In the early 70’s, the men of the Virginia Tech German Club became aware of an up-and-coming high-school senior from Petersburg, Va., whose school guidance counselor considered a perfect fit for the German Club. The counselor, James “Eli” Aldredge, a German Club alumnus, class of ‘41, had contacted Club leaders, recommended to them his young charge, and launched what would become the celebrated tenure of one of the German Club Alumni Foundation’s most important, impactful leaders, Albert “Bert” H. Poole.
Over the summer of 1973, prior to Bert’s freshman year at Virginia Tech, Bert was invited to lunch with Aldredge and German Club President Bob Antozzi ’72 in a de facto recruiting interview, a practice not uncommon in that period. As a result, Bert was invited to be a German Club prospective in the winter of his freshman year.
At the time, German Club alumni and students were faced with transformational changes within the university and the Club. Fraternities were becoming prevalent on campus, and the Club, with no permanent home, had already moved several times for a variety of reasons.
On October 12, 1976, Charlie Gordon ’42, who had spearheaded the formation of the German Club Alumni Foundation, noted in a letter to all German Club alumni that “the German Club, unlike the Cotillion Club, would refrain from joining a national fraternity, and would remain a service organization on campus for the benefit of the student body and the University. Second, with financial assistance from the alumni, an effort should be made to purchase suitable property near campus and to build a permanent German Club Manor.” This letter is currently on display in the Manor’s German Club Museum.
The Club and the nascent Alumni Foundation pressed to meet these goals. Bert, as a student and now President of the German Club 1976-1977, was selected as a member of the very first GCAF Board of Directors. Bert participated in the first round of rezoning discussions with the Town of Blacksburg regarding the Southgate Drive property in the winter of 1976. Though it did not go in our favor, Bert fought the good fight and set the stage for what was ultimately a victorious solution through the efforts of subsequent German Club classes and individual members, most notably Stephen Wright ‘79.
These efforts opened the door for the construction and development of today’s German Club Manor, which was dedicated in 1981. During this same period, Bert was the VPI Corps of Cadets Regimental Commander, was selected as the VPI Man of the Year in 1977, and was honored with German Club’s Beverly S. Parrish Jr. Award. His leadership did not stop there.
During his early years of board membership, Bert worked with Harry Gustin ’43 to draft the bylaws and incorporation documents for the GCAF, all while studying for and receiving his law degree at the University of Virginia, and then serving in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Corps.
Bert continued to serve as a Board Member with no interruption. His previous experiences in the German Club and in the early days of GCAF, combined with his legal expertise, made Bert virtually indispensable to the GCAF. Bert held Executive Committee positions as Vice President for Alumni Relations and Vice President of Nominations and Governance, before becoming President of the GCAF in 2010. Since 2010, Bert served as both President for four years and Chairman of the Board for eight years.
Throughout his time on the GCAF Board of Directors and while leading it at all levels, the German Club and the German Club Alumni Foundation met Charlie Gordon’s lofty goals and ultimately exceeded them. Under Bert’s influence and leadership, the GCAF has continued to meet its mission:
“To serve as a unifying force to bring German Club alumni together in continuing fellowship to foster leadership for service to the German Cub, for its alumni, and for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; to perpetuate the German Club as a valuable and viable student organization; and to encourage and support the Club and alumni in their deeds and services which give credence to the Club’s ritual and constitution, the principles and code of ethics they espouse, and thus to the University’s motto, ‘Ut Prosim.’”
At the Spring 2022 GCAF Board Meeting, Bert announced his intentions to step down from his position of Chairman of the Board. In recognition of Bert’s outstanding leadership of the GCAF and by unanimous consent, the GCAF Board of Directors has granted Bert Poole ’77 the honorary title of “Chairman Emeritus.”
Bert’s legacy of leadership, from his high school days to leader of the German Club and Corps of Cadets, military service, and participation on and leadership of the GCAF Board of Directors is the very embodiment of the German Club Ritual. We thank him for his service and are confident he will continue to be an influential presence to the Club and Foundation.