Letters to the editor
Campus demonstration in 1964
I enjoyed your article in the Spring 2003 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine entitled "Paving the way: African-Americans at Virginia Tech." I wanted to comment on a statement made on page 12 at the end of the first paragraph, "This incident [1968] is often referred to as Tech's first campus demonstration, marking the onset of a progressively more vocal student population."

There was an earlier campus demonstration at Tech that I am familiar with. It took place in February 1964, during my freshman year, at the front entrance of Burruss Hall on the opening night of the Corps Minstrel. I do not think there were campus photos. I know of this incident because as a corps member and friend of the members of the picket line, I took my Radford date through the picket line after stopping to talk [to the picketers]. The picketers were led by Jim Young, class of 1964 or 1965, who was part of the combined student Disciples Westminister Fellowship (DWF)--the Presbyterian Disciples of Christ-- Group that met in the church's apartment location on College Avenue.

There was much discussion at DWF student sessions on the use of blacked-face endmen in the Corps Minstrel and its degradation of race. These sessions culminated in 10-12 Tech students making signs and showing up to march in front of Burruss Hall in protest. I think that if you do some further research with the Tech and Blacksburg newspapers and speak with professors and townsfolk (Rev. Hugh U. Leach) from that period, they will corroborate a fascinating story of early efforts of Tech students on the "journey toward diversity."

Leigh M. Vaughan '67
Morrisville, N.C.

More on HokieBird history
I just got around to reading the story of the origins of the HokieBird (Fall 2002 issue) and noticed that you asked for additions, etc. As an alumna of '74, I think you missed one important factor involved in the change to the long-necked Gobbler. There's more to the Bill Dooley revision to our beloved mascot, according to the talk during the four years that I was there.

During the late '60s and early '70s, the term "turkey" was a common pop-culture insult; thus, our mascot made us a laughingstock to other teams. When the push for an image change came, the challenge was given: How could this be fixed without a campus riot?

Someone remembered that Ben Franklin had wanted the wild turkey to be the symbol of this country based on its aggressive (and strong) nature. Therefore, the revision to the long-necked mascot was made because wild turkeys are mean and fierce fighters. Its intent was to promote an evolution of the image from the much-maligned (and rather stupid) domestic breed that people eat to the wild, more dangerous version that people respect. It fit with the needs of the athletic department but did not offend the student body or remove a Tech icon. Along with this, the name was updated to "the Fighting Gobblers."

Also, I question a part of the story: "The bird transcended new boundaries in 1968, when an athletic junior named Pam Gunsten (health and physical education '70) wanted to participate in college sports. At that time, she says, female athletes were limited to two choices: basketball player or cheerleader." I'm confused with this because VT didn't have a women's basketball team until 1976. In fact, there were no official women's sports at the college when she was there.

Teresa Davidson '74
Roanoke, Va.

Editor's note: There were gaps in the lore for the mascot history, so we continue to ask readers to send us any helpful information on the HokieBird. In regard to Pam Gunsten's comment about the choices for female athletes, women's basketball was started as a club sport at Virginia Tech in 1970. The team gained full varsity status beginning with the 1976-77 season.

Expressing thanks
Those of us in the Auditory Systems Laboratory in industrial and systems engineering are appreciative of the article on our driving-simulation research published in the Summer 2003 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine [page 7]. In particular, this article noted that we designed and developed a driving simulator for ultimate use by the University of Virginia's Behavioral Medicine Research Center. This is indeed accurate, and we installed this research device at U.Va. in February. Although it is not mentioned in the article, we would like to acknowledge that funding for this development project was provided by the Carilion Biomedical Institute (CBI) of Roanoke, Va., under the direction of Dr. Sam English, grants director. The collaboration between our laboratory and U.Va. was made possible through a $110,000 grant from CBI, one of several grants that have fostered closer ties between U.Va. and VT in the biomedical sciences. We are appreciative of this seeding effort by CBI and plan to continue our work with researchers and U.Va. through joint grant proposals and publications.

John G. Casali
Grado Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Disband NASA?
Your Summer 2003 issue has a spectacular cover photograph. Having done research photography in astronomy, I found the other astronomy photos equally enjoyable, but your overall message is certainly [in line] with the mainstream hype of [the last] 25 or so years.

NASA should be shut down and reorganized to be about half of what it is today, putting half the money to the NSF [once] the national deficit is reduced and we have a balanced budget. After three major, irresponsible management [teams] with horrific results (the Apollo [capsule launch pad] fire and [the loss of] two space shuttles), NASA should be fired. Everything [that happened] was obvious and known in advance when [NASA's administrators] stepped back after the funerals. They took from us some of our best citizens.

But there have to be some dangers, you say. Sure, take Apollo 13, the type of accident that is going to happen. You can't prevent or predict it. Commander John Young said it best after landing the first shuttle: "This thing has got to be changed or it's going to kill a lot of people."

Glenn Showalter
Reston, Va.

Editor's note: As many readers noticed, the president's message in the Summer 2003 issue addressed Virginia Tech's future in the BIG EAST Conference. As President Steger notes in this issue's column, during those tumultuous few weeks, the university's situation continued to change on a daily basis. Unfortunately, when the ACC extended its invitation to Tech, the summer issue had just been printed. Scrapping the issue, as some suggested, would have cost more than- $25,000--even with the limited mailing quantity of the summer issue---and was simply not a possibility, given the university's budget after cuts in state funding. I apologize for any confusion or difficulty this may have caused. The Summer 2003 issue can be found online at www.vtmagazine.vt.edu/sum03.