Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Magazine


Summer  FEATURE  2010
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Photos of the Echols-Saunders family are surrounded by memorabilia from the family and the Holtzman Alumni Center's Alumni Museum.

Photos of the Echols-Saunders family are surrounded by memorabilia from the family and the Holtzman Alumni Center's Alumni Museum.
It's no wonder that Hokie Spirit is sprinkled across the blood lines of many Hokie families, with 20 percent of Virginia Tech's current students considered legacies. When Hokie charm hooks a family, the results passed down from generation to generation can be impressive. The Echols-Saunders clan claims 35 Hokies and the Craun family boasts 33 Hokies, to name just two. But it's more than just following in mom's and dad's footsteps; Virginia Tech and its environs have charmed people for generations.
Paul (agricultural engineering '54) and Tatum Saunders have raised countless apples, pears, flowers, and boxwoods--and an extraordinary number of Hokies. All seven of the Saunders' children followed their father's example and graduated from Virginia Tech. Read more ...
Among the 20-plus Hokies in the extended Blackwood family, Virginia Tech is at the center of their special way of life. Read more ...

For Pat (Echols) Saunders (interior design '87) the allure of Tech was its small-town, yet global, atmosphere. "I applied to only two schools, Virginia Tech and Radford," says Saunders, and when she got into both, she headed to Blacksburg. She fell in love with Tech as a child, when her parents would buy football tickets and make game days into a vacation. "We would walk over to the bookstore, get a T-shirt or some kind of Tech memorabilia, then walk to the football game." At Homecoming games, Saunders' father would buy her mother a mum corsage from a vendor on the corner.

Virginia Tech may inspire the romantic in all of us. Saunders met her husband, Robert, at Tech, and the union of the two families created one of the largest Hokie families around. Robert Saunders' six brothers joined him at Tech, and all six Echols sisters are Hokies as well. Various marriages, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, and distant cousins factor into the 35-count Echols-Saunders family, with plans for more: Pat Saunders hopes that her daughter, Annie, a high school sophomore, will fall in love with Virginia Tech, too.

The lineage of the Craun family, 33 Hokies deep, shows a focus on agriculture, including dairy science, animal science, and poultry science. "Many of us Crauns own and operate dairy farms, beef farms, or are involved in the agricultural economics field," says Linda Leech (dairy science '78). "We are so fortunate that Virginia Tech has a nationally recognized dairy science department that encourages its students to achieve their potential." The family often encounters other Hokies in their profession and, thus, realizes the true reach of the Hokie Nation.

Hokie Spirit runs strong in the Craun family. Sidney Grove (dairy science '66), Linda's cousin, often returns to "walk the same grounds and paths that bring back so many memories from the early 1960s," he says. "I often go with a classmate, and we seem to always relive the same stories and return to the same places." When Tech is not inspiring a love for the beauty of Blacksburg, it is often inspiring a love for fellow Hokies. Chad Craun (dairy science '07) returned to Blacksburg on June 5, 2010, to marry Samantha Davis (dairy science '09) at Smithfield Plantation.

Family members gathered on campus for the June 5 wedding of Chad Craun and Samantha Davis.
Family members gathered on campus for the June 5
wedding of Chad Craun and Samantha Davis.
Virginia Tech also strengthens family ties, as shown by Brendan McDonald (political science '04) and Cindy Comisky (psychology '06), two cousins from a 12-graduate Hokie family. When Comisky entered Tech as a freshman, she became best friends with her cousin, McDonald, who was a junior. Comisky is thankful for her experience at Virginia Tech, which became a surprising family reunion.

Hokie family trees come in all sizes, and each has a story--or any number of stories--to tell. The Bugas family may have the largest number of current Hokies, with six first cousins all attending Tech. The Howes, who sign cards "Happy Holidays from the Hokie Howes," have seven graduates and can trace their Hokie lineage back to Richard David Maben, who was a freshman in 1875.

The Watsons--with 10 Hokies and a lineage that includes the late William E. Skelton, a former dean and namesake of two centers at Virginia Tech--found themselves in a pinch when one of their sons got married during a home game against Miami. The minister graciously provided the current score–14-0–during the ceremony.

During most any game, it can be assumed that J.W. Thomasson (agricultural education '64) and his wife, Linda, cheer on the maroon and orange in their "VT Room," a room in their home with "nothing but VT stuff in it."

George Nolen (marketing '78), a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, met his wife, Michele Carpenter Nolen (finance '78) at freshman orientation. He said in a 2006 Virginia Tech Magazine story that in addition to their two children, "18 other members of our family have attended Virginia Tech."

The Tokarz brothers, all Virginia Tech alumni, recently celebrated the 95th birthday of John, the eldest, seated at lower right.
The Tokarz brothers, all Virginia Tech alumni, recently celebrated the 95th birthday of John, the eldest, seated at lower right.

Clockwise from upper left: Peter Tokarz (industrial engineering '47), Dr. Joseph Tokarz (biology '45), Thomas Tokarz (business '52), Raymond Tokarz (industrial engineering '43); John Tokarz (chemical engineering '35), and Col. Clemence Tokarz (aeronautical engineering '38). Deceased is Edmond Tokarz (forestry '40).

  Go HERE to see photos from the party with extended family.

If you're not one of the nine Hokies across three generations in the Venerable family, they'll dress you up like one. In family photos, the children in the family hold maroon and orange pom-poms. To the Quick family's 19 Hokies, dressing up half Hokie and half Cavalier is a crime. When William Austin Quick (dairy science '39), saw his granddaughter Jill in a Tech sweatshirt and U.Va. sweat pants, he was shocked--"He sure knew he wasn't a U.Va. fan!" says his daughter, Donna Quick Courtney.

The Jackson family, with 11 Hokies, prides itself on a combination of American and international students attending Tech. George C. Jackson (horticulture M.S. '59) was granted leave from the University of Puerto Rico to pursue a master's degree in horticulture at Tech, and he brought his family with him. His eldest daughter, Zulma, studied at Tech as a transfer student from Puerto Rico. While in Blacksburg, she met her husband, Robert Keynton, and their three children later attended Virginia Tech. When Jackson returned to Puerto Rico, his younger daughters went with him. His daughter Emilse returned to Virginia, married, and had four children, three of whom are Hokies. His daughter Maritere lives in Puerto Rico, but the Hokie blood still runs strong. Maritere's daughter, Marilse, attended Tech as an exchange student from the University of Puerto Rico.

Is it genetic, or is there something in the Blacksburg water? Whatever the case, once someone in the family catches the contagious Hokie fever, it tends to spread quickly, as each new generation is drawn to the charm of Virginia Tech.


(35)* Pat Saunders
(33) Linda Leech
(19) Donna Quick Courtney
(18) John R. Wilkins Jr.
(17) Amy A. Vaughan
(17) Michael E. Snyder
(16) Linda Thomasson
(15) Gretchen Quant
(15) Jeff Sweeney
(14) Annie Roller
(13) Elaine Griffin
(12) William Armstrong
(12) John Hovell
(12) Cindy Comisky
(12) Hugh David Scott
(11) George C. Jackson
(11) Theresa P. Price
(10) William E. Watson
(10) C. Todd Bower
(10) Lorrie Cooper
(10) James N. Wright
(9) Susan Lamore
(9) David Brown
(9) Michelle Gibson
(9) Helen E. Meeks Mitchell
(9) Becky O'Connor
(9) Laura Stemann Crotteau
(9) Laura Venerable
(8) Aron Johnson
(8) Paul Bugas
(8) Ashley Jones
(8) John Miller
(8) Deborah L. Powers
(8) Sara Tatum
(8) Robert Thomson
(8) Edward "Ned" Carter Turner Jr.
(8) Teresa Weisenburger
(7) Bruce Chestnutt
(7) Douglas C. Curling
(7) Jennie Stokes Howe
(7) Bart Warner
(6) Betty Pendleton
(6) Anne Cabell
(6) Carolyn Kramer
(6) Michelle Vance
(5) Rena Johnson
(5) Bruce Kirk
(5) Brenda Logan
(5) Valerie Ore
(5) Lisa Preskitt
(5) Rose Mary Alexander
(4) Patricia Brown
(4) Gray Coyner
(4) Mayer Levy
(4) Frank Miller
(4) Laura Roberson
(4) Keith E. Sturgill
(3) Tom Ficklin
(3) Walter Gray
(3) Carol Landaiche
(3) Crystal Morgan
(3) Ed Pittman
(3) Audrey Woo
(2) Tom Kingsley
(2) William Stepp

* Represents the number of Hokies per submitted family.
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