Public land-grant university in Blacksburg, Virginia, approximately 4.5 hours southwest of Washington, DC and 35 minutes west of Roanoke. The school has 26,000 students, approximately 18,000 of which are undergrads.

Virginia Tech's strengths are sciences, engineering and agriculture, with an excellent business school (the Pamplin College of Business) that picks up many of its students just from engineering and computer science's rejects. Tech is a comprehensive undergraduate university -- it offers a decent amount of fine arts/liberal arts programs, but no really spectacular programs. It has strong post-grad programs in engineering and education, with a veterinary medicine school jointly operated by VT and University of Maryland.

Tech was founded in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College; after several iterations, the name settled as Virginia Polytechnic Institute until 1970. (Radford University, then Radford College, served as the women's division of VPI from 1944 to 1964.) President T. Marshall Hahn's vision of Tech as a true university rather than a mere technical school led him to push for, among other things, another name change. Tech would assimilate the state's other land-grant college, a historically black school in Ettrick between Richmond and Petersburg then called Virginia State College, and then assume the name of Virginia State University. Alumni revolted, and a compromise was reached that led to the adoption of the still-official name of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The compromise initials of VPISU, or "Vippy-Sue" to some, were still mocked, and Hahn was eventually hounded out. (The school in Ettrick itself became VSU in 1979.) Virginia Tech, long an unofficial name for the school, became acceptable as an official short form name in the early 1990s, and most parts of the university use this name now.

Sources: and personal experience

The toughest thing is the people who don't understand.

Before it was rewritten under a night-shift editorial staff determined to further brutalize the situation, an insightful column by the Washington Post's Jay Mathews described not just Virginia Tech's up-and-coming public image, but the sense of unity there. As best I can recall, his original words mentioned that though the small-town location can occasionally be the subject of jokes around campus, the geographic isolation breeds a tight-knit community among those in Blacksburg, and nearly unmatched loyalty from those who have moved on (not to mention the fifty thousand who come back seven weekends every fall). Other schools have fans, sometimes an entire state full of them. We have the Hokie Nation -- we are the Hokie Nation. And though that devotion may seem corny or even misplaced at times, my first thought at work when hearing the news was: who here is a Hokie? And when I realized there weren't any around as the news got worse, it was time to leave.'s Stewart Mandel came closest to that respectful tone in the Post's stead, describing his own shock at seeing the campus he's used to wandering in brief interludes during big game coverage appear so out of context. Blacksburg, to him, is a place you come for a vacation from the real world, and to some extent that's been true.

But it's even simpler than that for me. Blacksburg isn't just a place I lived, or the dateline on my diploma, or a fall football destination, or where my brother goes to school, or even where I met my wife. It's my home, and the people walking across campus in shock, or on the dais at a press conference trying to describe indescribable horrors, are my family.

And we hurt right now, but we're still a family.

originally posted to my blog, April 17, 2007

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