In memoriam: Archie Phlegar, alumnus, former director of admissions
Archie Phlegar '52, M.S. '74, Ed.D. '78 of Blacksburg, director of Virginia Tech admissions during a time of profound growth and diversification of the university, died at age 92 on March 30.
Phlegar’s family history in Southwest Virginia dates back to the mid-1700s. He and his older brother, Frederick, were first in their family to enroll at what is now Virginia Tech, graduating a year apart and kicking off a family tradition that has seen more than 30 family members attend the university.
Phlegar earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering in 1952 as well as a commission into the U.S. Air Force, having been a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and the Highty-Tighties. He served in the Korean War and then returned to his home region to work at the Appalachian Power Co., based out of Bluefield, West Virginia.
Phlegar was a highly engaged volunteer in the university’s Alumni Association and was recruited by then Dean of Admissions Mike Lacy to return to Virginia Tech and work in admissions. Phlegar started as an assistant director of admissions in 1967 and eventually wound up directing that office. His tenure was during a time of major growth as the university expanded and diversified under former Presidents T. Marshall Hahn Jr. and Bill Lavery.
“Archie Phlegar, as part of his career and leadership in Virginia Tech Admissions, had a profound impact on the university’s growth and diversity in enrollment, attracting more women and minorities during the 1960s and continuing into subsequent decades,” said Tom Tillar, a former vice president for alumni relations who came to know Phlegar well while working in Student Affairs, alumni relations, and fundraising.
Calvin Jamison recalled going to work for admissions alongside his classmate Glenn Valentine shortly after they earned bachelor’s degrees from Virginia Tech in 1977. They were recruited by Lacy and Phlegar to broaden efforts to get more Black students to enroll. Jamison had been president of a student organization known as the Human Relations Council, which later became the Virginia Tech Black Student Alliance. Valentine had been a leader in the university’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically African American fraternity.
“Archie was always there, supporting our recruitment efforts, and I’m sure he had to ride interference at various instances for a university that was not totally committed to diversifying its student body,” recalled Jamison, who went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees while working at the university, in 1986 became the first Black assistant to the Virginia Tech president, and today is vice president for facilities and economic development at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Archie’s heart was always in the right place and he provided knowledge, resources, and support that lead to our many accomplishments. Our hiring was born out of compliance to a federal/state mandate. … We really were not supposed to be successful, but they forgot to tell us. Archie felt it was the right thing to do, and the university has benefited greatly from our efforts and his commitment.”
From fall 1977 to fall 1987, the total number of Black students at the university more than quadrupled, increasing from 234 to 969. Meanwhile, the number of female undergraduates increased over 22 percent, from 6,175 to 7,556, and undergraduate enrollment increased nearly 8 percent overall, from 16,966 to 18,321.
“It was an honor to work with Archie Phlegar in the early to late '70s in my capacity as assistant director of admissions — a position I was hired into upon graduation,” Valentine said. “Archie set a standard for the university that, as Calvin Jamison said, nobody believed could be met. However, we excelled past the expectations of others under Archie's leadership and achieved goals that nobody thought could be achieved. … Thank you, Archie, for a job well done and for hiring two young inexperienced Black men into such valuable and pivotal positions.”
One of Phlegar’s sons, Charlie Phlegar, who now serves as the university’s vice president for advancement, recalled his father’s lifelong enthusiasm for Virginia Tech and the passion he had for his work in admissions.
“A vivid memory I have is that during the admissions cycle my dad would carry home hundreds and hundreds of manila folders with applications,” Charlie Phlegar said. “We talked a lot about the kind of kids that they were looking at and trying to diversify the undergraduate student body. He was a big advocate for that, and of the community college system and having a place for everybody to be educated. He had a strong belief that everyone deserved an opportunity for higher education, especially at a land-grant school like Virginia Tech.”
While working at the university, Archie Phlegar earned two graduate degrees: a master’s in agriculture, leadership, and community education in 1974 and an Ed.D. in educational administration in 1978. His Ed.D. thesis topic was predicting academic performance of Virginia community college students who transferred into Virginia Tech. Toward the end of his career, he left admissions work to oversee operations for the university’s fundraising office, then known as University Development.
Archie Phlegar is survived by wife, Barbara Phlegar; sons Archie Phlegar Jr. and Charlie Phlegar, a daughter, Beth Dixon; daughter-in-laws Karen Phlegar and Sharon Phlegar; a son-in-law, Carlton Dixon; eight grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Jean Sublett Phlegar.
A celebration of Archie Phlegar’s life will take place Monday, April 10, at 2 p.m. at the McCoy Funeral Home Chapel in Blacksburg. The family will receive visitors starting one hour prior to the service.
More information on services, and about Archie Phlegar’s life, are included in his obituary.