Virginia Tech Magazine
Letters to the Editor -|- Summer 2007

A new meaning for Hokie Pride
Hokie Pride Day Hokie Pride Day was inaugurated in 2000 by the Roanoke Valley Hokie Club to honor our football team and coaches at the kick-off of the coming football season. This year, it will probably have a different meaning. On Aug. 31, we need to again show the world the Hokie Spirit that was demonstrated after the tragedy in April. I visualize Hokies everywhere taking the opportunity on that day to show their pride in Virginia Tech and what it means to them.

Already, we have taken comfort in the outpouring of emotion and support from across the nation for our students and our university in the wake of our tragedy. The support from the ACC and our greatest rivals has been tremendous, not to mention from numerous other colleges and universities, plus Major League Baseball, the PGA, NASCAR, the NFL, Niagara Falls, and more. Blacksburg is no longer a small, unknown town in Southwest Virginia and the VT logo is, today, probably the most recognizable one in all of college sports.

All of this and more gives "Hokie Pride" new meaning--it is not just about sports anymore.

This year, the university, its faculty and staff, its students, and its supporters must all step forward and show our Hokie Spirit on Aug. 31. As Dr. Charles Steger eloquently said, "While we have been dealt a terrible blow, this tragedy does not and will not define our university. We will continue to stand straight, square our shoulders, and get busy inventing the future once more."

We are all members of the Hokie Nation and we will prevail!

Rick Harman '52 | Roanoke, Va.

Hokie's dream comes true

A long-time dream came true during the spring 2006 graduation, proving once again that my alma mater, Virginia Tech, is a large university with a huge heart.

During my educational career, I have had some incredible students and many have stayed in touch with me. One such student was Landon Sego, whom I met in 1982 when he was a second-grader at the elementary school where I taught gifted children in Albuquerque, N.M., and we remain friends today.

As a die-hard Hokie, I was delighted when Landon decided to earn his doctorate from my alma mater. In February 2006, I asked how he felt about me pursuing the possibility of being a part of his graduation ceremony in May. The way his face lit up told me all I needed to know. I started the ball rolling with a single letter that involved many people in our "dream," including Charles W. Steger Jr., president; Nancy Ross, associate dean of research, graduate studies, and outreach; Karen DePauw, dean of the Graduate School; Jacqueline Nottingham, director of admissions and academic progress in the Graduate School; Jeffrey Birch, director of graduate programs in the Department of Statistics; and Bill Woodall and Marion Reynolds, professors in the Department of Statistics.

On April 5, we learned that the university had approved my participation in Landon's graduation ceremony. I can't thank enough everyone who was involved in allowing this dream to come true. When May 12 finally arrived and I marched side-by-side with Landon to our seats and then to the stage, I felt that our lives had come full circle. Virginia Tech had now prepared us both for successful careers.

When I was a student, Virginia Tech was far more than my university--it was my home. My parents lived 5,000 miles away in Costa Rica, so the friends I made at Tech were my family. Although I have attended five different universities, my loyalties and gratitude will always remain at my dear Hokie Hi.

Carol Senger-Korynta '72 | Newport News, Va.

More on Miles

Clarence Paul "Sally" Miles
Clarence Paul "Sally" Miles
I was very much pleased to see the In Retrospect article about "Sally" Miles because I knew him in the 1930s. Yet it was a disappointment to see several items omitted from the biographical sketch. These things are important to get the full picture of the man. In ascending order of importance, they are:

1. Mr. Miles was blind or nearly so in one eye. Over the affected eye, he wore a sort of frosted lens in his glasses. Children were warned not to stare.

2. Mr. Miles married late in life. I distinctly remember the event though I don't recall whether it was in the mid to late '30s or the early '40s. The Mileses lived in a house about halfway up "Minter" hill on the left-hand side.

3. Most important to know was that Miles was a staunch churchman, being an elder in the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. This was an important part of his life and service. Going east, the church building was just off Main Street on Roanoke Street, right behind Brown Brothers' Store. In those days, when the VPI was in session, its students were marched to church. I well remember Miles and other men standing on the steps of the church, chatting as the Presbyterian contingent marched up.

Ron Dietrick | Wilmington, N.C.

Editor's note: Because In Retrospect articles are limited to one page, it is often necessary to omit some biographical details. We do, however, appreciate it when alumni take the time to share information that we were unable to include.

Remembering Professor March

It was with a deep sense of sadness that I read of the passing of Professor Edwin C. Marsh. I was fortunate to be able to receive a fine education at VPI, one made even more so by taking his classes. I know business students would sometimes refer to him as "easy Ed," but believe me, there was nothing easy about his classes; you worked for that grade.

I admired his command of the subject matter, his courtly demeanor in the classroom, and the wonderful experiences and stories he would share with us. When you talked with him, he had a way of making you feel special. I'm sure that hundreds of his former students share my feelings. He certainly will be missed.

Edward Touchstone '65 | Winchester, Va.

I was deeply saddened to read about the passing of Professor Edwin C. Marsh. I met Col. Marsh in Cairo, Egypt, during World War II. I was a refugee from Nazi Germany and a student at The American University in Cairo. Col. Marsh, who was commanding officer in charge of education and entertainment for the U.S. Army soldiers stationed in the Middle East, had offices at our school. "Taine" and I immediately took a liking for each other because of our love of jazz music.

Col. Marsh never stopped talking about VPI and wanted me to attend the university. At war's end, shortly after my arrival in New York, I called Col. Marsh, who got me an immediate appointment with "Sally" Miles. I was admitted to VPI, where I studied chemistry and chemical engineering.

After leaving VPI for a good job with Union Carbide in New Jersey, I subsequently lost contact with Ed Marsh, who had moved from Lynchburg, Va., with no forwarding details. Little did I know that he and his wife had returned to Blacksburg. I prospered in the plastics industry and was inducted into its Hall of Fame a few years ago. I still run my company and come to work every day at age 80. The entire course of my life was changed by the late Ed Marsh and VPI. I am only sorry that I lost contact with him so long ago and could never thank him for his help.

Frank Nissel '47 | Blue Bell, Pa.

Hokie soccer

Earlier this year, the Virginia Tech men's soccer team toured Germany to play against amateur soccer clubs. On May 15, the team received an unexpectedly warm reception when they arrived in Kaiserslautern, Germany, to play the 1FCK amateur team, unaware that the area was home to a large number of alumni stationed at nearby U.S. military bases. When team members piled off the bus, they were shocked and delighted to see the familiar maroon and orange sported by alumni and their families who turned out to support the Hokies.

Missing mascot link

Your article concerning the history of VPI's mascots fascinated me because I am one of the "missing links" of information.

When Pam Gunsten retired as mascot in spring 1971, I won the audition to become the new mascot.

That summer, I submitted ideas for a new look for the "Fighting Gobbler" to complement the new school logo. The costume debuted at the 1971 Homecoming game.

Like so many other mascots, I had my share of sweat and abuse, but I was lucky to be in love with the head cheerleader, Bill Harrell, and he was an ideal escort. We were defying stereotypes in our extracurricular activities but were a perfectly normal couple otherwise!

When my family migrated to Florida, I used my experience as the Gobbler to convince the Character Department at Walt Disney World that I could wear a full costume. In the summer of 1972, I became Winnie the Pooh at the Main Gate in the Magic Kingdom.

Thanks to my experiences at Tech, I went on to win the Walt Disney World Outstanding Characterization award in 1973, that, to this day, I display proudly.

Gail Sandridge Ward | White Springs, Fla.

Catching up with the past

My daughter is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Recently I was looking through a copy of her fall 2006 Virginia Tech Magazine. The article regarding the Grossmann brothers was of particular interest; please allow me to tell you why.

It was the summer of 1959. Bob Grossmann and I, along with several thousand others, were at ROTC camp at Fort Knox, Ky. I had traveled there from my hometown in Portsmouth, Va., along with some of my Virginia Military Institute classmates. The others were in Armor, I was in Infantry. For some reason, the Armor school was released a day earlier than the Infantry school, so I had to make other arrangements for a ride home. Up stepped a Hokie, Bob Grossmann, who offered a Keydet a ride to Petersburg. I spent the night at the Grossmanns' home and caught the Norfolk & Western train to Norfolk the next morning. I've never forgotten the generosity of Bob Grossmann and his family.

I have often recalled that story and wondered what became of Bob. It was gratifying to learn how successful he has been. Bob may have forgotten the favor of a ride from Fort Knox but I have not. Thank you for the opportunity to read about him.

Bill Knowles | Chesapeake, Va.

Cheer at will

This letter is in response to the letter about "cleaning up cheers" at Virginia Tech football games. I am a proud Hokie, a proud Duke University graduate student, and the proud mother of a sophomore at Virginia Tech. Our family lives in North Carolina and holds season tickets in football and basketball, so we attend many sporting events in Blacksburg and at other ACC universities in North Carolina. As a supporter of both Virginia Tech and its athletics programs, I enjoy the electric atmosphere in Lane Stadium and the more sedate atmosphere of Cassell Coliseum. While I understand that some spectators may not appreciate the antics of college students, I do not find this cheer, which encourages the team to score, offensive at all. What I do find offensive is the notion of dictating fan behavior: most mature adults can self-direct their behavior at sports events.

And yes, I do let my daughter attend a university that accepts the sometimes questionable (but not illegal) antics of college students. I would not encourage her to attend a university that squashes freedom of expression, provided the behavior in question is not illegal and does not cause harm to others. It seems pretty radical to presume that the university condones bad behavior because of student cheers. I believe the university should encourage positive behavior but not dictate it, unless legal or safety issues arise.

Will every fan complaint lead to further censorship? Perhaps some fans find the uniforms worn by female cheerleaders and the High Techs offensive; will the university change the uniforms to placate these complainers? If the university censors and prescribes fan behavior, where will it end and who will decide when behavior has been sufficiently sanitized?

Rebecca (Ingram) Boone '85 | Chapel Hill, N.C.

VT cheerleader
In response to the letter about cheering in the Winter 2007 issue, as a football season ticket holder, I would like to note that the "stick it in" cheer isn't new. Also, is someone going to say that the dance team's moves and uniforms are too explicit and that we therefore have to dissolve the team?

This is college--let's have some fun at athletics events as long as no one is harmed. I would also like to reply to the question about whether I would send my daughter to this institution: I have two daughters and hope that both will have the opportunity to attend Virginia Tech.

Jim Bragg | Louisa, Va.

I was compelled to respond to the letter "Cleaning Up Cheers," specifically addressing the "Stick It In" cheer played by the Marching Virginians' drumline. I was a member of the drumline from 1993-98 and this specific cheer was written in 1996 or 1997 while I was a rank captain.

A bit of education for those who may not know: "Stick it in" is a "red zone" cheer, played when the Hokie offense is inside the opponent's 20-yard line and stands for "Stick the football in the endzone," the former of which is a quick and witty cheer, the latter of which is not. The choice of words in the cheer was a pun in that the "stick" reference was for the drumline's drumsticks. The point of the cheer was meant to be "offensive" in nature, true--but for the Hokies' offense, not offensive as identified in the letter. The only regret I have is that we did not copyright the expression so that the Marching Virginians would be receiving royalties from all of the t-shirts that have been printed since then.

Now, controversy and "hip-thrusting" aside, if we can get 65,000 Hokie fanatics chanting "Stick it in" in Lane Stadium in the future based on my reply, then my letter will have been well worth it. So, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa . . . stick it in, stick it in, stick it in!" Call it the "Old Hokie" for my generation.

"Miami" Bill Burnet '98 | Maidens, Va.

50+ great things

Like many of your readers, I'm impressed with your magazine. I found myself disappointed, however, when it became apparent that the "50 Great Things" article was going to ignore the nationally and internationally recognized work of the arts on campus. Nikki Giovanni was certainly deserving of praise but she could have easily led a list of arts accomplishments in literature, theatre, music, and art. Indeed, a few pages later, an article highlighted a new Center for the Arts ["An outlet for creativity"]. It is difficult to recognize a need for a multimillion dollar building if the work of faculty and students is overlooked in such an article.

Daryn J. Warner '04 | Roanoke, Va.

Editor's note: No question that Mr. Warner has a good point; however, listing the achievements of all of our nationally recognized faculty--in any field--would take up more space than we can allot--or afford! To keep up with the latest Virginia Tech faculty and student accomplishments, make sure to frequently visit

I loved the Winter 2007 article "The 50 best things about Virginia Tech." My favorite thing was No. 7: "A heart of stone." When I graduated in June 1984, an ATM was being added to the campus bookstore. I walked by a pile of that Hokie Stone and asked one of the construction workers if I could have a piece. He said "yes" and that stone has been proudly displayed in my home ever since! I don't get back to Blacksburg much, so it's nice to have a bit of Virginia Tech here with me, especially in the middle of ACC country.

Julie Oliver Fleming '84 | Raleigh, N.C.

Liz Patteson and Karen Kitish
Liz Patteson '90
and Karen Kutish '90
After reading "The 50 best things about Virginia Tech," I had to send a response. What a great article and I am sure I could easily come up with 50 more. I particularly loved the last sentence, "Come home--you're welcome any time."

I had to suggest an addition: the fact that the friendships and relationships that are formed there last a lifetime! On my first day at Virginia Tech, I met Elizabeth Patteson (art, history '90); we both lived in Main Eggleston. From that day, Liz and I became best friends. She was my maid of honor, is godmother to my children, and has been the best friend that anyone could ever imagine.

We live many miles apart but see each other every few weeks. We recently traveled out West and while we were there, we met another Hokie in a restaurant. He had graduated 30 years before us but was still as impassioned about the university as we are.

This much is for sure--no matter to which far-away exotic location we travel, we know that the most beautiful place is Blacksburg.

Karen Smith Kutish '90 | Forty Fort, Pa.

Cover of Memorial Issue of Virginia Tech Magazine

We have received countless letters of praise about the Memorial Issue of Virginia Tech Magazine. Although we will not be printing any of these letters, the members of the magazine staff sincerely appreciate all of the positive feedback. Extra copies of the issue are still available: To request one, send a note to Virginia Tech Magazine, 105 Media Building, Blacksburg, VA 24061, or send an e-mail to

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