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Ren Harman: This is Ren Harman. The date is May 22, 2015 at about 10:20 AM. So first question, what is your name and your place of birth, and just tell me a little bit about your family and growing up.

John Bates: Okay. My name is John Bates. I was born on August 22, 1941 in Richmond. My father who was a graduate of Virginia Tech Class of '35, and went in the service immediately after that. He had been called up and was gone for four - almost five years, so I lived with my mother back and forth from Michigan which was her home. My sister, Sally, was born during the War in Florida. We spent some time in Florida as well. I went to public school to elementary school, then I went to private school, St. Christopher's to high school. As I said, my father was a graduate of 1:00Virginia Tech. His brother also is a graduate of Virginia Tech, my uncle.

Ren: Right.

John B: And my father's sister husband is also a graduate of Virginia Tech. So beginning at a very early age I became a Hokie. I mean before I could walk I was a Hokie. I spent a lot of time in Blacksburg. I went to every thanksgiving game in Roanoke and really got heavily indoctrinated into this University. My younger brother Mack is a graduate of the Class of '69, so we have always been serious Hokies. I was a member of the Class of '63, matriculated in 1959, September of '59. I was in the Corps of course and expected to go into the Army. When I went to summer camp it was discovered that 2:00I had a history of childhood asthma which made me ineligible to be an officer so I got kicked out of the Army. I had three years that I didn't know what I was going to do with myself. I had not thought past three years in the Army. And lo and behold law school was three years, so I applied to law school and with the help of the commandant here got accepted at the University of Virginia Law School, and in the three years of indoctrination there I decided to be a lawyer and I have been a practicing lawyer ever since.

Ren: Wow. Backing up to your childhood what was it like growing up in Richmond in those times in the 50s and 40s?

John B: We lived in what was then Chesterfield County. It's since been annexed by the City on a house that was built, actually my parents moved into it when I came home from the hospital having been born. A three-acre lot 3:00on the James River, very much out in the country those days. It's now in the middle of the city. I rode a bicycle to Bonair Elementary School which is about five miles away. You would never think about doing something like that today.

Ren: Right.

John B: My cousin - I told you about my aunt and uncle, my father's sister and her husband lived across a little patch of woods, they had a son Bill who also went to Tech. He didn't graduate but he was here for a while, and we played in the woods a lot, spent a lot of time out of the house. You know our time wasn't scripted like it is for children today. We were instructed to go "outside and play" and that's what we did.

Ren: Right.

John B: And my sister, and brother, like we were the only ones within a close enough proximity to play. But my aunt and uncle had four children and my parents had three so there were 4:00seven of us to play together and that was plenty. We had a good time.

Ren: What did your mother do for a profession?

John B: She was a homemaker. She actually taught typing before she was married, but when she got married she became a full-time mom.

Ren: Right. To take care of three kids.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: What I find interesting about your story is you really were indoctrinated into Virginia Tech. You had a lot of family members that attended here. I come from a similar situation.

John B: Oh is that right?

Ren: So I guess this is probably like you said before you could walk, but when did you start considering college as far as coming to Virginia Tech? Was it around high school or maybe even before then?

John B: Well I always thought about coming to Virginia Tech, but I really hadn't given any thought to college until I went to high school. St. Christopher's is a 5:00college preparatory school, and that was the big deal there was where is everybody going to go to college and everybody wanted to go to ivy leagues and things like that. Not me. I always thought that I would come to Virginia Tech. I never applied anywhere else when it came time to apply to college.

Ren: Wow.

John B: Yeah. It's a good thing I got in.

Ren: [Laughs] Right. What did your father major in? You said he was in the Class of 35?

John B: 35. He majored in electrical engineering. When he got out of the school it was in the depression as you will remember and jobs were hard to come by, so he went to work for his father who was in the real estate business in Richmond, a little firm called Harrison & Bates. And he worked there for a few years and he went out and worked for somebody else for a while more taking advantage of his education. 6:00Then he was called into the army. When he came home from the Army the son of the Harrison of Harrison & Bates came to him, both my grandfather, his father, and the original Mr. Harrison had died, the son of Mr. Harrison came to my father and said, "Let's rejuvenate this business and partner." And they did, and my father was in the real estate business until the day he died in 1999.

Ren: Wow. That's incredible.

John B: Yeah. And had a very successful real estate business. They did very well.

Ren: You said you had been to Virginia Tech campus prior to your freshman year, but in 1959 when you started, when you first stepped on campus what do you remember?

John B: Well, my first experience was of a snafu. When I got here I was supposed to go into the Army ROTC and they somehow assigned me to the Air Force. So instead of putting me in a Army company they put me in D Squadron. Instead of being on the Upper Quad where the Army was, I 7:00was in the Lower Quad in Eggleston with the First Group which was Air Force. And I was there for about five days before they straightened it out, and I was not... I mean I knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be, so it was hard for me to get oriented into anything. We had a family friend, Tom Rice - General Rice, was a family friend and his son John was in E Company on the Upper Quad. So when they asked me where I wanted to go I said well I wanted to go to E Company. I didn't know anything about E Company except John was in it, and that's where I ended up and was there for four years. In those days as you know they didn't move you around like they do today. I was in E Company for four years with the 8:00same people, which made a lot of difference in bonding.

Ren: Yeah. You want to talk about your first year, your Rat Year?

John B: Yeah. By the time I got up to Rasche Hall and started to settle in the military aspects of it were about what I suspected. I didn't have too big a shock to the military system. The discipline was about what I expected. It came as a great surprise to some people, but not so much for me. I acclimated fairly well. I had a good academic preparation so the studying was - the academic side of it was not hard. As a matter of fact, it could have and should have been harder because I kind of got bad habits, study habits, but the military side of it was fine. When I 9:00was in the Corps I had a roommate, a different roommate each of the four years. The first year my roommate was a kid named John Ayers. I remember him very fondly. I think he's dead. He only lasted a year because he was so... He came from a military high school and he was so eager we call it, so into the military side of it. He spent all day shining his shoes and polishing his brass and things like that. His cumulative GPA at the end of the first three quarters was 0.00. [Laughs] So that actually was good for me because I saw what getting into this too deeply could do to you.

Ren: Right.

John B: So I paid a little bit more attention to my academics than he did, although still not as much as I should have.

Ren: What was your major?

John B: Well that's interesting. I started out in chemical engineering. When I was in high school I took advanced chemistry and thought I really liked chemistry. You guys won't appreciate chemistry in the 50s, but chemistry in the 50s was not like chemistry in the 2015. The periodic 10:00table was only about half as big as it is today. [Laughs] But I took advanced chemistry and got very excited about it. We took the class over in Philip Morris's Labs, which were terrific and they had wonderful equipment in there and it was really wonderful. I got all inspired.

Ren: Where were those located?

John B: They were located in South Richmond. The building is still there. Philip Morris no longer occupies it, but it off of Hull Street in South Richmond.

Ren: Okay.

John B: So I enthusiastically signed up for chemical engineering and went through the first year. As I said, I didn't quite have the study habits I needed. I cruised. I really didn't have any trouble with the grades; I cruised 11:00along until I got to chemistry, third quarter chemistry. I had a professor named Graham, Failing Sam Graham he was known as and half his class got Fs regularly. There was no grade inflation in his class. And so I got an F, which since I was a pretty good student in high school and that just came as a huge shock to me. I had never gotten an F before in anything, so I went to summer school at University of Richmond to fix that and I got that fixed. But then I got an A at the University of Richmond transferred up here as a C which I thought was grossly unfair, but they didn't give... All they gave me was the credit for the course and didn't give me the grade, which...

Ren: The same today.

John B: Is that right?

Ren: Yes sir.

John B: So I decided based on that experience that chemical engineering was not for me. If I had that much trouble with chemistry this was going to be a very long four years, so I transferred to civil engineering and spent the summer between my first and second year, freshman and 12:00sophomore years working for a surveying company in Richmond. I had a wonderful experience surveying, and I figured boy this civil engineering is for me. So I got back up here, went through the first quarter sophomore year, did fine. And then in second quarter I hit something called differential equations. I had always been pretty good at math, and one of the phenomena about math is you go along studying and it seems difficult and it seems difficult, and all of a sudden 'click', the light comes on and it all makes sense.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: It didn't happen in differential equations. I kept waiting for the light to come on, and waiting and studying and studying and waiting and waiting. The light never came on, so I managed to scrape by and pass, but as soon as I did I went 13:00over to see the dean of the business school and said, "You got any room and what will transfer?" And just about everything transferred, so I didn't lose any step. But I ended up in business after five quarters of engineering and I graduated in business.

Ren: That obviously wasn't Pamplin then?

John B: It was not Pamplin.

Ren: It was just the college...

John B: That's right, college...yeah. It was a school of business. They didn't even have colleges in those days.

Ren: Oh okay, wow. Were some notable professors or advisors that you can fondly remember?

John B: Not so much in business. I frankly was kind of disappointed in the... Now I had a good statistics class and course. It was very good. It was hard but it was very good and they had a good basic accounting course that was a yearlong that was very good. And the history, I really enjoyed the more liberal arts side of it. I thought the business courses themselves 14:00didn't make a whole lot of sense to me - marketing and management and those kind of things were esoteric. I managed to do fairly well in them. As a matter of fact I did quite well in business school.

Ren: Right.

John B: But I thought the nuts and bolts stuff was better than the other.

Ren: You were a sophomore, junior, senior kind of in the early 60s.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: So there was a lot of starting...a lot of social and political kind of unrest.

John B: Yes.

Ren: How did that translate to the campus at Virginia Tech? Can you remember any memorable experience from those times?

John B: No. We didn't have protests per se. The protests really didn't start until after I left. We had one cataclysmic event though and that is that Marshall Hahn was inaugurated President in '62 and made the Corps voluntary, which when I graduated we had 21...2200 people in the Corps. Within eight years it was down to 300, so that was a very 15:00significant event. It didn't affect me and my class, but it certainly affected the Corps and the University.

Ren: So obviously we've heard this story a couple of times come up in interviews about Marshall Hahn, President Marshall Hahn making the Corps voluntary. How did you feel at the time and has that changed over the years?

John B: Yes. I was not in favor of it at the time. Of course I had grown up loving Virginia Tech and the Corps, and my experience had been so good up to that point in the Corps and I thought everybody should do it whether they wanted to or not. [Laughs]

Ren: Right. [Laughs]

John B: But I have since completely reversed myself on that. I think it was the right decision at the time for the University, and it was an important decision to be made.

Ren: Right. Because he was rather young at the time of his inauguration, right?

John B: He was the youngest college president of a major college in the country.

Ren: Wow.

John B: Quite young. A brilliant guy. He's still a good friend of mine. I'm very fond of him.


Ren: Great. Awesome. What are some outside events that you talked about? I know there's got to be hundreds of stories that you have of memories and experiences from your time here. You want to share any of those?

John B: Sure. We had a really tight-knit well-bonded group E63. To this day there are eight or ten of us that get together regularly. We rent 12 rooms in the Hampton Inn for football games and all come together. We stay in touch with each other all the time. When we graduated there were 30 seniors in E Company, and I bet you today you won't find five in any one company. And back in those days there was such turnover by the time people got to be seniors through all kinds of things that having 30 in one company was extraordinary. We are - 17:00were then and continue to be extremely tightly bonded. It was wonderful. Continues to be just absolutely wonderful. One of my concerns about Virginia Tech and its future is how you recreate that today. You can do it at the Corps and you can probably do it with fraternities and clubs, but it's really not as easily replicated. But, like I say, we were very tightly knit. We all played a lot together. Being in a dorm altogether was just a gas. It was fun every day.

Ren: A lot of pranks.

John B: A lot of fun. We had, I just asked General Fullhart if we had...he had put a plaque up in the new Rasche hall whatever it's called now, commemorating the world's greatest water fight which we had in 19.. In the fall of 62 we had a cataclysmic water fight that went on for 18:00hours and hours and had water flowing down the steps. They had concrete steps at both ends of the dorm and water was just cascading down. We also - one time dammed up the shower and made a swimming pool about six feet deep and then pulled the plug loose and sheew - had another flood. I asked the General after they torn down Rasche and excavated it if they saw any results of a 50-year-old flood. He said no, he didn't think they found it, but I was surprised because there was a lot of water that fall.


Ren: Yeah.

John B: Many of us got busted for that. We were leaders in the Corps as well. Three of us were class officers. We had the president of the Corps and the secretary and treasurer of the class were all in the E Company. We couldn't keep them there because they kept getting busted, but we had battalion and regimental officers that kept getting busted because of all the fun we had. I lived in Lane Hall for a year and that was a good experience. In my sophomore year my roommate that year who is a dentist in Roanoke now, and I lived in Lane Hall with four rooms of freshman and that was a great experience. We had zero oversight and discipline there, so we just did 20:00whatever we wanted. We absolutely ruined the freshmen, because we were supposed to be overseeing, supervising them and giving them discipline and all that stuff. We just...we had a ball. It was fun.

Ren: So what did the Corps teach you?

John B: Oh a lot. A lot. I was - I've got to figure out how to say this. I was kind of a silver spoon type growing up. I had everything I wanted.

Ren: Okay.

John B: I was smart enough so that school work wasn't particularly hard. I was not well disciplined. I could have gotten in serious trouble as a teenager. I'm very very lucky that I was not in serious trouble. I drove a car too fast and I smoked and I drank and all this stuff and I really could have 21:00gotten in serious trouble. I was very lucky that I didn't. I got up here and also when I was in high school because of my immaturity I was not a leader in high school at all. I was doing fine academically, but I didn't join organizations and I wasn't one of the leaders and I was very immature. And the Corps - if I had gone anywhere else that would have gotten magnified. If I had gone to the University of Virginia or Hampden Sidney like most of the people at St. Christopher's did I would have been ruined because all of that would have just been magnified you know. But I came up here and it completely changed me. The discipline - not only the bonding with these folks, which I had never had a close-knit group like that that was I was really a part of, but also the 22:00discipline and the requirements for time management and the physical activity. I wasn't an athlete, still am not. Physical activity was really important. I got myself in shape. And it really made all the difference in the world, and the leadership... The self-confidence, that's what it was, that's the best way to put it, is I was not at all self-confident before I got here. But when I graduated I had it bubbling over and have been very self-confident, and not particularly mature, but very self-confident ever since.

Ren: Right.

John B: Yeah. And the leadership aspects of it we didn't talk about it in those days. We didn't talk about leadership training or anything like that, but it happened. It was there and you learned how to lead, you really did, and it's been very true in my life.


Ren: Can you talk about the Honor Court a little bit? Did that ever play a factor in what you believed?

John B: Oh the honor system? Oh yeah. Oh yeah, the honor system that was key. I've never had any trouble with ethics or that sort of thing.

Ren: Did you know anyone who had?

John B: Oh yeah, oh absolutely. But up here we didn't have any issues with that at all. Everybody was very straight in the E Company. We didn't have any cheaters. We didn't have anybody that took shortcuts. We all played the game by the rules, and that was important for me to see that not only is there a stick that requires you to play the game by the rules, but there's also a carrot in that if you play the game by the rules success means more. Getting an A means something if you've worked for it instead of taking a shortcut, so those were good life lessons.


Ren: I have a question. In doing a little bit of research your old friends call you 'Johnny'.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: How did they come by that?

John B: My mother named me that. I've been Johnny... I was Johnny all the way through. I've been called a lot of things in my life, but that's the most consistent nickname.

Ren: Johnny?

John B: Yeah, hmm. Yeah, I still have to - my wife calls me Johnny.

Ren: Okay.

John B: When I became a lawyer I tried to be John. It sounded better you know.

Ren: Than Johnny.

John B: I also tried to get some gray hair in the temples so I could charge more. [Laughs]

Ren: [Laughs] That's great. So how have you seen your education at Virginia Tech play out throughout your life? Like what role has it played?

John B: Well like I say it changed me completely. I became very self-confident and it really helped in everything I did, and I've assumed leadership positions everywhere along the line. As a matter of fact my wife reminded me on the way up here that I have been... I'm a joiner now; I join 25:00all kinds of things, and most of them I have been the president of or the chairman. There's a long list of organizations that I've been in that people have thought enough of me to ask me to lead them and I've been willing to do that. And I really attribute that to the leadership training I got here. I guarantee you I did not have those characteristics before I got here.

Ren: I meant to ask you this earlier; so if you were in the Corps you had a certain military obligation. You mentioned this earlier, but for you that was a different story because you were diagnosed as...

John B: Right, right.

Ren: What was that experience like? How did that make you feel?

John B: Oh I was devastated, absolutely devastated. I had planned for all - not my whole life, 26:00but most of it. My father had been in the military. He served in the Second World War. I expected to be in the military. As a matter of fact I'm glad you asked the question because when I was diagnosed, when they discovered that I had this history of asthma I was down at Ft. Bragg. And they came and told me that I had to leave, and I said, "Wait a minute, we've got to talk about this." So they put me in a barracks while my unit went out into the field. I called Tom Rice, General Rice, family friend. I called General Scheve who was the commandant of cadets here, and I called a guy named Dave Satterfield who was our Congressman from Richmond in Washington. And I said, "Guy you've got to help me. This is a terrible situation. I really want to go in the Army. I wanted to all my life and there's got to be some way to fix this." Well they went to work and 27:00pulled strings and kicked butts and everything they had to do. And finally two days later they came and got me out of the dorm, the barracks, and said, "Rejoin your unit, you're back in." I said, "All, right!" So I went and rejoined my unit that happened to be on the rifle range at Ft. Bragg, and I rejoined them and in the process of firing my rifle I had my first asthma attack in about 15 years. [Laughs]

Ren: Wow.

John B: In ten years anyway. Well that was it you know, gone, and I came home. Beverly and I, my wife and I were dating at the time. In those days that was a precursor to engagement. I was devastated. I didn't call her for six weeks and she thought I died. I just huddled in my bed. I didn't know what to do. And then like I said, I finally figured out that you've got to do something with these three years. Let's go find what occupies three years and 28:00you figure all this out.

Ren: It was law school.

John B: General Scheve again helped me get into law school.

Ren: So how did you and your wife meet?

John B: [Laughs] This very close-knit group at us at Tech, E Company had Christmas parties. Well we had parties every time we could, and my house in Richmond was one of the favorite watering holes. We would go there and party, and we always had a party around Christmastime during Christmas break. We also had a huge thing down at the Mosque in Richmond which we put on...our little group put on and involved thousands of people for a Tech Christmas party. But this was just our little group and one of my good buddies, Harrison Jones from E Company, E63 29:00brought this girl to my house and I thought she looked pretty good and danced with her a couple of times and then called her the following week. Harrison had just broken up with her best friend and taken her out kind of to have a date you know. He wasn't involved with her at all. So I snaked old Harrison and married his date four years later. And Harrison now is still one of my best friends, if he's not my best friend. He's the Godfather of one of my children and we are just close buddies.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: I've been married 51 years in June, next month 51 years. Got married after my first year of law school and Beverly finished Mary Baldwin. She was at Mary Baldwin.

Ren: Yeah. So you went to law school at UVA.


John B: Yeah. Well my father said that after four years in Blacksburg he felt I could stand three at Charlottesville without getting ruined and he was right. That was a good experience. That's a very good law school.

Ren: Absolutely.

John B: I wasn't married my first year so I kind of hung out in one of the fraternity houses and thank the Lord that I had come here because if I had gone there I really would have been ruined. But I roommate, who is now a judge in Northern Virginia, and took our meals there and there was another Hokie on the same floor, so it was a great experience. And then we got married and had two years in a graduate student, apartments up there and that was a great experience too.


Ren: Wow.

John B: So that was fun. It's a good way to start a life.

Ren: So when someone says Virginia Tech what's the first thing you think about?

John B: That was one of the questions that... And I have so many. It's just a whole spread of things, but I think mostly of a place - Burruss Hall, the Pylons, the drill field, and the whole drill field experience. Let me tell you something about that.

Ren: Okay.

John B: I came to my 50th reunion two years ago and on Friday, it was Friday October the 4th. We had a memorial service in the chapel and I came out of the chapel and everybody was getting on the bus to go somewhere and I decided I would walk back to the Inn across the drill field. I got halfway across the drill field and started looking around, you know, and it was just like a time warp, like I had gone back 50 32:00years because so little had changed. And I realized that that day - excuse me a minute, that day was my father's 100th Birthday. [Cries]

Ren: Wow.

John B: That was special. One of the things he did in his...he was a leader here. After graduation he was the president of the Alumni Association. One of the things he did was work with several other people to build the chapel, so his name is on the plaque there on the wall inside the chapel. That was part of the impact of all of that to me. It really was a great experience.

Ren: Yeah. It's a special place.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: That's what is so interesting because I feel it. I've done my bachelor's and master's; I'm working on my doctorate now here. I feel this connection, we were talking about before, to Virginia Tech, but why do you think the alumni becomes so connected? I mean it's such a special 33:00place. I know there's multiple reasons but what's your take on why they become so engaged alumni?

John B: Well, I think the Corps bonding experience has a lot to do with it. I was looking around the room today thinking gee, all these people in this room were in the Corps. What's going to happen in ten years when the people that come to the Old Guard only 300 of them were in the Corps out of the whole student body? And you have to tell me, do you think that the bonding is still there to graduates who are not in the Corps?

Ren: For me personally I don't. I can't speak...I wasn't in the Corps, I can't speak to the Corps, but I doubt it. I really do. It's just such a big place now you know.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: There's 30,000-plus students and thousands of faculty members. It's difficult.


John B: Well I don't think we've lost it. I think it's still... And I was talking to Tim Sands the other day and told him that I had again just walked around the drill field. This was at the Ut Prosim weekend. I had just walked across the drill field and told him that there's something you can feel when you're out there.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: The place has a soul, it really does. It's really something you can feel and I think that students today and young alumni today can feel it just as much as I can, I really do. I don't know that you have the same intensity of experience while you're here that I had because it was so all-consuming you know, and there's so many other things to do each day. But I still think that that soul is palpable. Tim says he feels it and he's a complete stranger to this place.

Ren: Yeah, that's true. That's true. Yeah, it's a special place for sure. So once you finished law school at the aforementioned UVA you went into a legal career obviously.


John B: Hmm.

Ren: So how did you become involved with the Virginia Tech Foundation and the National Steering Committee and all these things? How did all this come about?

John B: I actually am embarrassed to say that my first football tickets were in Charlottesville, because well remember now that the road network in those days was not what it is today, and it was a five-hour drive to get from my house in Richmond to Blacksburg. You couldn't do that on a day trip. I mean I did. I did at least once a year on a day trip, but I will tell you it was a grind. I would bring my father and my uncle up here once a year, at least once a year. So I got seasons tickets to Charlottesville because it was an hour up the road, and I still have those tickets today. About - I guess... I've never been uninvolved up 36:00here, but I began to get more deeply involved probably about in the 90s when I started...when I had more time. See for a while in my practice I was the managing partner of our firm for nine years, eight years, and that was 24/7. I didn't have time to breathe. But when I stepped down from that I did have more time, so I started coming up here more and I got season tickets and we got a bunch of our E63 went together and got a luxury box in the stadium. But I've always been involved in the academic side. I kind of disdained the athletic on the basis that you know, wait a minute guys, this is an academic institution. It's not run by the athletic department. Let's put our resources over here where they can do some good. I had given scholarships and been involved with Pamplin 37:00and evolving a business school. Then I started getting recruited by Dr. Steger and Betsy Flanagan to work on development stuff and I was happy to do that. Oh, I left out the most important part.

Ren: Okay.

John B: In about 1980, early 80s, I started doing some legal work for the Virginia Tech Foundation. My practice, I was a real estate lawyer for many years and my practice evolved into representing colleges and universities and local governments in public private partnerships where they would partner with a private developer to build something like a hotel conference center or a coliseum or something, and I would 38:00represent the university or the local government. And through that practice, I was the only one doing it really I think in the state and started developing a reputation, Ray Smoot who was a friend of mine asked me to do some work for the Foundation, and I started doing a lot of work for the Foundation in the 80s and 90s. And through that I got to know all the people up here and through that I started getting more involved in other things.

Ren: Great. So there's been a lot of change obviously in the past 5 years or since you started all this work with the University. So what changes have you seen structurally or the people that are here, what changes have you seen through time and what do you think about some of these changes that have been happening?

John B: Well, we're in a huge time of change right now. I mean all the leadership that I call close 39:00friends are retiring, or long retired or are retiring now. I am so excited and encouraged by what is happening in this transition. It's wonderful. I mean Dr. Sands is a wonderful hire as president, and he had no connection here which is probably good, particularly as strong as he is and with the sense that he has of the significance of some of these things I've been talking about, the soul you know. And his hires are off the charts as far as I'm concerned. I haven't met the new development guy or the provost, but the resumes are - I mean they are really terrific.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: And Whitt Babcock is a wonderful hire, so I think these changes are all... And you've got to give credit to previous administrations, particular Steger and all these Hokies you know, that we had the Class of 69 running this place. And they built a platform that was really 40:00significant and built the institution with a solid foundation so that it's possible to attract these people. I mean I don't know that 15 years ago we could have gotten Tim Sands' attention, much less apply for the job. So the administration for the last 15 years has done a wonderful job in building that base and building that foundation. And where we're going to now I mean the sky is the limit.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: I'm just very encouraged by what I'm seeing.

Ren: So what would you like to see kind of in the future if you had any recommendations to give to future administrations or future alumni?

John B: Well, we've already talked about my biggest concern which is how do we keep 41:00this alumni loyalty or this intensity. I mean this is intense loyalty. One of the guys that spoke to us, this guy named Freelander who runs the research center in Roanoke with Carillion, he's an amazing guy. He is an amazing guy, one of the new hires. He said that the intensity of the alumni loyalty to this place makes it the best university in the country. The intensity of that loyalty is so different, so unique. So my concern is how do we keep that you know. How do we make people feel that same sense of loyalty? And I think it's here. I think all the ingredients are here; we just need to nurture it and pay attention to it, make sure people appreciate it.

Ren: I have to ask, you said you were indoctrinated when you were a child about Virginia Tech. Did you do the same to your children?


John B: Well, I have two girls and they both went to Duke. And they were going to go to Lord knows where for graduate school. They are both very good students. One wanted to go to law school and she was looking at Michigan and Stanford, and the other one wanted to be a doctor and she was looking at Iowa and Chicago. And I said, "All right, listen girls, we've got fine graduate schools in this State," and I had just bought the equivalent of two buildings at Duke through tuitions, so let's take a look here. I offered to buy a place at Wintergreen for them to use if they would go to Charlottesville to graduate school and they took me up on it. So they got a law degree and a medical degree from the University of Virginia, and they are not loyal Wahoos. 43:00They are Dukes, Dukies, they really are. They are Blue Devils all the way.

Ren: So I guess it's an interesting dinner conversation when Virginia Tech and Duke are playing in any athletics.

John B: Oh yeah. As a matter of fact I'm a Duke fan too, about third tier. You know you've got Tech and then you've got Virginia and then you've got Duke, and Notre Dame is down there. [Laughs] But my grandchildren now I'm working on that, and I've got my two grandchildren in Northern Virginia, Jack and Claire, they wear Hokie gear to school and they watch us on TV and they are coming along. Now my granddaughter in Richmond is 3 years old. Her father just got put on the Court of Appeals in Virginia. He just got a really good judgeship. He's a very capable lawyer. He went to Virginia to 44:00undergraduate school and his father went to North Carolina and they both don't think much about the institution up here. So when I give her...when I give my 3-year-old granddaughter Tech paraphernalia it doesn't stay around very long. It just somehow quickly disappears, so that's going to be a longer fight I think.

Ren: [Laughs] What would you like people to know about this place that maybe they don't about Virginia Tech?

John B: Well, I said today in the meeting that there's so much that people my age don't know about this place, not just my age, but you know for 20 or 30 years behind me. They tend to come to a football game, maybe even spend the night, maybe walk around the drill field for nostalgic purposes, but they don't know what's going on in the buildings around the drill 45:00field. I have over the years made it a point to try to see as much as I can about what's going on and every time I do, and I'm talking about three or four times a year you know when I'm up here doing stuff I try to look at some different aspect, find out about some things that's going on. I attend a meeting like this, and it's amazing what's going on and people don't understand it. They just don't, unless you get in there and look, so I don't know how we get that message out. There's so much here to be proud of in addition to a football team you know. There really is. There's an awful lot of really good stuff going on and that we could be so proud of this institution if we do. Those of us that do are extremely proud of this institution.

Ren: Yeah.

John B: So, my concern would be how do we tell our stories in a way that doesn't sound like we're trying to raise money? But on the other hand exposes people to some of the great stuff 46:00that's happening here. Not only would it help the alums understand and be proud, but it would help our recruiting students. It would help recruiting faculty. All of the good stuff that's happening here I'm sure it's known by insiders. People in the automotive business know about us. People in the various industries know about us, but the alumni don't so much and the general public. I would love to take Dr. Freelander to Richmond and get him to talk to the Richmond business community, because the Richmond business community has no idea what's going on with the Carillion Research Center. They don't have a clue, and I don't know how we get that word out. So what I would change is I would work hard at getting the 47:00story told particularly to our alumni, getting our alumni up here to see what's going on. I think if they see what's happening they're going to get involved, I really do.

Ren: I think that's one of the many mission statements of this project is getting the story, the history of the story and how alumni from this time period, how they frame this story of Virginia Tech and how to get in touch with the public. And I think this is one of the ways I think that we can do it is by doing an oral history project like this.

John B: Right.

Ren: So we've talked a lot of good things. I have a similar feeling and passion about what a good place this is, but were there any negative experiences or bad things that happened or anything you would want to talk about?

John B: Oh you always have a pebble in the road. I really don't know any, but I'm a glass half full guy and if I hit a pebble I try to forget about it as fast as I can. So I 48:00really do not remember anything that I would call traumatic or a bad experience up here. I'm sure I had them, probably still do, but I certainly don't dwell on it and I don't even remember it frankly.

Ren: Okay, that's fine.

John B: It gets lost in the fog of time right, as it should.

Ren: Yeah. Right. So what are you passionate about? What are some of your hobbies?

John B: Oh I'm an avid golfer. I'm not any good but I'm avid. I like to travel now that I'm semi-retired. I do a bunch of traveling. I like to travel. I like projects. That's what I did in my practice. I worked on projects, took an idea and brought it to fruition. I like to do that. I like to have a project. We're constantly doing a room in the house or adding a wing or something, some kind of project that occupies my time. 49:00That's about it. Waterfowl hunting, I'm a serious waterfowl hunter.

Ren: What is that exactly?

John B: Ducks and geese.

Ren: Okay, sorry.

John B: I actually train dogs to waterfowl hunt, labs, Labrador retrievers. That's so rewarding to see your 7 to 12-month old dog go retrieve a duck that you trained yourself. That's great. That's almost as good as having grandchildren. Not quite, but almost.

Ren: In some of my research I saw...which I think it is a couple of years ago and you had a black lab.

John B: They are such wonderful dogs. I've had three. I just lost my last one a year ago. She was really part of my life and I miss her greatly.

Ren: Yeah. It's like having another child.

John B: Oh absolutely, yes.

Ren: So when we talk about your legacy and your commitment to 50:00this University, what would you most like to be remembered for in terms of your commitment to Virginia Tech and your time here?

John B: Just being a good Hokie, being a good advocate for the school, a supporter, helpful. I told Whitt the first time that I saw him that he would never hear a negative word from me, and he won't, although I would like to give him a few. No, not really. As a loyal supporter, that's what I am. I do want to make sure I tell you one thing. I have the Ruffner Medal. I got awarded the Ruffner Medal. My father was also awarded the Ruffner Medal in 1986. We are the only father/son Ruffner Medal winners. That's something I'm extremely proud of.


Ren: Yeah, in 2011 right?

John B: Yeah.

Ren: How did that make you feel?

John B: Oh just unbelievable, I mean it really was a hell of an experience. I didn't deserve it but my father did. My father worked really hard for this place.

Ren: So you were surprised?

John B: Yeah, yeah. Charles Steger came to my house and told me and I about fell out of the chair. [Chuckles] I didn't deserve it, but I didn't turn it down. [Laughs]

Ren: Great. Well this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for your time.

John B: Yeah.

Ren: I really appreciate it. We always like to close with a last question, if there's anything that you thought I should ask you or that you thought I was going to ask you, anything you would like to say at all.

John B: Well the Ruffner Medal is the one thing I want to make sure I tossed in here. No, I can't think of anything.

Ren: All right.

John B: I don't know how helpful this is going to be because I didn't tell you a whole lot of stories about things that happened.


Ren: That's okay.

John B: But the whole experience has been a great one for me. I wish everybody could have the same.

Ren: Right. Mr. Bates, Class of 1963, so you so much sir.

John B: Thank you.

Ren: I really appreciate it. Thank you.

John B: Yes sir. Thank you very much.

Female: Thank you.