Beginning in the fall of 2014, faculty and students in the Virginia Tech History Department, along with colleagues in the University Libraries’ Special Collections and campus partners including HokiePRIDE, the LGBT Faculty/Staff Caucus, and the Ex Lapide Society (the LGBTQA alumni network at VT) began collecting oral histories to document the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer life in the 20th century American South and specifically at Virginia Tech. This collection consists of oral history interviews with influential members of the LGBTQ+ community at Virginia Tech, both past and present. Interviews were conducted by Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist, and students of Professor David Cline's Oral History class.
Katherine Allen is a professor of Human Development at Virginia Tech. In her oral history, Katherine Allen discusses her activism, her relationships and personal identity, her experiences as part of a ‘lesbian poster family’ and as an ‘out’ faculty member at Virginia Tech.
Luther Brice, Interview 1
Luther Kennedy Brice, Jr. was a professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech from 1954 to 1986. In this first oral history, Brice discusses how one had to be underground about being gay during his student years and through much of his time as a professor at Virginia Tech.
Luther Brice, Interview 2
In this second oral history, Professor Brice discusses his approach to and ideas about teaching. He also explains some aspects of his chemical magic show.
Tom Brobson graduated from Virginia Tech in 1982 and returned to work for Tech in 1989 in the Department of University Relations. In his oral history, Brobson discusses his life as an out gay undergraduate student in the late 70s and early 80s as well as his activism while an employee.
Gwendolyn Coleman was born in Nankudo, Namibia before moving to Mays Landing, New Jersey. Gwen graduated from Virginia Tech in Spring 2015 with a degree in the Biological Sciences. In her oral history Coleman discusses her progressive views on sexuality and identity as a current VT student. Raised in a religious and culturally diverse home, Coleman expresses how she navigated sexuality growing up. As a current student she also addresses contemporary trends and issues that she sees on campus in the LGBT and LGBTA communities, her work involving Hokie Pride, her experience in aiding the Health Education and Awareness team in being more inclusive, and her opinions on the Virginia Tech diversity climate.
Dolly Davis studied architecture at Virginia Tech in the late 1980s, and is now an architect in Roanoke, Virginia. In the early 2000s Davis came out as transgender. In her oral history, Davis describes her upbringing and college experience at Tech, her life as a transgender woman, the process of coming out to herself as well as others, and her activism on behalf of the transgender and LGBT community in Roanoke and at Virginia Tech.
Mary Beth Dunkenberger
Mary Beth Dunkenberger has worked at Virginia Tech since 2001 and is the Senior Program Director at the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance. In her oral history, Dunkenberger discusses her first marriage and children before coming out as a lesbian to her family in her 30s. She also discusses her involvement in the LGBTQ community, and issues related to LGBTQ and other minorities at Virginia Tech and in Virginia, including religion, gay marriage, and the LGBTQ climate survey at Virginia Tech.
Jean Elliott is the Director of Communications for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and also serves as the co-chair of VT's LGBT Faculty/Staff Caucus. In her oral history, Elliott discusses being out as a lesbian while working at Virginia Tech and her contributions to the LGBT programming, including the annual Gay in Appalachia event series and her observations about challenges and changes at Virginia Tech since 1999.
Tori Elmore graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and currently works as a maintenance engineer at the Celanese chemical plant in Narrows, VA. In 2013, Elmore came out as transgender publicly at her place of work. In her oral history, Elmore discusses her struggle with depression, her transition process, and gaining acceptance in the local blue collar Appalachian community.
Howard Feiertag, an instructor of hospitality and tourism management in the Pamplin College of Business, has been a Virginia Tech faculty member since 1989. In his oral history, Feiertag discusses his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1930s and 40s, his long career in the military and hospitality industry, his homosexual experiences as a young man in the 1950s and 60s, his relationship of nearly 50 years and his life in the Virginia Tech community.
Shelli Fowler was an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech from 2003 to summer 2015. In her oral history, Fowler discusses her upbringing in southern California, her academic career as an out lesbian, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors' refusal to approve her spousal hire and coming together with members of the Virginia Tech community to fight for equality and policy change.
David Hernandez graduated with a degree in Computer Science from Virginia Tech in 2014. In Fall 2012, Hernandez founded the Virginia Tech chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM), an organization that provides professional support for LGBTQ students and faculty pursuing careers in the STEM fields. In his oral history, Hernandez discusses his identity and sexuality as a Filipino-American, his work with oSTEM and other LGBTQ programs, and the changing visibility and resources for LGBTQ students at Virginia Tech.
Crysta Highfield was born in Dallas, Texas and now lives in Berkeley, California where she attends school at the University of California at Berkeley. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2008 with a BS and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering and is currently working toward a Masters of Development Practice. In her interview she discusses her confusing realization of her own sexuality, her involvement in the LGBTA at Virginia Tech, and she assesses the climate of LGBTQ+ community in the Bay area. Topics such as, religion, family, school, friends, partners and the professional world are also discussed in relation to LGBT issues and experiences.
Oral history with Caroline Ickes regarding her affiliations with the LGBT community at Virginia Tech and in her personal life. Ickes discusses her identity as a straight individual who has been an advocate for and associated with the LGBT community. The interview explores her initial associates and understanding of LGBT issues, and Ickes later friendships and events that took place within the community. Ickes also talks about cultural changes between her time at Virginia Tech and now living in Austin Texas.
Ann Kilkelly has been a Professor of Theatre Arts and Women's Studies at Virginia Tech since 1991. In her oral history, Kilkelly discusses her upbringing and early involvement with social activism, how the LGBTQ climate at Virginia Tech has changed, the scandal relating to Shelli Fowler's hiring, and the development of the Principles of Community.
Eugene Lawson and Scott Sterl
Eugene Lawson and Scott Sterl are both graduates of Virginia Tech, where they met and began their relationship more than 42 years ago. Lawson currently practices law and Sterl is a working architect in northern Virginia. In their oral history, Lawson and Sterl discuss their experiences at Tech in the late 1960s, their ongoing passion for entertaining, the arts, and Virginia Tech, and the progression of the gay rights movement over their lifetime.
Jeff Mann has been an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech since 1989 and is currently the Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. A prolific writer, artist, and poet, Mann's work often deals with the intensities of gay male relationships and the gay and lesbian experience in Appalachian culture. In his oral history, Mann describes discovering his sexuality while growing up in a small West Virginian town, his college experience and his life at Virginia Tech.
Christian Matheis is a Doctoral Candidate in the Virginia Tech Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) Program and works closely with the LGBT Caucus of Virginia Tech, helping to establish a political platform. He also works as a trainer in the Safe Zone Program teaching Trans 101 sessions. In his oral history, Matheis discusses his personal history, political activism, experience with discrimination and his advice to the future LGBTQ community.
Megan Nguyen is a Queer Vietnamese American originally from Northern Virginia. They attended Virginia Tech from 2012 to 2016 and studied Biology. They found the LGBTA, now HokiePRIDE, early during their time at Virginia Tech. They were involved in Zack Fry's campaign for homecoming king in 2013 and then became the HokiePRIDE representative on the Student Government Association (SGA), working on the university's non-discrimination policy, Policy 1025. They went on to serve as President of HokiePRIDE before shifting their focus to Queer and Trans People of Color at Virginia Tech (QTPOC@VT) where they served as Co-President from 2014 until 2017. They are a prominent voice for lifting up and centering people who have historically been marginalized by the dominance of white gay men in LGBTQ+ spaces.
Michelle Oshinski was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is currently earning a degree in English Education with a minor in Theatre, hoping to graduate in the Spring of 2016. Oshinski details her identity as a pansexual. She discusses how her childhood and early life experiences shaped her understanding of the term, how she currently navigates the LGBT community, and the unique issues that are associated with being a pansexual. She also discusses her involvement with TranSpace at Virginia Tech, and her thoughts on the LGBTQ+ community at Virginia Tech.
Toby Quaranta was born in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and now lives in San Francisco, California. Quaranta received his bachelor in Political Science at Virginia Tech in 2006 and now works as an Account Executive for the Salesforce Foundation. In his interview he discusses his difficulties in the coming out process, his involvement in the LGBTQ+ community at Tech, and his current sentiments about life as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the workforce and the city.
Aaron Slusher graduated from Virginia Tech in 1992 with a degree in Biology. In 2010, Slusher came out as transgender and currently lives in Floyd, Virginia, working as a social worker. In his oral history, Slusher discusses his experiences with identity and sexuality in rural Virginia and his relationships with his parents while living as a lesbian and during transition.
Dr. Edward Spencer worked at Virginia Tech from 1982 to 2012, serving in many important roles, including Director of Housing and Residence Life and most recently as Vice President for Student Affairs. Throughout his career, Spencer was an important ally to LGBTQ students and organizations at VT, starting various campus programs for health education and safety. In his oral history, Spencer discusses his career in university administration, his work with LGBTQ student organizations and how attitudes and treatment of the LGBTQ community on campus has changed since the 1980s.
Katherine Staats was born in Landstuhl, Germany and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She graduated from Tech with her Bachelors on the PreMed track in 2008 and now has a residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. In her interview she discusses growing up in a military home, becoming an ally to the LGBTQ+ community at Virginia Tech, and how her identity has evolved since she graduated from Tech.
Michael Sutphin attended Virginia Tech from 2002 to 2006, serving as president of the LGBTA student organization (now HokiePRIDE) in 2005. In 2011, Sutphin was elected to the Blacksburg Town Council, and is the first openly gay councilmember is southwestern Virginia. Hi is also currently vice-chair of Equality Virginia, the state's largest LGBTQ rights group. In his oral history, Sutphin discusses his involvement on campus and on the Town Council, his activism in the LGBTQ community, and the current climate towards the LGBTQ community and the community's future.
Jo Ann Underwood
Jo Ann Underwood worked as a registered nurse in Virginia Tech’s Student Health Services from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s and was appointed the university’s first health educator in 1979. A strong advocate for women’s issues, safe sex, birth control, and tolerance of sexual minorities, she served as a faculty advisor to the gay student group, Lambda Horizon, and became known as the “Condom Queen of Virginia Tech” because of her diligence in working to prevent sexually transmitted disease. In 2014, the LGBT Caucus Ally of the Year Award was named after her. In her oral history, Underwood discusses her work as health educator during the height of the AIDS crisis and her involvement with the gay student group, Lambda Horizon.
Brittany Wade was born in Willis, Virginia and grew up accompanying her mother to work at Virginia Tech, eventually working as an IT Systems Administrator for Tech. Brittany currently works for RackSpace in Austin, Texas as a Windows Systems Administrator. In her oral history she explains growing up as a lesbian in Southwest Virginia, her relationships with coworkers in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as her current involvement in the LGBTQ+ community of Austin, Texas.
Mark Weber was a student at Virginia Tech from 1983 to 1987, during which he served first as secretary and then as president of the gay student group, Lambda Horizon. Weber currently works as a Director of Communications in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In his oral history, Weber discusses the rise of Lambda Horizon on the Virginia Tech campus in the 1980s, the organization’s struggle to be treated equitably, and the work that he and the organization did to form the AIDS Education Committee and organize an AIDS Education Forum.
John Gray Williams
John Gray Williams attended Virginia Tech from 2005 to 2008 and currently works as a Career Advisor in Career Services at Virginia Tech. Since 2005, Williams has been actively involved with LGBTQ organizations on campus. As a member of the faculty, he has organized a yearly LGBTQ networking reception and has served as a trainer for the SafeZone program. In his oral history, Williams discusses his involvement with the LGBTA at Virginia Tech and the variety of protests and events he participated in, as well as his work to fight discrimination concerns in the job market.
Aaron Wilson was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and currently resides in Palo Alto, California. Wilson graduated from Virginia Tech in 2006 with a BS in Computer Science. He works as a Software Engineer at Olark in San Francisco, California. In Wilson’s oral history he discusses growing up with wealth in a small town, how he entered the LGBTQ+ community as an ally at Virginia Tech, his ongoing association with the LGBTQ communities in both Blacksburg, Virginia and San Francisco, California through his friendships. As an ally to the LGBT community, Wilson also talks about the cultural differences between San Francisco and Blacksburg and his opinion on bringing up sexuality in the workplace.