Tennessee Tech University's library and media center will soon have a new name — The Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and Media Center.
That designation will be officially marked with a naming ceremony set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, on the building's south lawn.
"The campus ad-hoc naming committee was pleased to have the opportunity to recognize Drs. Angelo and Jennette Volpe in such a significant way for their commitment and contributions to Tennessee Tech University," said President Bob Bell in a letter to Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning.
Angelo and Jennette Volpe served respectively as the university's president and first lady from 1987 to 2000. With the naming of the library and media center in their honor, the name of every past university president will be memorialized on a campus building.
During Volpe's leadership, a development program that resulted in the university's first comprehensive capital campaign was established and raised a total of $21.3 million in five years. Half of that amount was earmarked for scholarships, increasing the university's endowment from only $1 million in 1987 to more than $18.5 million when the campaign ended and more than $27 million in 2000 when he retired.
Other accomplishments during his tenure were the addition of two new Ph.D. programs — in environmental sciences and exceptional learning, which focuses on teaching at-risk and special needs children — and the creation of two Chairs of Excellence, the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center and the Women's Center.
Such achievements helped TTU earn an outstanding ranking in the 1999-2000 issue of U.S. News & World Report, in which it was named as one of the top universities in the Southern region. No other public institution in Tennessee earned such a superlative rating.
"Every accomplishment at TTU under Volpe's leadership was achieved in spite of annual budget constraints," Bell noted.
A first generation Italian-American born in Brooklyn, Volpe skipped two grades in grammar school and graduated from high school at the age of 16. But at first, he didn't envision himself as a university student.
His father, owner of an upholstery shop, decided to try to change his son's mind about going to college by giving him the dirty job of stripping dusty tapestries from the wall of a Manhattan nightclub.
The ploy worked, and Volpe entered Brooklyn College — a part of the City University of New York — and he was inspired to become a chemistry teacher because of a freshman course taught by Lewis J. Bodi.
He graduated from Brooklyn College and earned a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Maryland. Also during that time — from 1961 to 1966 — he worked as a civilian research scientist at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory.
He married Jennette Murray in 1965. Born in Washington, D.C., she earned a bachelor's degree in religion from George Washington University, became a registered nurse and later earned a master's degree and doctorate in theological and religious studies from Drew University in Madison, N.J.
As president and first lady of TTU, the Volpes encouraged the university to develop a greater sense of community and family among its employees and students.
"Above all else, Angelo and Jennette Volpe's administration can be characterized as one that put students first," Bell said.