The newest of the well-known HokieBird statues is now on the Virginia Tech campus, and it honors the school’s Class of 2020—one that has endured the pandemic.
The statue is located along a sidewalk leading from the Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center to the Inn at Virginia Tech and Holtzman Alumni Center.
The bird was paid for and designed by the Class of 2020, according to a university news release. It wears the university’s traditional commencement regalia, including a cap, gown, class ring, and cords.
The concept for the new HokieBird statue, which is the first one to represent Hokie graduates, was born last April. Laura Wedin, Tech’s associate director for student and young alumni engagement, reached out to the Blacksburg Partnership Foundation for help developing the idea, according to the release.
The foundation, which has placed more than 100 HokieBird statues in and around the Blacksburg area, connected Wedin with Heather Gearhart, a local artist from Elliston.
A group of soon-to-be 2020 graduates, headed by Greg Klatt, president of the Class of 2020, provided design direction for the project.
The student-led design team worked with Gearhart to create an authentic representation of the Class of 2020. The completed piece depicts a HokieBird holding a diploma proudly in his claws, wearing a Class of 2020 ring, and it features the class logo emblazoned across his chest. A stole and a senior class gift cord are draped across the bird’s shoulders.
“My favorite part is how the statue displays a typical graduating Hokie, instead of displaying anything that reminds graduates of the sad parts of 2020, like a face mask or a thermometer,” Taylor Buckner, a 2020 graduate, said in the release. “I love the design of the Hokie statue and how it demonstrates a traditional graduation ceremony.”
Nikki Giovanni, a renowned poet, University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, and the namesake of the Class of 2020 ring, commended the graduates in her commencement address last May.
“The Class of 2020 was an incredibly gracious class,” said Giovanni. “It’s no one’s fault what happened to them, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make up for what they lost and make them understand how proud they should be.”
As a result of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, commencement ceremonies for universities across the country, including Virginia Tech, were held virtually, rather than in-person last year.
This year, Virginia Tech will host a special in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on May 12 at Lane Stadium. Graduates may register for the ceremony beginning the week of April 19.
Also in May, for the Class of 2021, Virginia Tech plans to hold multiple in-person commencement ceremonies along with a university-wide virtual commencement. All planned activities will adhere to public health guidelines.