University Archives header Timeline of Black History at VT
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Vernell "Bimbo" Coles (class of 1990) was the top basketball scorer in school and Metro Conference history (2,484 points). He was the first player to lead the conference in both scoring and assists in the same season. He was an honorable mention All-American as a senior and a 1988 bronze-medal award winner on the U. S. Olympic team. Coles was chosen by the Sacramento Kings with their 40th pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. He was then traded to the Miami Heat for guard Rory Sparrow. He now plays for the Atlanta Hawks.

Jerry Gaines, a record-setting trackman who lifted Tech to prominence in the sport in the late 1960s and 1970, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Virginia Tech Veterinary College create Minority Recruitment Program in conjunction with Virginia State University and University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (both traditionary black colleges).


Black Cultural Center opened in November 1991 in 126 Squires. In 1984 Black student leaders from the class of 1985 proposed the establishment of a Black Cultural Center to correlate with the uprise in recruitment of black students. Carol Crawford was named coordinator for the center.

The mural outside the Center's space in Squires was donated by the Winston family; Matthew Winston, Sr. (class of 1959), was one of the first black students at Virginia Tech, and his son, Matthew Winston, Jr. (class of 1990, Business Marketing), also graduated from Tech.

Delores W. Scott became the first coordinator of the Office of Academic Enrichment Programs. The Office of Academic Enrichment merged with Athletic Advising in December, 1995, forming the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence. Ms. Scott was appointed director of the Center.

H. D. Flowers: First black coordinator of the Black Studies Program.

Milton Franklin: First black campus police officer to be awarded the Silver Distinguished Service Award for activities deemed "above and beyond the call of duty" by Governor Wilder. Officer Franklin risked his life for 700 individuals on the night of the Virginia Tech Homecoming dance in October 1990. (Minority Newsletter, Spring 1992, page 5)

Coretta Oden: First black woman appointed to the Corps of Cadets Regimental Command. She was Regimental S1, third in command, with the rank of Cadet Major. She graduated in 1991.

Franklin Stubbs, a college home run king who went to play on a World Championship team with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.


Major George McNeill: First black director of the university's regimental band, the Highty Tighties.

Carolyn Penn became the first black health educator in Student Health Services. She became the first Director of Health Education in 1994.

Phallisha Yvonne Newsome (class of 1993), a junior in political science, received a $30,000 Truman Scholarship, which was created by Congress to honor former President Harry S. Truman and is given to students planning a career in government or public service. Newsome was active in the Young Democrats and was a member of an alcohol peer-counseling group and of the Golden Key National Honor Society.

Ujima Dance Theatre was founded in January by Carol Ann Crawford (Carol Crawford Smith), then coordinator of the Black Cultural Center at Virginia Tech and a former dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. From February 1992 to August 1994, Ujima Dance Theatre was a student organization and was part of the Black Cultural Center. The Ujima Dance Theatre was established to foster student development and an appreciation for the performing arts and related activities including, but not limited to dance, theater, set design, and costume design from a black cultural perspective. The ensemble also acted as a vehicle to acquaint the larger community with theatrical aspects of black culture.

The word "ujima" is Swahili for collective work and responsibility. It is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday celebrated annually from December 26-January 1.

Crawford left the Black Cultural Center in 1995 to start her own school, The Center of Dance, in Blacksburg. The new company UJIMA (United Joyfully in Movement Arts) has a very eclectic underlying approach that is more diverse and multi-cultural and includes all dance forms. Members of the company are from Blacksburg, the Tech Community, and Roanoke. The company gives lecture-demonstrations in area schools and performs for universities and colleges. UJIMA performed at the 25th opening celebration of the J. F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D. C., in September 1996.

Engineering Minority Center opens. Professor Bevlee Watford was named the director of the Minority Engineering Program. Professor Watford was a 1981 Tech graduate in Mining Engineering.

Alfred Curtis Lynch became the first black supervisor of traffic and parking in Parking Services.

Nina Hollins, Class of 1992: First black woman Cadet Major on Regimental Staff, Regimental Public Affairs Office.

Dr. H. D. Flowers, II, directed Fences by August Wilson. This was the first all-black main stage production at Virginia Tech, and it won the Kennedy Award. The original production ran October 7-11, 1992 with a benefit performance on February 8, 1993.

Black Business Council was founded by James Walter Price with the assistance of faculty advisor and tech alumnus Mark M. Whitaker. The council, an organization for students in the Pamplin College of Business, was revitalized and reorganized in the spring of 1997 by faculty adviser Dr. Raymond Major and president Rasheedah Hamidullah. The 1998-99 president is Taifa Harris.


Tyronne Drakeford was an all-Big East first teamer in 1993. He played for Tech in the 1993 Independence Bowl. He went on to become a starter with the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.

Patrick Liverpool: First black vice provost for university outreach and international programs.

Cornel N. Morton became the first black executive assistant to the president.

First jazz festival at Virginia Tech. The festival was held at the Squires Student Center and hosted by Tony Walters.

Ronnie E. Stephenson is first sophomore and first African American SGA President at Virginia Tech

The National Pan-Hellenic Council was chartered at Virginia Tech in September 1993 through the efforts of Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Omega Psi Phi.


Lucinda Roy became the first black associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She was tenured in 1991.

Clarresa Morton: assistant director for event planning; now associate director of University Unions and Student Activities.

Lisa Leftwich, Angela Donnell, and Stephanie Carter were the first black female basketball players to play in a post-season tournament and the first to win a conference championship. They won the Metro Tournament Championship in 1994, and played against Auburn in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In 1995, they won the regular season conference and played the University of Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Maurice DeShazo became Tech football's all-time leader in total offense and touchdown passes.

Mike Johnson and Dale Solomon were inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Johnson was a brilliant linebacker of the early 1980s and academic whiz who went on to all-pro status with the Cleveland Browns. Solomon was a super star basketballer who led Tech to the Metro Championship in 1979 and later starred in Italy.


Barbara Pendergrass became Associate Dean of Students in January 1995. Before that she was assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs (1989-94). She is the only black who has held either of these positions. She started working at Tech in 1979 as a counselor in University Counseling Center.

Antonio Freeman was the all-time leading receiver and had the all-time touchdown receptions for Tech. He was a second team all-Big East in 1993, and he played for Tech in the Gator and Independence Bowls. He graduated from Tech in Housing, Interior Design, and Resource Management. Freeman was wide receiver on the 1997 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

Shawn Smith made two free throws with just 0.7 seconds left to give Tech the NIT championship with a 65-64 overtime win against Marquette.

Bryan Still was named the MVP of the Sugar Bowl after Tech defeated Texas in what many feel is the biggest win in school history.

Hunter Nathanael Smith is in the midst of an Exhibit at the Black Cultural Center. Jennifer Vickers, a landscape designer and owner of Terra Firma in Harrisonburg, Virginia, designed the exhibit which was inspired by Richard Westmacott's book of photographs, African American Yards and Gardens in the Rural South.

Aldora G. Green was the first black staff member to receive the President's Award for Excellence.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors established the Gloria D. Smith Professorship in Black Studies.

The first "Donning of the Kente," an African-American celebration of achievement, was held on the eve of spring commencement. Ronald Giddings was the founder of the Donning of the Kente Ceremony at Virginia Tech.

Ronnie Stephenson was President of the Class of 1995. He was also the first Black president of the Student Government Association.

Bruce Smith and Tony Paige were inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Paige was a dynamic fullback on football teams in the 1980s who went on to star for the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, and Miami Dolphins. Smith was the "Sack Man" who won football's Outland Trophy and became Virginia Tech's most honored athlete.

Ronald Giddings becomes Associate Director of the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence.


James R. Martin, II, was the first black graduate from Virginia Tech to receive the Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. This award is the state's highest honor for teaching facility at Virginia's colleges and universities.

Russell Jones was the first black faculty member to receive the Alumni Advising Award.

Delores Scott received the first Academy for Leadership Excellence Outstanding Leader Award.

Lucinda Roy was the first recipient of the Gloria D. Smith Professorship in Black Studies.

Dr. Herman L. Warren's scholarly achievements in plant pathology were recognized by his inclusion in the "Tenth Anniversary Blacks in Science Calendar 1996." Dr. Warren has made several significant contributions to basic and applied research on the resistance of maize to various diseases, survival of fungi, studies on nitrogen and nitrification inhibitors, studies on translational alteration in maize infected with fungi, and development of methodologies in plant pathology. He earned his B.S. degree from Prairie View A&M University in 1953, his M.S. degree from Michigan State University in 1962, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1970. Dr. Warren has been a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech since 1989.

Noel Taylor, former mayor of Roanoke, takes his seat on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Dell Curry was inducted into the VIrginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Curry electrified Virginia Tech basketball fans with his All-America play in the 1980s.

1996 Best of Friends Reunion
Black alumni and friends converged on Virginia Tech's campus during the weekend of September 20 - 22, 1996, for the third black alumni reunion. The reunion was titled "Best of Friends Reunion" to reflect the affiliation with the university, friends, and colleagues who shared the same heritage. Events for the weekend ranged from the welcome reception, the summit that included the "state of the university" address given by Vice President Landrum Cross, the black alumni organizational meeting, the football game between the Hokies and Rutgers University, an undergraduate student and alumni networking session, and a social mixer.

Delia Grenville, president, Graduate Student Association, 1996-97


Senior forward Ace Custis's No. 20 basketball jersey was retired at the end of the season.

Renee Dennis and Cyrus Lawrence were inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Dennis was a basketball superstar of the mid-1980s whose jersey was retired after she set Tech career scoring records. Lawrence, a hard-running football tailback of the early 1980s, is Tech's all-time rushing leader.

Nikki Giovanni starts a Black Studies library with personal donation of approximately 200 volumes.

The Hush Harbor Choir was formed by Nikki Giovanni's Harlem renaissance class as a way to commemorate Hush Harbors. To understand the significance of this celebration through song, the choir's name honors Hush Harbor slave choirs of the American past. These choirs reflect a time when slaves of African ancestry had to secretly meet to celebrate their religious beliefs through songs. This was extremely dangerous. If slaves were caught congregating they were punished severely, either whipped, sold or killed. Regardless slaves did meet in fields and swamps to praise God through song exhibiting courage and a desire to live life to the fullest.

Michael Herndon was the first black graduate student representative on the Board of Visitors.

Tekisha Everette became the first African American woman elected to the Student Government Association as Vice President for the Class of 1998.


B. Keith Fulton (Urban Affairs and Planning, class of 1989) was awarded the College of Architecture and Urban Studies' first Outstanding Young Alumnus Award on April 23, 1998. Fulton is director of electronic communications and technology development at the National Urban League in New York City and chairman of the board of TechniCoach, a commercial technology integration firm.

Benjamin Dixon was appointed by President Paul Torgersen as the university's first vice president for multicultural affairs. View the article in the Diversity News.

Barbara Pendergrass, Associate Dean of Students, was promoted to Dean of Students, effective July 1, 1998.

Corey Moore was selected to the Burger King Coaches All-America Team. He also was named third-team All-America by Football News. He led the BIG EAST in quarterback sacks with 13.5 for 111 yards in losses.

Robert Brown and Kenny Lewis were inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Brown was an All-American defensive end for the Hokies who went on to an outstanding 11-year professional career with the Green Bay Packers. Lewis was a two-sport star of the late 1970s who earned All-America honors as a hurdler in track and rushed for nearly 2,000 yards on the gridiron.

Black Hokies who either are playing or have played in the National Football League or the United States Football League (as of July 1, 1998) include Antonio Banks (Minnesota Vikings), Cornell Brown (Baltimore Ravens), Robert Brown (Green Bay Packers), Tyrone Drakeford (New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers), Antonio Freeman (Green Bay Packers), Torrian Gray (Minnesota Vikings), Vaughn Hebron (Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles), Jermaine Holmes (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Waverly Jackson (Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers), Bryan Jennings (San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, Tennessee Oilers), Mike Johnson (Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Stars), Kenny Lewis (New York Jets), Ken Oxendine (Atlanta Falcons), Tony Paige (Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, New York Jets), Marcus Parker (Cincinnati Bengals), Shawn Scales (San Francisco 49ers), Bruce Smith (Buffalo Bills), Bryan Still (San Diego Chargers), T. J. Washington (Tennessee Oilers, Dallas Cowboys), Todd Washington (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and William Yarborough (Miami Dolphins).

Denmark Vesey Voices (Hush Harbor Slave choir) organized by Nikki Giovanni

Roxene Thompson was the first black female graduate student on the Board of Visitors.


Eddie Lucas, a Civil and Environment Engineering student and varsity basketball player was drafted by the Utah Jazz. He is the first Hokie drafted by the NBA since 1990.

"Come See What We've Started" During the weekend of March 26 - 28, 1999, 169 black alumni and guests came to campus to attend Virginia Tech's fourth black reunion, the largest to date.

The kick-off event for the reunion was the President's Welcome Reception, held at Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center. Extending greetings to alumni and guests were President Paul Torgersen, Dean Barbara Pendergrass, and Vice President for Alumni Relations Tom Tillar. Many alumni packed the reception room. Former Homecoming Queen Marva Felder (Davis) talked to Calvin D. Jamison and others about old times. Charlie Yates '58, Tech's first black graduate, introduced his fellow pioneers of the 1950s, Lindsay Cherry and Essex Finney. Jerry Gaines, Tech's first black scholarship athlete, attended along with many others. Mr. Charles Johnson (owner of New Image Barber Stylists), who cut the hair of many students over the years, welcomed the alumni also.

Terry Kershaw becomes the Director of Black Studies at Virginia Tech.

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