NPR logo Violent Identity Thrust Upon Virginia Tech

Violent Identity Thrust Upon Virginia Tech

Students walk past Burruss Hall, an administration building on the campus of Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech University Relations hide caption

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Virginia Tech University Relations

Virginia Tech is on a vast, rolling green campus snuggled up to the small downtown of Blacksburg.

Tall Gothic-style buildings were built from locally quarried light-colored "Hokie stone." The view to the west is of mountain ranges — the Alleghenies. It's a place of pioneer history, formerly a part of the American frontier. The New River flows nearby, making its northerly way into West Virginia.

Tech's student population is more than 25,000. Yet the school seems small and serene, especially since Interstate 81, running the length of Virginia, is a good 15 miles away.

The university has always been proud of its engineering expertise. It was a land-grant college which opened in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, later to be formally known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Then Tech became a big-time football school, with dynamic teams and an All-American quarterback, Michael Vick. After Tech played in — and lost — the 2000 national football championship game, its national visibility increased.

After today though, Virginia Tech will also be known for Monday's shootings, much in the same way that Kent State University in Ohio had a different identity after the National Guard opened fire on its campus in 1970.