The Tragedy at Virginia Tech

April 16, 2007
Adapted from a message sent by President Casteen to members of the University community


The shootings this morning at Virginia Tech have turned a seemingly normal day into one filled with grief and disbelief. For UVA, especially on this day, Virginia Tech is family. Many of us have parents, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, and friends who study, teach, or work in Blacksburg. Many of us are Tech alumni.

Our hearts are with Virginia Tech and its many families today, and they will be so long into the future as we remember this awful day. Our thoughts and prayers belong to those who must deal tonight and in future days with a grief that must seem almost more than mind and spirit can bear. Together, we extend our sympathy, concern, and fellow feeling for lives destroyed and bodies broken today and for families and classmates and faculty members who must go on despite these losses.

In the course of this day, we have offered support and assistance as Virginia Tech may need them from us. This offer includes providing psychological support services, other medical assistance, and any other support that may be useful to Virginia Tech. We will stay in close touch with President Steger and those who must now work with him to restore the Tech community. Members of our own community will be affected directly and indirectly by the senselessness and magnitude of what has happened, perhaps more so in coming days as victims’ names and attachments become known. We look forward to serving those persons as well.

However near to or far from Virginia Tech and its people each of us may be in kinship or other attachments, today’s events take enormous emotional tolls, and not all of these costs are obvious immediately. Faculty members and staff members know this from prior experience. They want to help. They are themselves as mindful of human loss and grief-struck as students and their families are. Their common commitment to the University is first and foremost to our students.

Caleb Euhus, a student from Lynchburg, wrote a poem today titled “Tech Wind.” He sent a copy this afternoon, and he agreed to my sharing its argument and some words from it with you. He invokes today’s fierce winds to combat and assuage the horror and anger that all thoughtful women and men must feel about today’s catastrophe in Blacksburg. Echoing sentiments as old as Lamentations, Mr. Euhus calls on nature itself—the very wind—to share this grief. The poem ends with the lines “Make haughty grass bow down its stalk/And mourn for all those killed.” Mr. Euhus speaks for all of us.

President John T. Casteen III

 

April 17, 2007

On behalf of 30,000 students, administrators, and our Virginia Tech community, I cannot begin to express our gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy, support, and compassion UVA has shown us in the past two days.

It is an understatement to say the aftermath of our losses has been emotionally trying for us. The realization of losing 32 valuable lives in our Virginia Tech family is something that we are trying desperately to recover from ... but even in the most difficult day of Virginia Tech history, we have found strength—it is your university in particular that has sustained us, far beyond what you will ever know.

We thank you for your students and faculty that gathered to memorialize our victims and to share in our sorrow.

We thank you for the initiative and commitment your student government made towards finding 30,000 candles for our grieving campus, so that our student leaders could focus on healing and comforting instead.

We thank you for the hundreds of Hokies who saw your painted bridge, and were moved to tears.

We thank you for the way your students instantly put aside our infamous rivalry to the point where the greatest measures of compassion from another institution have been from you.

Your aid has had such a profound impact upon our students. Please know what UVA is doing is being noticed, is making a difference, and is nothing short of extraordinary.

Thank you for being a testament to the best of collegiate student leadership—and to humanity in general. In what we have been calling the darkest night Virginia Tech has ever seen, you are one of our brightest lights. The strong alliance that has been formed between our school and yours is part of our foundation in moving forward.

From our hearts to yours, thank you for your noble efforts. May you also find solace and restoration as we grieve together as students and as a nation.

In or out of times of need, Virginia Tech will stand beside you as fellow students, Virginians, and most importantly, as friends.

Elizabeth Hart, on behalf of Virginia Tech students
Virginia Tech Student Government Association


Corner Memories

The recent article on the Corner brought back many fond memories. Living on the Lawn my last year, my friends and I ate many blue-plate specials at the College Inn. We seemed to have survived the experience.

On a more interesting note, the restaurant had a large glass bowl by the cash register in which one could deposit a signed meal check if you were a little light in the wallet. Once you got some funds, you settled up. Rumor was at that time the restaurant very rarely got stiffed for unpaid checks.

Gary Banks (Col ’59)
Scituate, Mass.

 

As always, I greeted the arrival of the UVA Magazine with anticipation. I was not disappointed. The cover article on the Corner was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I can still savor that ultimate gastronomic treat, the Gusburger.

Michael Diamant (Med ’70)
Koloa, Hawaii

 

Magazine designers necessarily work behind the scenes, but their skills often shine through. Kudos, as a case in point, to Michael Fitts for his graphic treatment of author Coy Barefoot’s package of words and pictures about the history of the Corner. From the “time lapse” cover to inside content, this feature was easy to follow because it was so difficult to conceive and pull together.

David B. Bowes (Col ’56)
Keedysville, Md.

 

I was a student at UVA during the ’50s and enjoyed the wonderful article about the Corner in the spring ’07 edition.

Ellie Wood Page was my great aunt and my brother and I had the privilege of boarding with her for a year. In addition, I was one of the many who learned to care for and ride horses at Ellie Wood’s daughter’s stable. She (“Big” Ellie Wood) was never called “Ellie” as mentioned in your article. Aunt Ellie owned and ran the boarding house on Elliewood Avenue and her daughter, “Big” Ellie Wood, owned and ran the riding stable.

John Winn (Col ’55)
Lexington, Ky.

 

Please convey my congratulations to Coy Barefoot for the wonderful story about the Corner. As a graduate of the Class of ’75, I found the overview very nostalgic and informative. Man, the memories—I had totally forgotten about “The Caravan,” Home of the Humpburger. This is easily the best story I’ve read in the magazine in quite a while—and I’m not being critical, by any means!

My family visited the University last summer, as we took our youngest son on the “college tour.” We had a great time visiting some of my old haunts and had lunch at the Virginian (thankfully, still there after all these years). My boy ended up selecting VMI, which is OK with me. We are keeping the Virginia “tradition of educational excellence” alive while living here in Maryland.

Keep up the stellar work!

Tom Shumaker (Col ’75)
Parkton, Md.

 

I remember the University Diner with great fondness from my days at the Law School in the early 1970s. I frequently ate breakfast there because you could get real country ham and fresh-cooked grits.

Alma Shifflett’s second husband, who worked in the UD with her and served as both cashier and unofficial host, was an émigré from Brooklyn named Leon Pogolowitz. He always sat at the counter, on the stool nearest the door, by the cash register. Leon was a delightful man, with a wicked, dry sense of humor.

I also vividly remember an elderly gentleman whose last name was Estes. Like me, he was a breakfast regular. A garrulous character who looked like he had just walked out of the pages of a short story by Eudora Welty, Mr. Estes was a distributor of meat at the wholesale level, and he was able to supply me with extraordinarily fine “hard smoked” country ham and hot country sausage to take home to Connecticut to my parents, who came from North Carolina and Alabama, to their delight and mine.

Many thanks for a most enjoyable article.

Teri Noel Towe (Law ’73)
New York City

 

Here’s a ’Hoo who’s lived the past 26 years in Britain, shedding a sentimental tear over your article on the Corner. It brought back long-lost memories—not only of the Gusburger and the Grillswith, but of the Virginian, U-Caf, Eljo’s, etc.

I was in the third class of women to enter the University, graduating in 1976, and I found the University at that time still a male-oriented environment. However, I thrived, and I have the University to thank for my entire outlook on life, my open-mindedness and general philosophy.

I’m still an American, very much a Virginian, and whilst I live in Britain, my heart and my work—thanks to wonderful training at Virginia—lies in Italy, Spain and France. Your magazine and the memories of Virginia keep me grounded. The Corner article, especially, made me think of late-night forays and gossip sessions to the Corner—for a Gus, a Grilled, or Memory Bank at Poe’s in the company of my two best friends at the University, Jane Close (Col ’76) and Leslie Berens (Col ’75). If they happen to read this letter, I think about them often.

Marion Mauck Watts (Col ’76)
Hythe, England

 

The current issue of the University of Virginia Magazine is the best I have seen since I came to the University in the fall of 1933 as a student.

John L. Guerrant (Med ’37)
Charlottesville


The Dry Dock

While I once lived in “Old Dunny” and was a daily consumer of Corner offerings, it was the “Retrospect” photo of the Dry Dock that elicited a meaningful memory. Sixty years ago, a naive 18-year-old attended the mandatory lecture in Cabell Hall, walked to the Dry Dock, consumed a milkshake and left without paying. Back in my basement room in the shadow of Scott Stadium, I recalled the nonpayment. I ran back, convinced that I was an Honor Code violator prior to my first class! The white-haired cashier’s greeting: “I saw you leave.”

“Why didn’t you stop me?” I asked.

His memorable response: “I knew you would be back.”

I crossed Main Street and engaged in the first of my “conversations” with Mr. Jefferson. I knew I was in the right place!
Obviously, your nostalgic overload issue was appreciated.

Bob Maidment (Educ ’50, ’53, ’63)
Boca Raton, Fla.


Another Perspective

The letter in the spring edition from W.F. Garner Jr. [“White Male Bashing”] demonstrates why there is a need for the very articles he denounces as “offensive and one-sided.” These articles introduce an alternative perspective that the University has historically failed to address in years past. And though it is often uncomfortable to discuss these issues, let us not confuse politics with the simple truth. In the time of Mr. Jefferson, the University was indeed a bastion of white male supremacy; and just as Jefferson struggled with issues of racism, we continue to struggle with our own version of it now. As an African-American alumnus, I applaud the magazine’s effort to reflect the changing atmosphere of the University to one where nontraditional views can enter the public discourse.

Taison Bell (Col ’05)
New York City


Remembering Dr. Meem

The alumni magazine certainly has been improving in quality and quantity of stories. Thanks very much for the tremendous effort.

I appreciated seeing the letter to the editor about Dr. J. Lawrence Meem some months ago. While I’ve not seen an article on his life—and he did so many, many important things in his field and for this country—I did see the obituary in the most recent edition. Please know, however, that Dr. Meem’s nickname was not “Brow,” but “Bus.” He and my dad were very best friends growing up together in Mt. Jackson, Va., where his family lived on a farm known as “Mt. Airy”; hence the reason he also named his home in Ivy Mt. Airy. I am not certain how he got this nickname, but that is how he was known throughout the area.  Thanks for remembering him.

Suzanne Thomas (Educ ’75)
Harrisonburg, Va.


Bad Grammar?

Whom shall we blame for missing the grammar mistake on page 46 of the latest issue? The caption should read “Whom to Watch This Spring.” As a college foreign language instructor, I am frustrated and saddened at the lack of grammar knowledge by students—and you can’t learn another language if you don’t know what a preposition or adverb is in your own language! A few years ago, I called Parade magazine to the carpet for a similar mistake and they took the low road, saying that most people wouldn’t know the difference. Let’s do the right thing—teach the readers correct English while entertaining them at the same time.

Olivia Wheeler Rabinowitch (Col ’90)
Burke, Va.

Editor’s Note: While Ms. Rabinowitch is technically correct, the editors chose to use the colloquial style common to headline writing.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online has this to say: “Today there are two countervailing trends: first, there’s a decided tendency to use ‘who’ colloquially in most contexts; second, among those insecure about their grammar, there’s a tendency to overcorrect and use ‘whom’ when ‘who’ would be correct. Writers and editors of formal prose often resist the first of these; everyone should resist the second.”