Virginia Tech Magazine
In Retrospect -|- Winter 2007

Miles and Miles: Milestones
by Clara B. Cox M.A. '84

Other than being president, there's not much that Clarence Paul "Sally" Miles didn't do during his nearly 59 years at Virginia Tech (then VPI). In recognizing his contributions, the college named a playing field, a stadium, a professorship, and a building in his honor.

Miles, the namesake

Miles was still a Tech employee when the playing field, located in the area of today's War Memorial, and the first stadium, located behind Owens Hall, were named for him. After he retired, the board of visitors created a professorship in his honor. But he died two weeks before the dedication of Clarence P. Miles Hall, which served as housing for male athletics.

Miles Hall
Miles, the man

When Miles first arrived in Blacksburg in 1897 from his home in Hanover County, Va., to study chemistry, he found the campus so disillusioning that he later admitted, "I didn't think I would stay long." Fortunately for VPI, he changed his mind.

Miles brought with him the nickname "Salskinner," which he had personally adopted from a high school copybook, but his fellow cadets soon shortened it to Sally. The name stuck--so firmly that few people would ever recognize his given name.

As an undergraduate, Miles played on and was captain of the baseball team. As a graduate student, he played football, was team captain, and made the All-Southern first team as a tackle. Said a teammate, he was "a lanky bundle of bones, nerve, and courage."

Professor Clinton Cowgill
Clarence Paul "Sally" Miles

After earning his master's degree, he remained on campus to teach chemistry and to coach football and baseball. Miles' 1905 football team had a 9-1-0 record, which included VPI's first-ever victory over the University of Virginia. U.Va. was so incensed by the loss that it refused to play Tech again until 1923.

Miles was the graduate manager of athletics three different times and athletic director for 15 years. Quiet and soft-spoken, he helped organize the Southern Conference, served as its president, and introduced wrestling to college sports. He also headed VPI's Athletic Association and the Virginia Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association. He failed, however, in his later efforts to get VPI into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Outside sports, Miles taught foreign languages, had a stint as VPI's treasurer, and served as dean of the college, which was similar to a combined provost and admissions director. Hampden-Sydney College recognized his scholarly achievements by awarding him an honorary doctorate degree in literature.

His plethora of positions, numerous contributions, and popularity among alumni led to a new title: "Mr. VPI." Upon Miles' 1956 retirement, President Walter S. Newman wrote to him, "I would like to feel that I can still call on you for emergency duties or other activities in which I feel that you can, because of your long service and broad experience, be of value to us."

Sally Miles continued to support his alma mater until his death on May 2, 1966.

Miles Hall: Down the road

The building named for Miles continues to house all males, although not necessarily athletes. According to Ed Spencer, associate vice president for student affairs, the building is scheduled "for upgrades and renovation as part of a 15-year university plan."

Though he would have taken great pride in the building that bears his name, Sally Miles would have been even prouder of the transformation of his alma mater, which he predicted a year before he died: "Tech stands on the threshold of even greater distinctions . . . , using the firm foundation built by men of vision." He was one of those men.

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