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Two Wars

James Rogers McConnell lost his life serving in World War I

In early 1917, the United States—and the University—was on the brink of its involvement in the First World War. Students could choose courses focused on military tactics, telegraphy, and searchlights. Eight out of ten students joined the new Reserve Officers' Training Corps. A thousand new students enrolled, part of the Students' Army Training Corps. Twenty-six professors joined the armed forces. In all, 2,500 students, faculty, and alumni served in the war. Eighty lost their lives, including a much-admired student leader, James Rogers McConnell, who was shot down in his Lafayette Escadrille plane over France in 1917 and memorialized by the winged statue that stands near Alderman Library today. John Lloyd Newcomb, Alderman's administrative assistant and the second University president, managed U.Va. throughout the war and the Great Depression that followed in the 1930s.

U.Va. Students in Uniform  

By the early 1940s, with the approach of another world war, the spirit on the Grounds was again infused with military zeal. Enrollment dropped from 3,000 in 1939 to 1,322 in 1944. The New York Times illustrated its 1942 story, "War Changes the Face of the Campus," with ROTC drills in front of the Rotunda. Enrollment swelled at war's end, thanks in large part to the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944—known popularly as the GI Bill. The influx of students following the war required a new sort of housing. Northwest of the Grounds, the University established Copeley Hill, rows of war-surplus trailers for male students who brought their wives and children.

During the 1950s, the University grew tremendously, doubling student and tripling faculty numbers from pre-World War II figures. Although courses in architectural design and history had been taught since the early 1900s, in 1951 the School of Architecture opened. By the middle of the decade, the University offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, thanks to the consolidation of the School of Commerce, founded in 1921, and the establishment of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, founded in 1954. In 1956, the School of Nursing opened. While student nurses had attended the University since the 1902 opening of the University Hospital, their courses had been offered under the aegis of the School of Medicine.