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Monday
Jan072019

* * Blacksburg's famous, Part 2, Virginia Tech Graduates

As I mentioned in my last column about famous people from Blacksburg, many of Virginia Tech’s thousands of graduates have gone on to fame in the arts, entertainment, politics, sports, and business. There is no way to quantify “fame” so this list is admittedly arguable. Here are the people who most come to my mind.

With its historic Corps of Cadets, Virginia Tech produced many notable military figures. Seven alumni have received Medals of Honor. Perhaps the most famous is James F. Van Pelt, Jr., who navigated both atomic bomb attacks against Japan in August, 1945.

In government, J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., was a member of the US House of Representatives, Virginia’s Attorney General, and from 1958 until 1962, Virginia’s Governor.

In business and technology, Clifton C. Garvin is a former Chairman and CEO of Exxon Corporation, Christopher Columbus Kraft, Jr., was a NASA engineer and manager who was largely credited with establishing the agency’s Mission Control operation, Jim Buckmaster has been the CEO of Craigslist since 2000, and Robert B. Pamplin Sr. who served as CEO of Georgia Pacific and his son Robert Jr., both who served as President and CEO of the R. B. Pamplin Corporation.

In literature, Homer Hickam and Sharyn McCrumb are New York Times bestselling authors.

Hoda Kotb is a television news anchor and current TV host of NBC’s Today show and the Thanksgiving Day Macy’s Parade. Kylene Barker was Tech’s only Miss America, tapped in 1979.

As we enter the sports realm, Tech has far too many to name, but I’ll do my best to pick the most prominent.

In basketball, Allan Bristow led Tech to an NIT championship in 1973 and played in the NBA for four teams before retiring into coaching and management. Vernell “Bimbo” Coles played for the 1988 U. S. Olympic Basketball team and later five NBA teams before retiring to his hometown of Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Dell Curry, who played for three NBA teams and works as a color commentator for the Charlotte Hornets. Curry married Sonya Adams, also a Hokie, and they are the parents of three children including Steph, who currently plays for the world champion Golden State Warriors and is a former NBA MVP.

The list of football standouts is long, but arguably the two most famous are Michael Vick, who led Tech to the NCAA national championship and had a long career in the NFL after being the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, and Bruce Smith who was the first pick in the 1985 draft and is a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. Smith is now a developer in Blacksburg.

Tech’s first notable gridiron star was C. Hunter Carpenter (class of 1902), who was Tech’s first player elected to the Hall of Fame.

Carroll Dale (class of 1964) played for Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers and won the first two Super Bowls.

Kevin Jones was the highest overall recruit in the nation in 2000, the only Number 1 recruit in history at Tech. He was a consensus All American and played 6 years in the NFL.

In the next tier are Logan Thomas, Tyrod Taylor, Don Strock, Darryl Tapp, Ken Oxendine, Frank Loria, DeAngelo Hall, Shayne Graham, Antonio Freeman, Bruce Arians, Rashad Carmichael, Cam Chancellor, and the Fullers, Kyle, Vincent, Corey, and Kendall.

Lastly, perhaps Virginia Tech’s most famous current and influential graduate is Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon. After graduating from Tech in 1976 (the same year as me!), Bannon got masters degrees at Georgetown University and then Harvard University before serving in the United States Navy. After his discharge, he became a media executive, political strategist, and former executive chairman of Breitbart News. He served as the Chief White House Strategist for President Donald Trump for the first seven months of his administration. Considered one of the masterminds of Trump’s political ascendency, Bannon continues to support many national populist conservative political movements here in America and around the world. Conservative Commentator David French said Bannon has “done more than any other person to introduce the… alt-right into mainstream American life.” Bannon’s influence on the trajectory of American politics is inestimable and likely long-lasting.

So there you have it, Michael’s list of Christiansburg’s, Blacksburg’s, and Virginia Tech’s most famous products. Whom did I leave out?

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