Alumni Shorts
Reconnecting the past to the present
Cotillion Club Cotillion Club Alumni Association members, including Tom Tillar '69 (far left), Bill McAllister '65 (third from left), and Sandy Seay '66 (fourth from left), convene in front of the Pi Kappa Alpha house.

From 1913-1970, the Cotillion Club played a dominant part in the university's social scene, offering, along with the German Club, a variety of events for the general campus, such as concerts in Burruss Hall and formal dances. Bill McAllister (engineering mechanics '65), who was in the Cotillion Club for three years, and president his senior year, recalls, "In the mid '60s, the Cotillion Club and the German Club were absolutely the highest prestige social clubs on campus--you had to be tapped to join."

At the same time, however, the national social scene was changing radically, and by the late 1960s, formal dances were no longer in vogue with the majority of the student body. A national fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, approached the Cotillion Club and suggested that it convert to a local chapter of the fraternity. Members agreed, and in late 1971, the club re-emerged as the fraternity's Epsilon Chapter. Although Cotillion Club members were eligible to be inducted into Pi Kappa Alpha, few of them showed interest in the fraternity--until recently.

In 1995, when McAllister attended his 30-year reunion, he and other former Cotillion Club members "closed out the party, as we often did, and three of us started reminiscing," he says. As a result, they met again the following year, which led McAllister to realize that he wanted "to create something longer lasting than just a weekend with a few friends."

So, for the class of 1965's 35-year reunion in 2000, McAllister invented "the rolling three-year party to try to get the Cotillion Club people that I knew together. We invited the classes of '64, '65, and '66 to a party at Mountain Lake." It was a success, he says, and the rolling three-year parties continued during the 35th-year reunions until, in 2002, former club member Sandy Seay (English '66) wondered, "Why don't we expand this thing?" Seay wrote a letter to the more than 900 living former club members, 150 of whom responded. "The next thing you know," he muses, "we've got a duly organized organization."

The 100+-member Cotillion Club Alumni Association, of which McAllister is president, held its first board meeting in August. The group's by-laws state, McAllister explains, that "we exist strictly to rekindle Cotillion memories and friendships and to develop a relationship with Pi Kappa Alpha. We want to leave a legacy once the last of us dies off. If we could get the fraternity and the Cotillion Club more bonded, it could still go on as a Pi Kappa Alpha alumni association."

Tom Tillar (biology '69; M.A. student personnel services '73; Ed.D. administrative and educational services '78), vice president of alumni relations and former Cotillion Club member, serves as chapter adviser for Pi Kappa Alpha, and says that today's fraternity members like the idea of linking the two groups: "They are very well versed in the nature of the Cotillion Club--to them, it's their parent organization."

Both McAllister and Seay are pleased with what they've created and urge former club members who haven't already done so to join the association. "We're tapping into some real strong feelings of connection and brotherhood," Seay says. "The word we've been using is 'reconnect.' It's like you've been unplugged for 30 years and we're just now reconnecting."

For more information, contact Bill McAllister at 804/673-2355 or

Chapter serves friends, fowl, and community alike

Over the past year, the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association has supported soldiers in Iraq, adopted a mascot, and donated food and money to a local mission--efforts that earned the group a sixth consecutive Outstanding Chapter Award from the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

One member of the Middle Tennessee chapter, Mark Sherkey (business '95) has been serving overseas since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. To support him, the chapter launched its "Hokies for the 101st Airborne" campaign, sending 42 boxes of toiletry items, assorted foods, and books to Sherkey and the soldiers in the two U.S. Army artillery batteries he has commanded. The chapter also included stickers and buttons with the slogan "Birds of a feather flock together," which merges the HokieBird and the 101st Airborne's mascot, the Screaming Eagle. Sherkey has reported that the buttons have been given to Iraqi children, sheepherders, and even ex-Iraqi generals. [For more on Sherkey, see page 15 of the Fall 2003 issue.]

turkey Closer to home, the chapter provided support to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. When the zoo opened a new exhibit that included a wild turkey living on a duck pond, the more-than-500-member chapter saw an opportunity too perfect to ignore. On May 4, they adopted the turkey through the zoo's Adopt-an-Animal program and named him the "Nashville Hokie Bird." The annual adoption fee of $500 goes toward the care of the turkey and other animals in the zoo. "We saw the opportunity to promote the university and show our chapter's love of the wild turkey," says former chapter president Steve Wallace (industrial systems engineering '95), adding, "We have plans to do a lifetime adoption of the Nashville Hokie Bird." A sign mounted at the wild turkey exhibit reads: "The Middle Tennessee Chapter Of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Proudly Sponsors the Wild Turkey At the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere--Alumni and Friends Lovingly Refer to Him as the "Nashville Hokie Bird."
The "Nashville Hokie Bird"

In addition to adopting one turkey, the chapter has also donated at least 400 of them to the Nashville Rescue Mission every Thanksgiving since 1997. During the annual "Hokies for Hunger" event, when canned foods and money are also donated, the chapter purchases the turkeys from local stores that sell them two for the price of one. As for the canned foods and donations, they're collected during the chapter's Tech football game parties--truly embodying that Hokie spirit of giving.

Hokie named Las Vegas power broker

Van Epp family King of the world? Not exactly, but Daniel Van Epp (building construction '78) was ranked No. 22 on the "25 People Who Rule the City" list in the October 2002 issue of Las Vegas Life. Van Epp is the president and the driving force behind Las Vegas' largest property development firm, The Howard Hughes Corp.

An example of Van Epp's success, and a reason he is among the top-25 power brokers in Las Vegas, is the 36-square-mile, master-planned community of Summerlin, located along the western rim of the Las Vegas valley. Van Epp was originally hired by The Howard Hughes Corp.'s then-president, John Goolsby, to manage the community's development. Under Van Epp's guidance, Summerlin has been named the nation's number-one selling master-planned community for 10 of the last 11 years.

Dan Van Epp '78 (center) and his family

"No community in the nation's history, as far as research can tell, has ever had this kind of sustained growth," says Van Epp. In addition to the more than 30,000 residences in the community, Summerlin is also home to schools, retailers, businesses, and houses of worship. The key to the community's success, Van Epp believes, "boils down to the results of a survey recently taken of our residents in which 98 percent responded that they would recommend Summerlin to a friend searching for a home."

Besides his duties as president of The Howard Hughes Corp., a position he attained following Goolsby's retirement, Van Epp is also senior vice president of The Rouse Company (Howard Hughes Corp.'s parent company) and a member of the University of Nevada Las Vegas Board of Trustees. He is also a member of the Urban Land Institute, which he joined in 1986, because, he says, "I felt its focus on a mission of improving land use through education and research well reflected my own values."

While completing their degrees at Virginia Tech, Daniel and his wife, Lora (biology '78), raised twin sons and a daughter--as well as operated a construction business. There's no question Van Epp believes that his Tech education played an integral part in his career. "I feel a particular kinship with the late Bill Favrao, the former, and the first, chair of the building construction department," he says. "His tough and thorough manner of teaching helped make me successful in the business world."

Software for all

Working in school administration at public schools in Sacramento, Seattle, and Chicago, and later as the director of research and evaluation for Kanawha County Schools in Charleston, W.Va., Catherine Chandler (M.S. education '75, Ed.D. educational administration '76) saw, at every stop, that students were being shortchanged. The computer software owned by the schools was not only limited in quantity, but often seriously outdated.

Chandler, who was introduced to computers in the late '60s at Stanford University in the heart of the Silicon Valley, loved the technology and knew firsthand the educational benefits that the right software could offer students. After spending several years learning what did and didn't work in the classroom, in 1982, Chandler and two colleagues in Charleston founded the Center for Creative Leadership to supplement the schools' shortcomings by teaching computer classes and running highly successful summer "computer camps" for kids.

Then, recognizing that schools needed a knowledgeable go-between with software manufacturers to secure better products and pricing, Chandler bought out her partners, and with her sister, Cheryl, who has a teaching degree, opened a retail store in Fargo, N.D.--their hometown--to front a software resource company for educators. Called CCV Software, the operation expanded in 1985 to include a mail order catalog of educational software.

Now headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla., where Chandler lives with her second husband and CCV's chief financial officer, Tom Naerebout, CCV is among the country's largest software distributors, offering product expertise and wholesale prices to schools and universities, faculty, and students on a range of programs, including software from Microsoft, Corel, Adobe, and Macromedia.

With offices in Fargo and Charleston, more than 38,000 clients across the U.S., $16 million in revenues last year, and a small staff of 31, CCV thrives as a result of hard work, strong marketing, and most certainly Chandler's background in education. "My time at Virginia Tech in the educational administration program," she says, "was very helpful in my business venture, for it taught me time management, persistence, patience, and a strong work ethic, as well as knowledge about the structure and philosophy of education that I still use every day."

A 1999 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Chandler says her company is "committed to education. That's why we get fired up about what we do. We believe what we sell can make a difference in how students learn and how teachers teach."

For more information about CCV, visit

Hurricane Isabel nearly blew it

On Sept. 18, while Hurricane Isabel was pounding the state, the Hokies were pounding Texas A&M in Lane Stadium. In attendance with their immediate families and several friends was a couple from Glen Allen, Va., Patrick M. Berryman (business '86) and his fianc Kelly Gannon, who were to be married the following evening in Richmond.

The next morning, however, Berryman, who with the rest of the group was staying at the Hampton Inn in Christiansburg, received word that Isabel had inflicted severe damage to the facility where the wedding and reception were to be held--and that the wedding had to be cancelled. The couple was not only devastated, but in a bind because family and friends were already in the area from as far away as New York, Texas, Florida, and Maine.

Then, Sharon Rasnake, manager at the Hampton Inn, came to the rescue. After hearing of the couple's predicament, she offered to help and lined up a minister, church, flowers, clothes, a bridal shop, rooms for the guests and families, and a special room for the couple.

While shopping for wedding clothes that afternoon, Berryman and Gannon met Frank (not the coach) and Roxanne Beamer, who agreed to play music and sing at the wedding. Rasnake also offered to take pictures of the ceremony.

The wedding was officiated that evening by Rev. Chuck McHose at Christiansburg's St. Paul United Methodist Church, where Berryman and Gannon were married with most of their family and closest friends in attendance, including David Yarbrough (business '86), Dee Yarbrough (accounting '87), Cyndi Miracle (communications '88), and Stephanie Schott ('05).

It's another one in the books: even rough weather can't beat Hokies.