Hokie Nation header illustration


Joe Burnett and John Irvin

Joe Burnett and John Irvin (photo courtesy of John Irvin)

Joe Burnett and John Irvin began what would become a lifelong friendship when they attended each other’s first birthday parties in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1945. The pair attended church school and high school together before eventually enrolling at Virginia Tech. Both served in the Corps of Cadets: Burnett was a platoon leader in L Company, and Irvin was the drum major of the Highty-Tighties.

After graduating from the university in 1967, Burnett and Irvin were initially assigned to Fort Bliss as 2nd Lieutenants. Burnett subsequently served a tour in Vietnam.

“At Fort Bliss we were both assigned to the same command,” said Irvin. “I was on the staff of a Vietnamese Language School, and Joe was there as a student. We just couldn't seem to get away from each other.”

The friends, who now live in Georgia, meet every few weeks for lunch. And they still try to find time to celebrate their birthdays and the friendship that began over cake and ice cream a lifetime ago.


Laura Hachani

Laura Hachani ( Photo courtesy Laura Hachani)

Laura Hachani ’98 was prepared to be on the front line of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. A physician assistant at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, Hachani usually works in the internal medicine department. Hachani said she leans on her foundation of service for others, which was established early and enhanced during her time at Virginia Tech, where she majored in dietetics and nutrition.

So she was happy to hear that Virginia Tech joined many around the world in signaling solidarity with medical professionals with the ringing of bells or chimes at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., traditional shift change times.

“That really helps give people encouragement to know we're doing this for a greater good,” said Hachani of the ringing.


Ellie Muraca

Urban Affairs and Planning graduate Ellie Muraca ’18, stayed in Blacksburg to work for the Office of Economic Development, but plans one day to follow in the steps of many who inspired her and become a public school teacher. ( Photo by Roderick La Foy)

Growing up, Ellie Muraca ’18 was always asking questions. That passion for finding connections and starting conversations grew when she joined Virginia Tech as an undergraduate in the urban affairs and planning program.

Now, through a podcast startup, Building the Beloved, Muraca questions what it means to belong or exist in the world of equitable community planning and design. Through the podcast, Muraca interviews people from all walks of life and features discussions with nonprofit organizations and community project leaders. Her first interview subject was Virgil Wood, a renowned church leader, educator, and civil rights activist who served alongside Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The term ‘Beloved Community’ refers to a way of life that’s based on pure, unconditional love for humankind,” said Muraca. “It’s about including the individual’s singular parts that make the community a true, beloved whole.”

The distancing required as a result of the coronavirus have put a hold on some of Muraca’s plans, but she looks forward to adding to the collection of podcasts as the lifting of restrictions allow.