There is something special about Tech alumni. And there is something special about their relationship with the university. At the very least, Tech alumni the spend their lives answering the question, "Exactly what is a Hokie?" But there is more.

Having been associated with Virginia Tech and Tech graduates for 30 years, I have observed the special affection you have for your alma mater. That affection may have been recently enhanced for some graduates after our football team's series of bowl appearances and the success of the basketball team in the NIT and the NCAA tournaments. And while there are 70,000 alumni residing in the Commonwealth, another 70,000 are distributed across the country and around the world. I have met with Tech alumni groups in Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand, to name but a few. Their continuing affection for the university spans the Pacific Ocean and manifests in inquires and interest not dissimilar to those expressed by alumni living in Richmond.

For many, the sports experience is just the beginning. Thousands of alumni stay involved with Virginia Tech through volunteer work, serving on more than 30 advisory boards for colleges, departments, research centers, and special programs. They are active in alumni chapters, Hokie Clubs, and the national alumni association. They give precious time to fund-raising efforts, recruiting nights, or networking with job-seeking graduates. Some open doors in their businesses for campus officials.

A few ultimately will serve on the university governing body, the board of visitors. And many will donate funds to bolster academic and athletic programs. This selfless philanthropy is becoming increasingly important for public universities. The impact of a college education and of university research touches every corner of our modern world. We must increasingly rely on private contributions to maintain the margin of excellence expected of a major land-grant university.

My experience is that our alumni have been shaped by a personal work ethic also intrinsic to the land-grant mission--helping people help themselves. Many of our alumni have come from modest beginnings and used their education as an opportunity. Today they are thankful. As a result, we experience the bounty of individuals looking to help another youngster who asks only for a chance. During our current campaign, old friends have again stood up to be counted. The Pamplins, for example, added more than $10 million to their lifetime giving, now totaling more than $22 million--the largest in university history. The Merryman family, long supporters of Virginia Tech athletics, are back again. Floyd "Sonny" Merryman Jr. '46, his son, Floyd Merryman III '81, and their spouses made a $1-million commitment to the Merryman complex, a state-of-the-art athletic training facility.

Other new selfless leaders are emerging. Bill Daughtrey Jr. '62 now serves as Richmond Regional Campaign chairman and has endowed the Daughtrey Scholars Program. Ruth Chaney of Martinsville will ensure that deserving young engineering students see opportunities like those available to her late husband, Jerry Chaney '42, by endowing the Jerry Smith Chaney Endowed Scholarships. Joseph Collie '50, founder of one of North Carolina's most successful companies, will ensure that the College of Engineering attracts the brightest scholars to the field. Joe and Barbara Collie's $1-million commitment will endow the Joseph H. Collie Chaired Professorship in chemical engineering. John McConnell '72 built a winning company, MEDIC Computer Systems in Raleigh. The John P. McConnell Freshman Merit Scholarship Fund will guarantee winning chances for entering students to the Pamplin College of Business.

The list goes on. We will recognize all these committed friends of Virginia Tech in other forums. Leaders like these will maintain excellence and opportunity for many years to come. We are grateful!

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