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Top 50 Hokie Spotlight: Nikki Giovanni

By Chris Himes | July 15
Top 50 Hokie Spotlight: Nikki Giovanni

Not all Hokie greats are associated with the athletic, military, business, or scientific communities.

In fact, not all Hokie greats even attended Virginia Tech.

This was the case for Nikki Giovanni. Before Nikki even came to Blacksburg, she had already achieved a career’s worth of accomplishments in the field of writing where she was nationally recognized for her poetry on issues such as racial and gender equality which still resonate to this day.

However, as if by fate, Nikki decided to join Hokie Nation in 1987 and advanced to the position of University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English where she helped pay it forward to future Hokies who had literary aspirations of their own.

Even though her primary job was teaching, Nikki Giovanni continued producing critically acclaimed volumes of poetry and children’s books as evidenced by her winning 7 NAACP Image Awards, 20+ honorary degrees, and several individual recognitions, which cemented her place as an all-time Hokie great.

Nikki Giovanni

Then on April 16th, 2007, Virginia Tech was blindsided by the tragic loss of 32 family members in one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history.

As a recent graduate less than a year removed from Blacksburg, I still had numerous friends back on campus and vividly remember spending hours on Facebook and rapidly exchanging text messages with fellow Hokies in order to figure out what exactly happened and if everyone was OK.

The relentless 24/7 news cycle of surreal images of the incident only made matters worse. With each breaking update, Blacksburg was being transformed into something completely foreign. My community had been attacked and all I could remember was feeling increasingly angry from listening to complete strangers talk negatively about Virginia Tech.

In that moment, I needed to hear from actual members of Hokie Nation. Only they could make sense of what just happened. Thankfully, a nationally televised memorial was scheduled the next day in Cassell Coliseum that would allow our leadership to stand and speak.

Enter Nikki Giovanni.

As the convocation wrapped up, she was briefly introduced to deliver the ceremony’s closing remarks and I remember watching live on CNN as she stepped to the podium wearing an all caps ‘HOKIES’ lapel pin and proceeded to deliver this to Hokie Nation:

In that moment, Nikki Giovanni went from Hokie great to Hokie legend by using her amazing literary talent to help unite an entire community and define to America what being a Hokie is really about.

We now had a rallying cry...

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

...Thank you Nikki.

Chris Himes

Chris Himes

The Elder Scribe. For me, joining the Sons of Saturday team was a no-brainer. Why you might ask? The VT traditions, community, campus, food, and game days, all made my time at Tech an unforgettable experience and it's why I wanted to give back to the school that provided me with so much.

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