25 Virginia Tech Black History Facts

The 2016 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion will commemorate important milestones in black history at the university. This year marks the 50th anniversary of black women attending Virginia Tech and the 25th anniversary of the Black Cultural Center opening in Squires. We will celebrate both moments during the reunion.

In addition to these legendary milestones it is important to honor the history of black students at Tech and their contribution to the Hokie tradition. Virginia Tech History is Black History.

black history at vt

  1. Irving L. Peddrew III was the first black student admitted to Virginia Tech in 1953.

irving peddrdew

Virginia Tech Black Alumni recently celebrated Peddrew’s 80th birthday during the summer of 2015. He will also be in attendance at the 2016 VT Black Alumni Reunion.





2.) Charlie Yates was the first Black Virginia Tech graduate. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1958.

charlie yates

In 2003 Virginia Tech renamed New Residence Hall West to Peddrew-Yates in honor of Irving L. Peddrew III and Charlie Yates.



 3.) In 1966 the first black women were admitted to Virginia Tech.  (l to r) Marguerite Harper, Linda Edmonds Turner, Freddie Hairston, Jacqueline Butler, Linda Adams, and Chiquita Hudson were among the first black women to attend the university, leaving a lasting legacy.


4.) Did you know that a black man helped create the original Virginia Tech mascot? In 1913 Floyd Meade began taking a turkey on an orange and maroon leash to Virginia Tech football games. After drawing attention from the press, they started to call the football team the Gobblers. The Hokie Bird was then created.

floyd meade hokie bird

5.)  Jerry Gaines became the first black scholarship athlete at Virginia Tech in 1967. He was a star track runner and was the first black inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

6.) Groove Phi Groove was the first black organization at Virginia Tech in 1968

groove phi groove
Groove Phi Groove fraternity in 1969. Virginia Tech’s first black organization on campus. Groove Phi Groove, 1969 First Row: B. Rimm, S. Pyles, C. Adams, C. Beane, T. Dillard Second Row: S. Lee, J. Watkins, L. Trower, L. Beale, G. Spurlock, B. Shelton, G. Brook


7.)  In 1969 John Dobbins became the first black football player at Virginia Tech.

john dobbins


8.) In 1969 Charlie Lipscomb became the first black starter on varsity basketball team



9.) Overton R. Johnson was the first black faculty member at Virginia Tech in 1969. The annual Overton R. Johnson stepshow was named in his memory.

overton johnson

10.) The first black students to receive advanced degrees are: Camilla Anita Brooks (M.S. Statistics, 1970) and Franklin Mckie (M.S. Statistics, 1970).
11.) In 1973, Cheryl Butler McDonald becomes one of the first women admitted to the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets. She is the first black woman in the Corp.

cheryl butler


12.) Dianne Epps became the first black player on the Virginia Tech Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team in 1973.





13.) The Theta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was the first Black Greek Letter Organization chartered on the campus of Virginia Tech. January 29, 1973.


alpha phi alpha

14.) The Theta Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first black sorority founded on the campus of Virginia Tech, May 5, 1974.

Theta Phi 1975

Standing (left to right): Paula Martin, Karen Francois, Delores Jones; Seated: Zoe Shaw, Avie Winston, Sandra Johnson, Linda Banks; Back: Gwen Cunningham, Maggie Lewis

15.) The Black Organization Council was founded in 1982 .The NAACP was founded the same year, and became the largest black organization on campus at 115 members.

black organization council

16.) The first black homecoming queen was Marva Felder in 1982. She remains the only black woman to win queen.

marva felder


17.) In 1983 Scott Otey was selected as the first black commander of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties.



18.) Chris Sessoms was the first black Hokie Bird in 1984.



19.) The first Black Alumni Reunion was held on October 24-26, 1986. Dr. Charlie Yates, Tech’s first black graduate was the guest speaker for the reunion banquet and dance.

20.)  In 1987, renowned poet Nikki Giovanni was hired by the university and became the first female full professor in the Department of English.


21.)  In 1991 Coretta Oden became the first black woman to be appointed to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Regimental Command.



22.)  In 1991 the Black Cultural Center opened in Squires. The creation of the BCC happened after student leaders from the class of 1985 proposed the opening due to the increase of black students at Virginia Tech. Brian Roberts (’85)  was instrumental in founding the BCC and has a library dedicated in his memory. He wrote the first student proposal for the center among numerous achievements, including drafting the first constitution for the Black Organizations Council.  Read about his legacy here: http://www.iec.vt.edu/cultural_centers/library.html


23.) Ronnie Stephenson class of 1995, was the first black President of the Student Government Association in Virginia Tech history.

ronnie stephenson

24.) In 1996 Cynthia Gowens founded the Enlightened Gospel Choir. The 20th anniversary celebration will take place at Sunday Service during the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion.


25.)  In 2006 Christina Royal became the first African American female cadet to hold the highest position in the Corp, serving as the Regimental Commander

christina royal

The facts listed are only a portion of black history at Virginia Tech. To discover more black history facts and for further information on history listed please visit the following website. :

Join us in celebrating this year’s historical milestones. The reunion schedule includes a BCC 25th anniversary celebration on Thursday, April 21st.  During the Alumni Awards dinner, Saturday, April 23rd we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the pioneers who paved the way for black women to attend Virginia Tech. Many of them will be in attendance. We will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Enlightened Gospel Choir, to close out the reunion Sunday, April 24th. You don’t want to miss this. Register for the reunion today!





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