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[Press Release] The Inn at Virginia Tech: Hokie Stone and Hospitality Through the Decades

Long a favorite of faculty, alumni, and visitors as the place to host or attend conferences, seminars, short classes, workshops, sporting events, weddings, or even an overnight getaway, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center celebrates 15 years of providing luxurious, state-of-the-art facilities in refined surroundings on Virginia Tech’s beautiful campus. 

The Inn operates with three goals in mind: encourage the exchange of ideas; enable the public to benefit from the university’s knowledge resources through conferences, workshops, and courses; and stimulate the regional economy. With those goals helping set a course for the future, The Inn continues to grow and evolve in tandem with the hotel and conference industry’s ongoing pivot to meet changing client and guest needs – one of the biggest of which in recent years is the ongoing fast-paced evolution and adoption of meeting technology. 

Meetings, conferences rely on the latest technology, now more than ever.

Since its inception, The Inn at Virginia Tech has creatively leveraged modern-day classroom technology developed by the university to reimagine meeting spaces. Today, that early innovation is paying dividends by positioning the conference center with an advantage for clients needing an environment for both socially distanced on-site and hybrid meeting participation. In early 2020, The Inn completed a renovation of 5,000 square feet of meeting space to enhance its use of classroom technology and keep its business customers connected.

“Quick adaptation of university technology is one of many steps The Inn has taken to remain at the forefront as a leading venue for business and pleasure hospitality – regionally and nationally,” explains Tom Cupo, managing director. “And continuous implementation of new meeting equipment and technology will further raise our profile and expand opportunities by engaging presenters and participants from locations around the world.” 

Technology is only part of the equation as a sense of place, coupled with a rich history, is integral to providing meaningful experiences. 

The Inn at Virginia Tech is situated on 25 lush acres of the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg at the intersection of West Campus Drive and Prices Fork Road. Offering panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Hokie Stone-clad facilities include 147 beautifully appointed guest rooms that include three suites and three executive suites suitable for VIPs or special event speakers. 

The Inn’s private dining rooms, conference rooms, lounge, and elegant restaurant bear the names of people or places important in the history of Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg – including Bill and Peggy Skelton of Blacksburg, for whom the conference center is named. 

Dr. William E. Skelton was one of the university’s most loyal supporters, having personified Virginia Tech’s motto – Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) – throughout his 70-year affiliation there. Dr. Skelton, a former dean of the Extension division at Virginia Tech, began his career at the university as director of 4-H programs and of the Virginia Cooperative Extension.  Throughout his career, Dr. Skelton’s love and loyalty for Virginia Tech found expression in his roles as a volunteer fundraiser, reunion organizer, leadership board member, and campaign chair. 

Dr. Skelton’s wife, emerita Margaret Groseclose “Peggy” Skelton, was also an avid supporter of the university and took on many roles to benefit the community in her time as a faculty member and thereafter. Spanning more than 20 years, she first joined Virginia Tech’s College of Home Economics in 1952 and later directed its Cooperative Extension Family Resource Program, where she worked with state agencies to develop programs in low-income housing, nutrition education, employment skills, and consumer and health education. In retirement, Mrs. Skelton continued to help the university as a volunteer and philanthropist alongside her husband, creating numerous scholarships and serving on several different boards and committees.

Former Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, a close friend of the Skeltons for many years, praised them for their commitment to the university and the surrounding community. “To see the embodiment of the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim, one can look at the enduring impact Peggy and her husband, Bill, made on this school, its students, the region, and beyond.”

“My father always lived by that motto – Ut Prosim,” recalls John Skelton, son of Dr. Skelton. “He lived that through everything he did. He wanted to give back and pay it forward.” This desire helped lead to the creation of the The Inn. “He felt strongly that alumni and friends of the university needed a permanent place where they could come and gather. He felt if you provided a place they could call home, on campus, they would visit and remain engaged with all the good work going on at Virginia Tech and continue to support that work. He was a very wise person,” adds Skelton. 

Another facility named in recognition of a local historic figure is The Inn’s elegant restaurant – Preston’s – memorializing Col. William Preston, a veteran of the French and Indian War who served as representative for Augusta County at Virginia’s House of Burgess in Williamsburg until 1770. His grandson, William Ballard Preston, co-founded the Preston and Olin Institute that eventually transitioned into the university that is now Virginia Tech. Additionally, The Continental Divide Lounge recalls Blacksburg’s location on the Eastern Continental Divide – the boundary line between springs and streams that ultimately flow into the Gulf of Mexico and those that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The names for conference rooms in the Skelton Conference Center refer to local landmarks, both natural and man-made, such as the largest conference room – Solitude – which takes its name from the oldest building on campus.

Famous guests and memorable industry conferences only add to The Inn’s storied history. 

As the only hotel on Virginia Tech’s campus, The Inn has seen more than its fair share of hosting some of the university’s signature events, alumni weddings, and famous personalities. 

Of the numerous well-known coaches, political figures, television personalities, and university guest speakers that have visited The Inn, some of the most notable include Maya Angelou, Hoda Kotb, Ty Pennington, and Stone Phillips. When Phillips stayed at The Inn in 2012, he was working on a piece with Virginia Tech’s Stefan Duma, a researcher with the College of Engineering, to report findings from a head impact study. The Emmy Award-winning journalist taped his exclusive report at Virginia Tech the week of January 16th, talking to Duma, team doctors for the Virginia Tech Hokie football team, coaches, parents, and young football players of the local Auburn Elementary School. 

In addition, several memorable events have taken place at The Inn, including ZFEST, a festival for BMW Z car enthusiasts, and the annual Hokie BugFest, which celebrates the fun and exciting science of entomology through outreach and engagement. 

The Inn celebrated its 15th anniversary during a year unlike any other – first hosting Virginia Tech students, then adapting to business during COVID-19, and finally, returning its focus to welcoming other guests. 

The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center’s 15th anniversary in 2020 will long be remembered both for the unexpected events that occurred, as well as for the spirit of rebirth as other guests returned following The Inn’s repurposing during the 2019-20 academic year to host the unprecedented influx of new students in Virginia Tech’s largest class ever. 

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve become the heart of hospitality for our community and region,” Cupo explains. “We loved playing a part in helping and getting to know the students; however, we’ve been missed, just as we’ve missed  serving a part of our family of guests. That’s one reason we were so excited to see our conference attendees and visitors returning, just in time to help celebrate our 15th anniversary and share in the spirit of rebirth occurring here.”

Adding to the anniversary year’s intrigue, just as the academic year neared its end and The Inn was planning to resume normal operations, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck. In response, The Inn shifted gears once again as its team of conference planning and audiovisual experts opened their minds to new ways of conducting business to keep guests safe and productive by leveraging The Inn’s technological capabilities.

And while The Inn is young when compared to Virginia Tech’s nearly 150-year legacy, its popularity – and adaptability in one of its most challenging years – intrinsically link and further strengthen the bond between the two institutions.  

“We predict a bright future for our Inn,” Cupo adds, “and relish the continued opportunity to open our doors and hearts even wider to serve the community we love so much.” 

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