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´╗┐Grace Baggett: Good afternoon. This is Grace Baggett and I'm here for VT Stories. Today is February 23rd. It's 3 o'clock and we are at the Holtzman Alumni Center. I'm just going to ask you to introduce yourself with your name.

Linda Plaut: I'm Linda Plaut, retired Tech faculty member.

Grace: Great. When were you born Linda?

Linda: August 18th, 1940. I just wrote that down on this form. It makes it very easy to calculate my age.

Grace: Did you go to Virginia Tech?

Linda: No. I'm a faculty brat and my father taught at five different places during my youth, but I was mostly raised in Iowa City, Iowa, which is a town very much like Blacksburg, a little town with a big university except it's flat.


Grace: What did you teach?

Linda: So, can I give a little background first?

Grace: Yes, absolutely.

Linda: Because this was not my first job. I came here with my then husband who was hired as a department head at Tech, and I had already taught for a number of years as a musician. My training is as a violinist and music teacher, and so I had had public school orchestra jobs conducting elementary orchestras in Pittsburgh and Boston and Philadelphia. And I had been part of the gig economy playing the violin, depending on where I lived. And this was all occasional jobs with the Boston Pops, the Philadelphia Opera. I got to play with James Brown twice.

Grace: Wow.

Linda: Which was a very special experience.

Grace: Yes, that's amazing.

Linda: Yes. So when we moved to Blacksburg, since I had been working steadily as a musician, and since Tech realized (this was in 1983) that it was losing a lot 2:00of faculty, because back then Blacksburg was an even smaller town than it is now. And faculty spouses who had nothing to do would get grumpy and the desired faculty would move on pretty fast, so Tech made an effort to find something for me to do. I found out immediately that I couldn't teach public school music because there is no string program in the Montgomery County schools. There's a wonderful band program but that's not what I do. So they offered me a two-year kind of provisional half-time appointment teaching core courses in what we then called the Humanities.

There was a big Center for Programs in the Humanities, which is nothing like what is called the Center for Humanities now. It was a center that staffed a big 3:00percentage of the core courses at Virginia Tech. It was basically the Western Civilization curriculum. And when they offered me the job I decided, well, I had the choice, I could say, "Gee, I have no qualifications for this," or I could say, "Sure, I'm a quick study." [Laughs] And so for the first year I stayed up every night reading and was an expert by class the next day and got through that, and gradually got better at what I did. I'm sure I wasn't very good the first few years, but they needed teachers. And, I had wonderful help from my colleagues, and so I kept at that job for 23 years.

Grace: Wow.


Linda: And expanded from doing humanities to doing Women's Studies, Leadership Studies and some of the Honors courses.

Grace: So is that how you came to be involved with the Women's Center, those women's studies?

Linda: Yes.

Grace: Okay, cool.

Linda: And to add a little bit to that, I was trained as a classical violinist, which meant that I played Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. And I started noticing that some people were saying, "Gee, didn't women write any classical music? And if not why not?" About that time something called the Women's Resource Center came along and originally instructors couldn't get grants, but the Women's Resource Center wisely realized that since most instructors were women, because most of us had come along with a spouse who had the real job, that they ought to consider giving grants to women to do research on women.


Grace: Yeah.

Linda: So I thought, well, what I could do is see if there were any women composers. And so I got a grant and went to the Library of Congress with my pianist and we just played through tons of music by people we had never heard of and said, "Well this is good. People ought to be listening to it. Well gee, this is good." I think we gave six concerts that year entirely written by women. And, how much time do we have here? I had not considered myself a feminist at that point, because a lot of people said, "Oh a feminist is somebody who hates men." I didn't hate men. But I started reading about these women, some of whom are brilliantly talented, and I'm sure you've heard of Felix Mendelsohn. He wrote the "Wedding March" and wonderful symphonies and piano music.

And I found out that he had a sister named Fanny Mendelsohn, who was raised with 6:00the same training and who wrote music and was a wonderful pianist and a conductor. And there's this loving letter from Fanny's father when she's in her teens saying, "Well your brother Felix is starting his career and you are so supportive and that's wonderful. Of course for you music must always be an ornament to your true calling which is to be a wife and mother." And Fannie had a pretty good life. She married a lovely man who was an artist and she did do a lot of performing in the family home, and a lot of conducting. And she did do a 7:00lot of projects with her brother. But, she was frustrated because, she said, "If nobody ever hears my music and criticizes it then how am I supposed to get better?" So since she wasn't in the public she didn't have the constant feedback that her brother was getting.

Grace: Right.

Linda: And so that's when it struck me: her father was a lovely man. He was just doing what he thought was the right thing for his daughter, and that made her very frustrated.

Grace: Yeah. That's interesting. So what exactly about that ties into the Women's Center I guess?

Linda: Well, not the Women's Center so much as the Women's Studies program, which of course is tied to the Women's Center. So I got fascinated with women composers and was asked to teach courses in women and creativity in general, which meant learning about women painters, women writers and so forth, and began 8:00to understand why women produced less than men of their time did 100 years ago, why they weren't in general put out in the public to receive criticism. And then that was entrancing to me and so I audited [00:08:27 friends] courses in feminist theory and learned a lot more about the background. The sort of thing that I'm hoping that you undergraduates now are learning just as part of your general coursework, that certainly was not part of my education.

Grace: Yeah. I want to learn more about it for sure, because I had never heard of Fannie. I had heard of Felix, but not Fanny.

Linda: Okay.

Grace: There you go.

Linda: There you go. I will be glad to send you lots of music. [Laughs]

Grace: So going in a little bit of a different direction, I guess you came to 9:00Blacksburg because of your husband like you said.

Linda: Right.

Grace: I read in an article in the Collegiate Times that you serve as secretary on the Lyric Council Board of Directors.

Linda: I did, yes. I've been rotated off. We can only hold a position on the Board for six years, so I did that. And I was also very active with a good friend in producing a book about the Lyric, because it's about as historic as you get in Blacksburg. It was built in 1930 and it's a lovely old building. It just failed as a downtown theater in the 1980s and was closed. A wonderful woman 10:00named Lindsay West (she was not affiliated with Tech) was here because of her husband and she was very active in the community, and she said, "This is terrible. They are going to tear this building down and make it into something else. It's a beautiful historical building that's a wreck because nobody is taking care of it, and wouldn't it be good for downtown Blacksburg if we restored it and made it a place not only for films, but for live music, for community meetings, and all kinds of small scale things." It seats 455 people. I think she wrote 100 letters to the Mayor and everybody else in town, and got a group of people to restore the theater and get a long-term lease on the property. So it's been the center of downtown Blacksburg ever since, and so we wrote a book about that, about all the people who had their first date at the 11:00Lyric and had other memorable experiences there.

Grace: Speaking of, that's where you first met your now husband, right?

Linda: Well that's true. You've been peeking at my past. Yes. He was a widower and our daughters had been very good friends, and I had never met him because I was a single mom who was working and didn't really have time to be involved in the Parent Teacher Association with things that he and his first wife were involved in. So some time after she died our daughters were planning to go to the movie together one afternoon and my daughter said, "Mom, I want you to go to the movie with me and Julie and her dad." [Laughs] I thought, "Oh, this is a set-up." But we found that we had a lot to talk about, so we got married the 12:00following year.

Grace: Wow. Congratulations.

Linda: Thank you.

Grace: That's such a sweet story.

Linda: Yes. As a friend of mine said, sometimes it's nice to see how the kids turn out before you get married. [Laughs] And his daughters are both wonderful people.

Grace: That's great. Does that tie into your emotional connection to the Lyric do you think?

Linda: Very much so. It's a special place for us. We have a seat; one thing you can do at the Lyric Theater to support it is to buy a seat and get a little plaque on it. Actually I think we have three now. We have one for Ray and me and one for each set of children and their spouses.

Grace: That's great. That's awesome. That's why little things like that wouldn't happen without a place like the Lyric, you know.

Linda: Right.

Grace: It's such an integral part of our community. My friends go there all the 13:00time and it's so nice. It's so cute and it just feels like you're walking into a part of history you know.

Linda: And it has a balcony.

Grace: It does. You don't really see that much anymore for sure. Besides the Lyric what else draws you to Blacksburg in this community would you say?

Linda: I would say that I was insufficiently involved in Blacksburg when I was teaching at Tech, because I was just so consumed by Virginia Tech, and by a growing musical career. When I moved here the only job around was the Roanoke Symphony, which played about four concerts a year and paid $20 a service. And I had been making $125 an hour playing recordings in the cities where I lived before, and so that was one reason I looked for more work. But, years later, the Roanoke Symphony became a real going concern, and I got to do a ton of 14:00performing with music department people, but that kept me very busy, and so it was after I retired and joined the Lyric Board that I started realizing what wonderful people there are in downtown Blacksburg. And so I've gotten involved in other organizations like the League of Women Voters. I've been nominated to be secretary of the local league this year, and I'm in various political groups which we won't discuss. [Laughs] That's not really related to Virginia Tech, but that's very important to me to work for certain values that are important to me, and there are some very active groups in Blacksburg.


So I know much more about what's going on in Blacksburg as a town than I used to, and that's a very important thing.

Grace: And that contributes to why you're going to stay here too, right?

Linda: Well, we wouldn't think of leaving. We live about a 20-minute block from Tech. My husband is retired from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and when he retired he immediately looked around for volunteer work that he could do, and he found a couple of things which were only satisfying for a while. But I think six years ago he found out that there was a new kindergarten teacher at Gilbert Linkous, which is the school where his daughters 16:00went to school and is a block and a half from our house. He asked whether he could help out. Actually he volunteered for work in what's called some kind of pre-school initiative, but they said they didn't need any people, but the kindergarten really needed some help, and he goes there all day every day.

Grace: Wow.

Linda: He's just entranced with 5-year-olds. He spent his whole career working with international graduate students building roads and bridges around the world, and now he spends his day with 5-year-olds, who are much more fun.

Grace: That's great.

Linda: So yes, we are both very involved with the community, and of course we have so many friends right now.

Grace: That's awesome. Well, as I'm sure you know March is Women's Month and 17:00here at VT Stories we are interested in learning about local influential women like yourself and your role in the community. So going off of that, could you tell me more specifically about your involvement with the Women's Center at Tech?

Linda: I think that has not been my chief involvement, but something I really want to bring out, something I'm happiest about with my career at Tech which was 23 years of being an instructor, was that when I was first here instructors were extremely overworked and underpaid and insecure. You just didn't know from one year to the next whether you would have a job or not, and I often found out in August oh yeah, you do have a job for the coming year.

Grace: In August?

Linda: In August, yes. [Laughs]

Grace: Oh my goodness.

Linda: This sounds fussy, but I admit that I was irritated one time when I was reading a brag sheet about my department and it said that one of the male 18:00tenured professors had composed a piece for his daughter's piano teacher. I had played a concert at the Polish Embassy in Washington that same year and that was not mentioned because I wasn't considered part of the faculty. I'm very happy to say that that changed pretty fast. And one of the things I'm happiest about is that there was wonderful support from some of the women who were tenure track (or I think they were all tenured professors) who began noticing that most of the instructors were women and that this was a women's issue and that something should be done about it.

And so we formed a team and we started investigating what could be done. It may 19:00still be true, I haven't kept up on this because I've been retired for 12 years, that the AAUP rules say that you cannot have a full-time job for more than seven years if you are not tenure track, and so instructors were all part-time. I think they found a way around that rule now. Since we were not eligible for full-time work we got paid but we had no benefits, and so the women who were in my position, which was that I was a single mother for part of the time that I was working here, was that we had to pay all of our own medical insurance because the State didn't contribute anything to it. We found out, interestingly 20:00enough, that Tech was getting what was called full-time equivalent money. So if I was half-time and my friend Margaret was half-time, they were getting the benefits from the State for one full-time position and they were spending it on furniture.

Grace: Oh goodness.

Linda: Well, we pointed out and that was very embarrassing to the administrators.

Grace: No kidding.

Linda: So following that exposure we got a salary supplement based on the money that the State was sending, which was very nice for paying for benefits. We had tremendous help from women who aren't here anymore, but also tremendous help from Pat Hyer who was an associate provost during this time.

And I remember that a distinguished philosophy professor, a woman, took a bunch 21:00of us to the provost's office and met with Pat and with (I think) David Ford, and said, "Well, here's the situation, of instructors you can see that they need more security. Tech needs them because they teach so many of the basic courses, and so you will do something about it, right?" And Pat Hyer, in her experience and wisdom, just looked at this very distinguished philosopher and said, "I hope you don't mean that." And what she meant was that we had to go around from department to department and convince people in the higher levels to support us, and convince people in the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Council to support us. And so that took another several years. But the result of that work was that by the time it got to, and I think it was called the Faculty Council that we took 22:00the final proposal to, several of the men there said, "Oh yes, I've been in favor of this all along," and we knew very well that they hadn't been. They had just been gradually awakened to how embarrassing the situation was, and to how much Tech -- particularly departments like Humanities and English -- depended on women and instructors to get all those courses taught that the undergraduates took. Do they still call them core courses?

Grace: Yes.

Linda: Okay. Because you have to fill in all those dots or you can't graduate. Somebody has to do that work. So that was step one, and then I'm very happy that it's gone further. One of the great pieces of good luck that I had was being the office mate of Trudy Harrington Becker, who teaches in the History Department. 23:00She's one of these teachers who has won every teaching award at Virginia Tech, and was in fact was head of the Academy of Teaching Excellence one year because she just won more than anybody else. But, I think she has the position of senior instructor, because one of the things that they've achieved since I left was to get ranks and more permanence for instructors, because it's very important to hang on to these people.

Grace: Right.

Linda: So I'm very happy that I was part of that work. As far as the Women's Center itself we had a bunch of meetings there. I love the people there and the work that they're doing, but the work that they do is much more in terms of student life, and my concern was more with faculty and the classroom academic 24:00experience and what we could do about that.

Grace: Around what time would you say most of the heart of that work was going on that you were involved with?

Linda: I tried to pull out some records of that and I could find records for all kinds of grants and new courses and stuff and I couldn't find that, but I'm sure you can find that. You will become a good sleuth on this project. [Laughs]

Grace: I'm assuming it's fairly recently, right, that you did this work?

Linda: No, I think a lot of it probably took place in the 1990s, so that's a while ago, the first stage of getting longer term contracts and more recognition for instructors, but I'm not sure about that.

Grace: I think what's surprising to me like learning about this is that it took until the 1990s for someone to say, "Hey, we have to do something about this," 25:00but I'm so glad that you did and for the work that you did.

Linda: Thank you.

Grace: It really changed the game it sounds like, yeah.

Linda: Are you aware when you are taking classes whether your teacher is part-time, full-time, tenured, not tenured?

Grace: I don't think so.

Linda: I don't think most students are, and that's the way it should be, because the value of the experience should be equivalent. Another thing I didn't mention, and I think this went out the window a long time ago, was that when I was hired we had what was called team teaching, so there would actually be two of us teaching each class. And I was lucky enough one term to be part of a team of three. It was called Humanities and the Arts and we decided we should have a musician and a visual artist and a writer, and so there were three of us 26:00teaching the same course. And so we could interact with each other as well as with the students. That went out with the first big budget cut. [Laughs] Because we were paid as much as we would have been to teach a course by ourselves, and since these were small classes only 30 to 40 students, it was something the University couldn't afford. But that was sure wonderful for me to get to learn from others. And once that went out we helped each other, because I found out that a lot of my colleagues who were experts in medieval history were just terrified when they had to teach the music part of the course, so I would come in and help with that. They would come over and help me teaching one of the things that I found harder to deal with.

Grace: That's so much more collaborative than I was expecting among faculty. You never really think about that.

Linda: I was surprised at something that came along so early, so I said I came 27:00in 1983. In 1989 I got a grant from the State Council of Higher Education which was a two-week workshop on revising the curriculum. And so people at the upper levels were already realizing that if you were teaching the middle ages, we called it the medieval world, and our class in the medieval world was medieval Northern Europe for the most part, and it was men. [Laughs] I called it dead medieval monks because they did most of the writing. And it was a real eye-opener for me because we worked very intensely on how to incorporate more women, more diversity of all kinds into our classes. And then of course that led 28:00to the establishment of Women's Studies and Black Studies and American Indian studies and all the wonderful things that are happening now, and then turning that back around to the collaboration with the traditional courses and expanding their recognition of what the world was at certain times.

Grace: It's important.

Linda: But anyway, so that was a while ago. Then another thing that came along that was very nice for me and the rest of us who are working in this, was that there was something called the Women and Minorities Artists and Scholars Lecture Series. I think that still goes on, and it's a small amount of money that's appropriated every year to bring in more women speakers, performers, artists to Tech with the backing of a Tech faculty member and department just to enrich the 29:00lives of students here.

Grace: That's really cool. I know Katie Powell who is also a part of VT Stories and the Center for Rhetoric. She reaches out to refugee families, and that's an area of her research and it's been really interesting to learn about that and see how she can get them more involved with Blacksburg and the community and everything like that. It's really important work for sure.

Linda: Does she work at all at the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership?

Grace: I'm not sure, but I actually volunteer for them as well, so I'm aware of them too.

Linda: That's a wonderful organization.

Grace: It is for sure. What would you say to inspire young women here at Virginia Tech and in Blacksburg?

Linda: Well, do the kinds of things you're doing Grace. Get involved in local organizations because that gives you an eye to the future. I think my main 30:00advice to women and men who are students is: don't be afraid to change your mind. I was going to be a math major when I was a freshman in college, because I was real good at high school math. In the 1950s high school math was probably what's middle school math these days. Things have changed a lot. But anyway, I was great through Algebra and Geometry and so forth, and I hit freshman Honors Calculus and was sitting there in class and the professor, who was a Rhodes scholar, an absolutely brilliant man, was talking about something and then he 31:00said, "And this is how you get it in two dimensions and this is how you get it in three dimensions and then in four dimensions." I said, "What?" And he said, "Well it's just calculus," and I realized that that wasn't the way my mind wanted to go.

And it happened that my best friend was taking all the same classes I was and that was just the way that her mind went and she got into topology. She thought that was just fabulous to have this rubber sheet in which nothing stayed the same. To me it was very upsetting. I wanted to be able to see it and for it to stay the same, and so I became a music major, because I was actually a double major. I was going to do both math and music all the way through. But I think it's very important to recognize for example well, I was going to have a career as an engineer, but I don't like it anymore. And there's really no point spending the rest of your life doing something you're not passionate about. So 32:00for young women and for young men I would say, don't be afraid to change.

Grace: Okay. Well speaking of change what kind of changes would you like to see in regards to female empowerment, not just in our area, but society in general?

Linda: Less harassment. [Laughs] It's wonderful that we are becoming aware of something that's always been there and been hushed up. In our blended family I have three daughters and a son and two granddaughters now, and when the MeToo movement started I think all of us just wrote 'MeToo' on Facebook, because we have all had some experience that was at least unpleasant. And it's an 33:00educational process, but people need to speak up about it.

Grace: Right.

Linda: So are you talking particularly about changes at Tech or changes in general?

Grace: Well, both I guess. Smaller changes that could gradually lead up to bigger effects.

Linda: Because I hope that the changes in faculty attitudes have been evolving. There was a group of us in women's studies who met with President Paul Torgersen (in that wonderful hall that goes between the library that goes between 34:00Torgersen Hall and the Tech library. You've seen pictures of him.) He was President of Tech for a while, and he was an engineer, and when he first became President I think he had been dean of engineering, and so that had been his main experience of Virginia Tech. And he wanted to meet everybody. So he said, "Well I want to meet with the women's studies people" Ann Kilkelly was director at the time and I think he was expecting to meet three or four people, because when you looked at the full-time faculty for Women's Studies that was it. So there were 15 or 20 of us in what was then the Women's Center in Sandy Hall, and he walked in and looked absolutely startled.

But, he was a very forthcoming man. He admitted that he had made a mistake. He thought it would be a great idea (and financially it was a great idea) to get retired army people to teach the engineering fundamentals courses. That's called Engineering Education now, but the first year you have to get through before you can specialize in your engineering department. Well, unfortunately, people who 35:00were retired from the Army and the Navy had embodied the attitudes of military officers from that time, a long time ago. And some of them treated the women in their classes very badly, and it took a while for that news to get to Paul Torgersen. And he was very apologetic to us about that, because he said that hadn't occurred to him, but that's the kind of unexpected consequence and disaster that you have to be really aware of, because he and everybody else in engineering wanted to have more engineering students who were women; that made Tech look very bad to have such a small percentage.

Grace: Yes.

Linda: So, that's just an example of the kind of change that comes with 36:00recognizing the problem and doing something about it. And there were several male faculty who were fired at Virginia Tech for bad behavior at that time, so this will be more than 12 years ago, and I can't tell you how long ago. But I'm hoping that that example has helped people to shape up. I still hear things at private parties, but I think the younger men on the faculty understand how important it is to be supportive to women students and keep the office door 37:00open. [Laughs]

Grace: Right. Exactly. So in your time in our area what are some of your favorite memories or experiences would you say?

Linda: Oh, I had a lot of them. [Laughs] One of the people to come on this, I have to read the whole name, the Women and Minorities Lecture Series, Women and Minorities Artists, was a woman named Althea Waites. She's a wonderful pianist and musician and Black, and she gave a concert here, but she came to my Women and Creativity class. And I asked the students to ask her anything about her youth and what it was like. And the students were kind of shy, but I said, "Go 38:00ahead, please ask her questions," because this was a very open woman. And so one of them said, "Well, did you have to suffer sitting at the back of the bus?" because they knew that she was from the south and that she was a woman of a certain age when buses were segregated. She was before Rosa Parks. And she said, "Oh yeah, that was such a pain." She said, "One time we just got mad and we broke the window." [Laughs] Everybody in my class said, "You what?" They were just delighted. At a time of such repression that there were people who just broke the window. The heck with it.

Grace: Oh my goodness. Why didn't we hear about that?

Linda: [Laughs] She didn't get arrested.

Grace: Wow.

Linda: Yeah. Let's see, other great adventures. So Trudy Harrington Becker and I 39:00got a grant from the, it's called Cider now I think.

(It used to be called the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching,) to do a new class on women in the Ancient Mediterranean World, because we had been teaching what we called the Dead Greek Men course. One was the Classical Age of Greece and one was called Rome and Early Christianity, so we called it the "Dead Greek Men" and the Romans, the Christians and the Lions. And we were supposed to find any women who had done anything that was remembered in those very sexist societies. In wonderful classical Athens where there was democracy, one of the first western democracies, the women of the upper class were basically locked up in their houses, because their purity must be insured. So, they weren't out 40:00writing songs and giving concerts and writing books and so forth. I think they weren't taught to read and write in general.

So we put all kinds of information together (because people around the country were starting to work on that) saying who can we find in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece and the earlier periods to talk about? And one of my favorite memories of the first time that we taught that class was that there was an old woman who had been an outstanding Blacksburg school teacher who decided that in retirement she wanted to take every course there was in the classics (Greek and Latin). So she came to our class and she was sitting in the back at first looking very critical, because she had taken the courses from the full professors, and she had read Virgil and she had read Homer and she was learning 41:00all the important things. And we found a book for this class which was called The Woman and the Lyre, which was an entire book of things written by ancient women writers. Some of them just tiny fragments. Everybody has heard of Sapho, but there were a dozen other Ancient Greek and Roman poets, most of whose work has been destroyed.

But anyway, these things were all published in the book, along with women from the early Christian times which overlap with the Roman Empire. This woman, who had fabulous posture, (I keep trying to emulate her, as she lived to be 80) came striding into class and she slammed her book down on the desk and the kids kind of looked around and she said, "I read this whole book last night. Before last 42:00night I never heard of any of these people and they are wonderful." [Laughs]

Another thing that was great about that class was that our lovely department head was very supportive, but he looked at the class list and he said, "You have men taking this class." We said, "Yeah. We're popular teachers. There are some guys who like to take our classes." He was just startled that any undergraduate men would want to take a course about women in the ancient world, so that was educational for him.

Grace: Yeah. In that same train of thought, what are some experiences that haven't been so great that might stand out to you?

Linda: I'm trying to think of things, besides the ordinary things of certain 43:00students who sit in the back of the class and talk to each other instead of paying attention. I had been a public-school teacher for 20 years before I came here, and so at first I was just stunned. Everybody was so well-behaved. But of course inevitably there were a few students who hadn't quite learned that this is college. These grades count for something, so that was hard because I had to adjust my attitude in every class, but in general I did pretty well.

One discovery I made that would never have occurred to me was that for a long time because my hair started to go gray when I was in my 40s and I thought whoa, that is way too early, so I had wonderful hair color for years and then finally 44:00I gave up and I said, "Oh well, this is the hair I've got." So my first semester when I went to class with gray hair my ratings shot up, and I said, "Oh, they don't think I'm their mother anymore, they think I'm their grandmother." They love their grandmothers. [Laughs] Why didn't I do this from the get-go? It made it so much better.

I had disagreements with some colleagues, but I can't think of anything that's really worth sharing. Of course there were, I will just say anonymously that there was a rather distinguished senior professor in our department who was absolutely horrified that some undergraduates would take more than one course 45:00about women, and he was very open about expressing that. And so we had interesting departmental meetings trying to hash that out and explain to him that since we carry half the sky that maybe it was important to have more than one course about women.

He was just convinced that women's contributions to culture were not worth anything, and therefore we were overdoing it. He died a long time ago. He represented a certain generation. It was just unfortunate and I had no luck convincing him to change his mind. But I must say that a lot of the older faculty became more open-minded and more supportive as time went on.

Grace: Yes. That's good to hear.

Linda: Yes, because it's an ongoing educational process.

Grace: As far as we've come, women, there's still so much more to do and think about.

Linda: [Chuckles] Tell me about it.

Grace: So when somebody simply says the words Virginia Tech what do you think of?


Linda: I think, "Thank you for giving me a wonderful job for 23 years." It was very important when I got here to be part of the biggest organization in town, because I had always worked and been very active and involved and it was important to be able to do that. Of course, after the Tech massacre when I would go other places, I was involved in a summer music festival up in Vermont, and the first year that I went there was the year of the Tech massacre. I was introducing myself to various people and the guy who was the head of the whole 47:00thing said, "Oh, you're from Virginia Tech. You poor baby." And that was just very loving and very sympathetic, because it was an awful time. So that's something we've got that is still remembered. And I lost friends and it was terrible for my husband because it was the, I think the Engineering and the Foreign Language departments that lost the most people. He lost three colleagues and nine students just like that. He just sat and looked out the window for about a week. It was terrible.

I admit it, I am not a football fan. I know that Nikki Giovanni is, God bless her. I find it a way too loud and irritating game. [Laughs] So that part of 48:00Virginia Tech just doesn't mean much to me. My husband loves it, but fortunately he likes to watch it on television, so we don't have to go to the games. I had a fun experience. Years ago my college decided that we should offer little "chalk-talks" they called them to football fans who came in for the weekend. And the idea was that they were coming for a football game, but most of them were Tech alums and so they should be interested in what was going on at Tech and wouldn't they like to see what the sociology professors or the music professors now were doing. So I gave one of my little women composer concerts at the Tech chapel and got a big crowd, and got free tickets to a football game. And 49:00fortunately it was an afternoon game with beautiful sunshine, and I think we played Duke which was a terrible team then and we absolutely creamed them. So that was a game that was fun, because mostly when I go to any kind of athletic event I go around and talk with other people and enjoy the social part of it. But that's about the extent of my connection with athletics.

I was very enthusiastic about women's basketball when Bonnie, Coach Bonnie Henrickson somebody was here we had a very good women's basketball team, and some of the players were students in my classes and so I went frequently to women's basketball games then and cheered myself silly. There were actually a couple of games when we filled the arena. Does that ever happen now?


Grace: Oh I'm sure. I haven't been to one myself.

Linda: It happens when the men play because they are getting pretty good, and the women are getting better again, but that was fun. So athletics are a huge part of Tech, but that's not my thing. I will tell you that for me the best thing that has happened at Virginia Tech is the opening of the Center for the Arts, because I felt quite left out for my first [30] years here because I would hear about these famous musicians who were performing in Charlottesville and then my friends down at Duke would say, "Oh yeah, they're coming here too." I would think, "Blacksburg is on the way. You could drop by," and nobody ever did until the Center was opened, and that is just astonishing.

An old friend was in town a year or two ago and she was doing a book signing and 51:00I said, "Sorry, I have to leave because Wynton Marsalis is playing at the Arts Center," and she said, "Where?" I said, "Oh in Blacksburg. Everybody comes to Blacksburg now." [Laughs] So, that's been just a wonderful change in my life, because I love living in a town this size, but when I lived in Boston and Philadelphia I did hear a lot of great artists, and I missed that for a long time.

Grace: Have you played at the Moss Arts Center?

Linda: I have, yes.

Grace: That's awesome.

Linda: I've played with the Roanoke Symphony. We did Felix Mendelsohn's Elijah there a few years ago which was wonderful. And until two years ago I played with the Tech orchestra and they perform at the Moss Center now. That's something 52:00I've given up because the neck and shoulder pain are not worth it, but I still play a lot of chamber music and a lot of fundraisers for local causes. But orchestra playing was something that had to come to an end, but it's a wonderful way to play. Before that (early in my time here) maybe in the 1990s, there was a remodeling of Squires so that we got a good concert hall here. I don't know if you've ever been in the main lecture hall in McBride.

Grace: Yes.

Linda: It has some of the worst acoustics in the world and we used to give concerts there, and we used to give our Tech orchestra concerts in Burruss, which is the absolutely worst acoustics in the world. [Laughs]

Grace: Hmm, it's terrible. Yeah.

Linda: And then we got this nice little 220-seat recital hall at Tech with 53:00fabulous acoustics, and I said, "Wow, I can hear myself. I can hear other people playing. I can hear the audience applaud. Wow this is great. So yeah, there have been really good changes here for the music scene which is very important to me.

Grace: Are there any women associated with Tech or Blacksburg that you would like to give shout-outs to?

Linda: Oh wow. Well Pat Hyer as I mentioned. Trudy Harrington Becker. Another person you should interview if you haven't already is Doris Zallen. Have you run into her name yet?

Grace: No, not yet.

Linda: Well Doris Zallen came here with her husband the same time I came here with my husband, and we were both given half-time positions and we shared an office. And we became best friends because I would bring her carrots. (This was before you could buy baby carrots. I actually had to peel and cut them up 54:00myself) and she would bring me paperclips.

That's how our friendships formed. I came here as a half-time instructor having been a public-school teacher. She came here having been a department head in Nazareth College near Rochester, New York. And she's a Harvard graduate, a Harvard PhD in Biology and Ethics. And apparently the biology department had no use for her, and so she was a given the same kind of position that I was, but she was, at her urging, asked to start a series which is called Choices and Challenges, which is about science and technology and society and the way that they interact. And so she just did astonishing work with that, and she ended up 55:00getting one of these State Council of Higher Education Outstanding Faculty in Virginia awards. And she eventually became a full professor, which was reasonable for her. I didn't have a PhD. There was no reason for me to want to be a full professor really because I wanted to keep up my music. But she's an absolutely outstanding faculty member and only retired a couple of years ago, and is still very active in genetic ethics, the human genome project, all kinds of very very important issues of science and society.

Grace: I will definitely have to reach out to her.


Linda: So you will want to talk to her.

Grace: Yeah. That's fascinating.

Linda: About her early experiences here and how she finally got the job she deserved.

Grace: Yeah. Thank you. Linda, is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like me to, or anything you would like to talk about?

Linda: Oh, well, I would have to throw in that I got one university-wide award and that was the Diggs Award. The Diggs Award is not like most of the, we call them the academy awards, which are based on your scores and evaluations. The Diggs Award was founded to reward faculty who engaged in collaborative learning and, we like to say, imagination and creativity. And it's still very much alive 57:00and well, and it's an active community so people who have won the award become part of the consortium that tries to improve collaborative learning and teaching it at Virginia Tech. So that was just a great honor and I am very humbled by that.

Grace: That's great. Okay. Is there anything that you would like us to know about you?

Linda: I will probably think of something an hour from now, but that's probably done it.

Grace: Well Linda, on behalf of VT Stories and Virginia Tech thank you so much for coming in today and joining me.

Linda: It's wonderful to meet you Grace.

Grace: Yes, thank you.