Virginia Tech Magazine
Around the Drillfield
Spring 2008

Virginia Tech softball team

"My hat goes off to Angela Tincher," U.S. Coach Mike Candrea said. "She pitched a great ball game. I told our team what she was capable of and told them to be ready to go. But she came out firing and really kept us off our game."

Tincher, an All-American last season, had pitched her 12th career no-hitter against North Carolina State the previous week.

The Hokies scored their only run in the second inning off Jennie Finch, one of 12 players on the U.S. squad that won gold at the 2004 Athens games.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. defeated DePaul 23-0, running its record on the "Bound 4 Beijing" tour to 17-0.

Tech women end U.S. softball's 185-game non-Olympic win streak

In one of the biggest upsets in softball history, Virginia Tech, led by a no-hit performance from senior Angela Tincher, defeated the U.S. National Softball Team, 1-0, in an exhibition game on March 26. The win ended the three-time defending Olympic gold medalists' 185-game winning streak in pre-Olympic exhibitions. The U.S. team last lost a pre-Olympic exhibition game on May 3, 1996. Since then, the team had outscored opponents 1,475-24.

Angela Tincher

And goodwill toward men

The sandals and the beads are gone, but concern for fellow man is still in vogue. The Peace Corps reported that as of February 2008, Virginia Tech has re-entered the corps' top-25 list of large schools producing volunteers with 43 alumni actively serving as volunteers. It is the first time Tech has broken into the Top 25 since 2003. Tech ranks 81st all-time in volunteers, with 511 having served since the inception of the corps.
Community engages in service

As of mid-April, Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, families, and friends had pledged to perform more than 400,000 hours of community service before the May 2008 graduation. The project, VT-ENGAGE, is an effort to encourage individuals and groups to dedicate their time and talents to volunteer work with a goal of 10 hours per person. Several other colleges have pledged time and service, including two Virginia community colleges, Virginia Highlands and Southwest Virginia. Interest in public service has even reached into area high school ranks with more than 100 students from Lebanon High School, as well as the two high schools in Tazewell County, joining in. Area citizens may join this effort at

In June, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets will conduct an eBay auction of a painting (at right) by local artist Jane Blevins to support the Matthew La Porte Emerging Leader Scholarship. La Porte was a sophomore band cadet who lost his life in the April 16 tragedy.

Last October, Blevins presented a canvas of her painting to La Porte's parents, and she has donated a second canvas of the painting--No. 2 of a lot of 500--that the corps will offer up for a charity auction on eBay. More details on the auction will be available in early June at

VTCC painting by Jane Blevins

Sheepskin still a bargain at Tech

Price of gas stalling you? Cost of food choking you? Is there a good deal left anywhere? According to the authoritative Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Virginia Tech ranks 17th on the journal's 2008 list of 100 public colleges and universities that offer "academic excellence at an affordable price." In fact, the Old Dominion rated highly from the rural west to the urban east: the University of Virginia ranked third; William and Mary, fourth; Mary Washington, 14th; James Madison University, 22nd; George Mason University, 77th; and Longwood University, 91st.

Schools were ranked by such criteria as SAT scores, admission rates, freshman retention rates, student/faculty ratios, and graduation rates. The ranking also included costs and financial comparisons and average student debt at graduation.

Professor of English Ed Falco
Falco receives writing grant

Ed Falco, writer and director of the master of fine arts program in creative writing, has been awarded a $25,000 literature scholarship in prose from the National Endowment for the Arts. The fellowship encourages the production of new work by affording the recipient the time to write. Falco says he will use the time to work on a new collection of short stories, tentatively titled Burn.

"This collection will probably be a collection of my short stories that have been published in journals but not in books," Falco says. In addition to short stories, Falco has written several books of fiction. He is also the founder of the New River Journal, an online "hypertext" publication that has consistently tested the boundaries and rules of writing in the digital age.

Professor of Human Development Fred Piercy
Piercy first in family counseling

Fred P. Piercy, professor and head of the Department of Human Development, was recently honored with the Outstanding Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy award from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Piercy is a prolific contributor to family therapy literature, including several books and 165 articles in professional journals. His body of work has been used as reference material for supervision and training, substance and family therapy, HIV issues, international family therapy, and qualitative research methods. Piercy, who serves as a member of six professional journals, has also taught in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nepal. Most recently, he was invited to Indonesia after the tsunami to train mental health workers.

James Thorp, Hugh P. and Ethel C. Kelly Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Tech engineers named to list of science giants

Two Virginia Tech engineers have secured a place in the history of their profession. James Thorp and Arun Phadke have been named to the Franklin Institute list of greatest men and women of science in engineering and technology. This list includes such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Jane Goodall.

The award is based on Thorp and Phadke's 60 years of combined contributions to the power industry. Central to their work is advancement in the utility industry's ability to prevent power grid blackouts or to make them easier to recover from and less intense.

Competition for the award is international and covers seven fields of science: chemistry, computer and cognitive science, earth and environmental science, electrical engineering, life science, mechanical engineering, and physics. The Franklin Institute has presented these awards for the past 182 years.

University Distinguished Professor Emeritus Arun Phadke

Virginia Tech vs. New York Yankees

In May 2007, the New York Yankees made a $1 million contribution to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Team owner George Steinbrenner didn't let the buck stop there, however--he also offered to bring the team to Blacksburg for a spring exhibition game.

On March 18, 2008, 5,311 fans watched the Yankees defeat the Hokies 11-0 at the newly renovated English Field. Yankees shortstop and team captain Derek Jeter said of the visit, "People always ask, 'Well, what can you do? How does this help?' I really don't know. If it just makes people smile or enjoy themselves for the three hours that we're here, it's all worthwhile."

Prior to the game, the Yankees visited the Remembrance Memorial in front of Burruss Hall, viewing the 32 Hokie Stones bearing the names of those lost in the shootings. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez said afterward, "There are certain things that happen that are so devastating that time stops. For me, this is one of them."

For more images from the exhibition game, go to

Virginia Tech vs. New York Yankees

wearable computer case

Computing on your feet?

"Thinking on your feet" has long been a skill coveted by lawyers, lecturers, and legislators. Now, Daniel Hilgenberg (industrial design '04) in Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has invented a wearable computer case that will please people who need to stay on top of work as they move around, such as those in mobile management positions or those who can't resist multitasking while standing in line.

Hilgenberg's design allows the case for a laptop computer to be worn like a backpack or suspended on the chest, where it can swing down to create a work platform that allows for computer use while standing. "This would be a useful tool for people working in the field, such as construction, surveying, and scientific data collecting," says Jackie Reed of Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP).

Hilgenberg designed the laptop work stand for Mitzi Vernon's sophomore industrial design studio as part of a class assignment to invent a desk/table/plane that would allow you to stand while working. Vernon put Hilgenberg in touch with VTIP, which was enthusiastic about the design and its promise. There is now a patent pending.

Holliday's compositions strike chord

Kent Holliday, professor of piano and composition, has struck a strong chord with the leading organization of musicians and composers. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has honored Holliday with an award granted for the unique prestige value of his catalog of original compositions. A special panel of ASCAP's concert music division chooses honorees. Holliday has received this award 10 times in the past 15 years. This year's award was based on four areas of accomplishment: awards, performances, readings, and publication.

In addition to awards in composition and publication, Holliday was the winner of the Virginia Music Teachers Association competition in composition. He has also written a book, Reproducing Pianos Past and Present.

Crop and soil environmental sciences celebrates 100 years of progress

One of the oldest academic departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences (CSES) will mark its 100th anniversary in September. Originally the Department of Agronomy, it became the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences in 1992. The past century has seen more than a name change, though--the department's focus has grown from traditional soil management, land cultivation, and crop production to encompass a much broader environmental scope.

"As agriculture and society's needs have changed, our department has been proactive in meeting these needs," says Steve Hodges, professor and department head of CSES. "We now focus on providing essential ecosystem services, such as food, fiber, grasslands, and turf, in a manner that protects soil and water quality and enhances ecosystem functions and processes, such as carbon sequestration, land restoration, nutrient cycling, genomic resources, and waste detoxification."

CSES Professor Jim McKenna has seen this change firsthand during his 25 years in the department. "Our focus has evolved from the field to an entire ecosystem," he says. "We are looking at all the components of the landscape and this is reflected in our research and curriculum. CSES continues to have one of the largest undergraduate enrollments in this discipline in the country."

From the development of functional foods to the production of biomass for biofuels, faculty members are working to help solve many of society's most pressing challenges, including those related to land use and urbanization. "The goods and services derived from agricultural, urban, and other disturbed landscapes directly impact human well-being," Hodges says. "We work in all these systems to ensure a sustainable supply of essential services for today and for future generations."

Alumni and friends are invited to join the department in recognizing its people and achievements during the centennial celebration on Sept. 19 and 20. Festivities will include a banquet, tours of current research laboratories and field research, and several social activities. For more information, contact Jim McKenna at 540/231-9786 or

Christine George
USA Today honors Tech biology student

Christine George, a senior majoring in biology, has been named one of 20 high-achieving students on the 2008 All-USA College Academic First Team. This list recognizes undergraduate students across the nation for outstanding achievements beyond the conventional classroom.

George, who was engaged in primary source research in Mali studying mosquito-borne malaria, discovered that there was very little research on the effect of certain mosquitoes that spread yellow fever and other fever viruses. Based on this observation, George raised money to help local students study mosquito-borne illnesses. With help from Zach Adelman, assistant professor of entomology, she raised the needed sum and led a research team on a month-long survey, collecting thousands of mosquitoes and determining high-risk areas of mosquito-borne infections.

Get those hands dirty

Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research

To many, engineers can be broken down into two basic categories: book engineers and on-site applications engineers, the latter of which, in the auto-racing world, are those with grease under their fingernails. Now, thanks to auto racing icon Richard Petty, the two worlds will get a chance to work side by side at the Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research. This school for mechanical engineering grad students is at the Virginia International Raceway in Halifax County, Va.

Petty Enterprises General Manager Robbie Loomis says the site was chosen for the cars because "in this sport, we need an area where we can groom and shape engineers to really fit the racing model. There always seems to be a disconnect between the book engineers and the actual applications engineers at the racetrack."

Maj. John M. Ennis (civil engineering '95), USMC,

Lori Mullins Ennis (communication '92) sent a photo of her husband, Maj. John M. Ennis (civil engineering '95), USMC, piloting a V-22 Osprey "and, as always, showing his Hokie pride!"

Maj. Ennis graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in June 2007 and is currently stationed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

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