Virginia Tech Magazine
Alumni Shorts -|- Fall 2006

Give 'em an "Old Hokie"

1955-56 cheerleaders

The historic 1955-56 cheerleading squad: Conrad Knight '56, Bootie Bell Chewning, Matt McCulloch '56,
Merle Funk, John McCaleb '56, Patsy Steckler Bean '58, Glen Justice '58, Jeri Hagy Justice, and Stan Rynex '57.

Picture it: the Drillfield, 1955.

More than a decade had passed since Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (VPI--today's Virginia Tech) had moved most of its women's programs--and female students--to Radford State Teachers College (today's Radford University) following the schools' merger.

"I wondered why there weren't more women at Tech," says John McCaleb (general science '56). "Before I became a cheerleader, I wondered about things like that."

Not surprisingly, when McCaleb became head cheerleader of Tech's 1955-56 squad, he brought such thinking to the table. And the traditionally all-male squad reinvented itself by inviting four females into its ranks.

The reasoning behind the transformation was not, however, as complex as one might presume. "Getting the attention of thousands of guys sitting in the stands wasn't the easiest undertaking," admits McCaleb, "but I figured if we had some gals showing their legs, well ... "

Joined by squad members Glen Justice (accounting '58), now deceased; Conrad Knight (M.S. architecture '56); Matt McCulloch (industrial engineering '56); and Navy veteran Stan Rynex (business administration '57), McCaleb conducted tryouts on the Blacksburg campus. "We chose one VPI gal, Patsy Steckler Bean (secondary education '58) from the 'Skirt Barn' [the popular nickname for Hillcrest dorm, where Tech's female students lived]. But there simply weren't enough women on the home campus."

So the group set its sights on VPI's women’s division, Radford College. "We had 120 women try out," McCaleb remembers, "and there was a lot of crying." Nonetheless, the squad secured three more females: Bootie Bell Chewning, Merle Funk, and Jeri Hagy Justice (who later married Glen).

To complement the guys' maroon sweaters and maroon pants, which had an orange stripe down each leg, the gals were outfitted in white sweaters and maroon calf-length skirts with burnt orange satin linings. "When I designed the gals' uniforms," notes McCaleb, "I designed the skirt so that when the gals twirled, the skirt would twirl out flat and some leg would show. As cheerleaders, we were supposed to get as many people as possible to cheer, to concentrate on the cheerleaders, so the gals would twirl."

For old times' sake, the historic 1955-56 squad will make an appearance--in uniforms made by Patsy Bean--prior to the Oct. 21 traditional homecoming game against Southern Miss. "We want to honor Tech's first female cheerleaders and their efforts," McCaleb notes, "to make them a lasting part of Tech's history."

Talk to the animals?

Phillip Sigler
Phillip Sigler '93 and a friend
at Disney's Animal Kingdom


Phillip Sigler (poultry science '93) does. An animal care specialist at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., Sigler has worked with everything from small hedgehogs and African porcupines to polar bears and beluga whales.

And all that for a guy who claims to have been a bit nonchalant about his career direction as a student. "I have always had a love for animals," says Sigler. "The odd thing is that even after picking a major, I was still unable to pick a profession and had decided that whatever 'popped up' after graduation would be the professional choice for me."

Sigler, a native of Woodstock, Va., recalls that when the Walt Disney Company came to recruit at Tech, he attended the event with a friend, even though he had no real interest. "I was sure there would be no job for a poultry science student in a theme park," he reasons.

Nonetheless, Sigler secured a job as a lifeguard at one of Disney's water parks. Despite concerns about how the experience would help him find work in the poultry/animal science industry, Sigler's professors did not object to his plans. "The general consensus was that I was young and should have no regrets in life," he remembers.

While in Florida, Sigler took a special interest in SeaWorld, talking to the trainers and animal care employees about their jobs. "By the time my college program ended," he says, "my career was crystal clear to me. I would be an animal trainer."

Although he received several job offers in the poultry industry upon graduation, Sigler returned to Orlando and ultimately got the break he'd been waiting for: a position in SeaWorld's education department. "It wasn't my ideal job," he admits, "but it got my foot in the door."

More literally, it got his feet wet. Eventually hired to work with marine animals, Sigler also joined SeaWorld's rescue team that saved and nursed back to health beached mammals. In the meantime, Disney opened Animal Kingdom, where Sigler was hired in 2001.

Phillip Sigler

Sigler says that going to Virginia Tech defined his life as an individual. "When I first moved to Florida I would think to myself, 'Well, I guess I'll never have to use what I learned for my poultry science degree,' but I couldn't have been more wrong. Those classes have broad applications and have helped me to succeed in my profession today."

Visit Animal Kingdom online at

When the saints come marching in

Bob White, Dave McKee, and Bonnie Maccubbin
Bob White '81, Dave McKee '86,
and Bonnie Maccubbin '84


An extraordinary amount of time and talent--not to mention financial resources--is necessary to keep the 330-member Marching Virginians at the top of their game. Absolutely crucial to making this happen year after year is the husband-and-wife team of Bob White (electrical engineering '81) and Bonnie Maccubbin (psychology '84; English '92).

Last year, in commemoration of the couple's unwavering commitment to the band, the Marching Virginians Alumni Association (MVAA) created the Bob and Bonnie Alumni Service Award to annually recognize individuals who, in the years following graduation, demonstrate selfless dedication to the Marching Virginians.

Most fittingly, the first recipients of the award are Bob and Bonnie themselves, who have logged more than 25 years of service to the organization. Upon receiving the award, Bonnie said, "Remaining a part of the Marching Virginians for all these years has been a joy, truly a labor of love."

And a longstanding love, at that.

Bonnie, who played piccolo and alto saxophone, established the MVAA during her senior year. "I wanted to make sure that there was an alumni band that I could participate in," she says. "I was president--actually all positions--for 16 years." In short, the MVAA "thrives because of Bonnie's efforts," says David McKee (M.A.Ed. '86), director of the Marching Virginians.

For his part, Bob, who played the tuba and wrote the still-popular "Hokey Pokey" tuba dance, has been the band's photographer for "about a gazillion years," says Bonnie, or at least since his graduation. "Slide Show Bob," says McKee, "has taken thousands of pictures of the Marching Virginians across the country. His ability to get the perfect shot is uncanny."

Bob, the technical services manager for Danaher Motion in Radford, Va., and Bonnie, research faculty for Tech's Center for Unit Load Design in the College of Natural Resources, met in the band. Married since 1982, they have two children: daughter Taylor is a Tech sophomore who plays trombone in the Marching Virginians, and son Mac, a junior at Blacksburg High School, plays trumpet and is an aspiring Marching Virginian.

"Can you believe that we actually planned our pregnancies so that the births of our children wouldn't interfere with football season?" says Bonnie. "Also, our children's godfather, Jim Sochinksi, is a former director of the Marching Virginians and is still an active faculty member in the music department. We live and breathe 'Tech Triumph'!"

For more about the Marching Virginians, go to

For more about the MVAA, go to

Alumni team up to take first in "Green" competition

VT alumni
(l. to r.) Amy Vetal '05, Sean Wheeler '05, Casey Frazier '05, and Matt Hogan '05


Four Virginia Tech alumni fresh out of the rigorous School of Architecture + Design, in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, joined forces to win first place in the Green Portable Classroom design competition. This competition was sponsored by Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools, the U.S. Green Building Council National Capital Region Emerging Green Builders, and the Virginia Sustainable Building Network.

Casey Frazier (architecture '05), now a designer with Perkins Eastman in Arlington, Va., learned of the competition through the Emerging Green Builders, an organization that encourages interest in green building among students and young professionals. "I knew right away that I couldn't do the project alone. In your first year out of college, your hours are crazy. So I encouraged my friends to get involved in this project with me," says Frazier.

And he knew just who to ask: Amy Vetal (architecture '05), with Jacobs Engineering Group in Arlington, Va.; Sean Wheeler (architecture '05), with Walter Parks Architect in Richmond, Va.; and Matt Hogan (architecture '05), with Sutton Yantis Associates in Vienna, Va. "Sean, Amy, and I were all in Mike O'Brien's thesis class and I've known Matt since our first-year studio," Frazier explains. "I thought this would be a great opportunity for the four of us to combine our talents."

Together, the alumni created a design for an energy-efficient portable classroom that promotes safety and a healthy environment. The team named its project B2L, which stands for Built to Learn. The B2L houses innumerable pod-like containers designed with their own special programs that help children learn about different subjects.

In November, Frazier, Vetal, Wheeler, and Hogan will travel to Denver, Colo., where their B2L design will compete for a national prize at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. More than 6,000 private companies, nonprofits, and governmental agencies working to transform the building industry will check out the B2L.

"green" classroom design

"The best thing about this project has turned out to be how much we're learning about education," Frazier comments. Poole, director of the School of Architecture + Design, notes the group's win with pride and without surprise. "In their participation in this project, these four are exemplifying what we expect our graduates to be--architects with a broad vision who never lose their passion for learning new things."

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