being, “well supplied with apparatus for use in teach chemistry and physics, and with a working library. It has an excellent corps of teachers and maintains a high standard of scholarship,” according to The Illustrated Historical Souvenir of Randolph, Vermont. Some things have always been true about Vermont Tech.

About the same time to our north, The University of Vermont was appointed “land grant” college status for the purpose of teaching practical agriculture curriculum. After 25 years of never granting a degree in agriculture from UVM, the Vermont State Grange pressed for the development of a state agriculture school, focused on the practical application of agricultural education. Thus the Vermont School of Agriculture was born in 1910 at the Normal School site. The school opened with 56 students. We served to educate farmers for Vermont.

In the 50’s, the Vermont School of Agriculture almost closed its doors. Our history could have ended there at a time when nearly 300 farms were going out of business each year and the school’s enrollments were low. Then governor, Joseph Johnson, noted in his inaugural address of 1957 that, “We still need trained young men on our farms, but we also need trained workers in industry. Until such a time as a program can be developed for greater use of the facilities of this school, not only in agriculture but in other fields, I would recommend its closing.” But at the same time, the Commissioner of Agriculture was reporting, “a mechanical technical revolution in Vermont agriculture,” in his biennial report of 1957-1958.

In response to evolving educational needs of Vermont’s workforce, technical courses were added to the offerings of the school in 1957 and the institution was given a new name reflecting this expanding mission: Vermont Agricultural and Technical Institute (VATI). It was the first and only technical institute in Vermont, with an initial enrollment of approximately 75 students. It was then that we educated not only the farmers, but the highway engineers and electrical engineers for Vermont’s growing industrial production.

It was not long after the industrial revolution that led to VATI that Vermont Technical College was founded. In 1962, the college was authorized to grant degrees of Associate in Applied Science. The Associate of Engineering degree was first granted in 1965. Fast forward to 1993 and the College was approved to award its first bachelor’s degree program, the Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering Technology. A short time later in 1994, the nursing programs were added to the College community. Even today, Vermont Tech’s Practical Nursing program is the longest running of its kind in the country, established originally as the Thompson School of Nursing in 1907 in Brattleboro. By 2015, Vermont Tech was authorized to award its first master’s degree in software engineering.

The College continues to evolve. But throughout its history, throughout its evolution, one thing remains the same. The grand purpose, the mission, the strategic intent of Vermont Tech is to meet the educational needs of Vermont’s workforce. To educate its citizens in the industries that are relevant and needed for our society and economy.