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Carmen Bolt: My name is Carmen Bolt. It is November 20, 2015. We are in Major Williams on Virginia Tech's campus and we are sitting here with…?

Steve Nehrt: Stephen Nehrt, who is a Virginia Tech alumni, and actually, Major Bill was my dorm.

Bolt: Was your dorm, wow. That's incredible. I actually want to hear a little bit more about that. But maybe we can go through your years before Virginia Tech first and then we'll go into that. So if you can tell us your place of birth and what years you went to Virginia Tech.

Nehrt: I was born in Missouri outside of St. Louis in a town called Florissant. We lived there until I was about six. My father got a job with the federal government, so we moved to northern Virginia, to Springfield, Virginia. Well, 1:00actually we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, stayed there for about a year and moved to Springfield, Virginia. So I grew up in Springfield, Virginia. I attended Robinson High School, which was in Fairfax County. I attended Robinson High School from '71 to '75 and I attended my freshman year at Virginia Tech in the fall of '75.

Bolt: Okay, excellent. Did you always know you were going to go to Virginia Tech, or what was the process of determining what school you would end up going to?

Nehrt: I think a state school was the most economical solution for our family. University of Virginia. We looked at Virginia Tech, we looked at--and I had an older sister who was also a Virginia Tech alumni at that point, who lived here 2:00in this area--not in Blacksburg, but in this area--so I think that kind of tipped the scale for me to choose Virginia Tech. I liked the fact that it was out in the mountains, whereas things like VCU would have been right in Richmond. So I think all things weighed, that that's what pushed me towards Virginia Tech.

Bolt: That makes sense. I think people seek out different things for their college experience of four years or however many years you can get away and go into a new environment entirely. Can you speak a little bit about that environment when you first came to Tech's campus? Were there any sights or smells, or what did it look like when you first got here that you recall?

Nehrt: Well, it was clearly much smaller. However, to me, as a freshman, it was 3:00big, and I didn't know my way around at first. So it seemed very big. I mean, not unmanageably big, but it was a little bit to get my way, get my bearings and know my way around. But most of the campus was right on the drill field at that time, about 90% of it. I know before I was leaving they were building the veterinarian school and they were doing some other projects then. But gosh, it was probably only about a third of the size that it is now.

Bolt: It seems like coming back, every year there's a new building anymore. You said your dorm was Major Williams.

Nehrt: My dorm was Major Williams.

Bolt: I guess you walked through the halls coming up here today. How much has that changed?

Nehrt: Oh, greatly. I mean, yeah, it was a dorm, so they were all--you know, we had the hallways. You had dorms on each side. You had a bathroom on each hall.

Bolt: Yeah, so I guess quite different, and I guess we're stuffed into those 4:00rooms now for class or for graduate [seminars].

Nehrt: Really, into the dorm rooms?

Bolt: I guess I don't know what it was like before, so I don't know if they redid--

Nehrt: I think they would have had to take a few walls out. Yeah, the dorm rooms would be too small for a classroom. This would be probably similar to the size of a dorm room. So when you came in you had a desk on each side and a closet on each side. And if I recall correctly, the beds were bunk beds, and they were back on the window wall.

Bolt: Yeah, definitely different. Maybe it would be more along the--

Nehrt: Not much room. [Laughs.]

Bolt: --the size of our graduate offices we're tucked into.

Nehrt: The room that you had to walk on was about the size of this desk as you walked through.

Bolt: Wow. The dorm life is quite an experience always, more enjoyable for some than others, I would think.

Nehrt: Yeah. Well, you didn't get to stay in the dorm long. And I imagine that's still the case.

Bolt: Right. I guess fewer people stay in dorms all the way through anymore. Very few, I would say, than move off campus, because they're--


Nehrt: Well, when I attended they actually had a lottery. If you wanted to stay in the dorm your sophomore year, you entered into a lottery. And there were not many people that got to do that. Pretty much most everybody had to go find somewhere else to go after their freshman year.

Bolt: Wow. I wonder if it's still--

Nehrt: I think the dorms were good because that freshman year it didn't dump everything on you at once. You weren't trying to grocery shop and plan your own meals and things like that. You know, you're on the dorm. You were right here. You got to learn your way around, get your grounding. Your meals were made in the dining halls. So I think that helped you ease into it, and not be overwhelmed, and allowed you to concentrate more on your classes than if you'd have had to deal with everything at once.

Bolt: Yeah, I definitely agree with that, not having all the new experiences 6:00thrown at you at once, at least one year for transition. But you mentioned dining hall food, and I like to bring this up because for the past several years there have been all these surveys where Virginia Tech dining is at the top and everybody loves the food. Was that the case when you were here?

Nehrt: No, absolutely not. And I think part of that would be as to the sort of a family that you came from. When I was growing up, most moms were stay at home moms and they cooked a great meal every night, so I was used to that. Now I didn't always like everything they cooked, but I was used to a higher quality of food.

The dorm food then at all colleges was nothing like it is now. Think of your dorm rooms then. We had a bathroom down the hall. And you think of your dorm rooms now. And the food was comparable to that. I can remember we had steak night. That was always a big deal. But usually, because they had to cook 7:00hundreds of steaks, by the time you got yours, it had sat for goodness knows how long, so it was always a little overcooked.

Bolt: Right. Yeah, I guess we should consider ourselves grateful now since they have like a lobster spot where you can go get lobster with your steak and all of this. But I think we may be poorly prepared for the real world when we finally get out of here.

Nehrt: Well, I think another advantage that you have now is your variety. They had one or two choices, and that was every day. You had like maybe one, maybe two things to choose from. And I think you have a lot more variety today.

Bolt: Right. So like other things at Tech, that's changed a bit.

Nehrt: Mm-hmm.

Bolt: We were talking a little bit about that transitory year, being in a dorm, eating food from campus. How did your freshman year stand in contrast--or, I mean, it could have been the same all the way through for you--but how did it 8:00stand in comparison with the rest of your time at Tech? Was there anything notable about that first year here?

Nehrt: I think another advantage to being in the dorms would be that you got to meet more people. Now I had an advantage in the sense that northern Virginia was--a large percentage of the people that went to Tech came from northern Virginia, the Hampton Road, Norfolk and Richmond, so I knew a lot of people here when I came, and I think that was helpful. But being in the dorms also helped you meet a lot of new people, where if you'd been off campus, it would have taken a lot longer to meet people.

Bolt: So did you room with a friend from northern Virginia?

Nehrt: No.

Bolt: But you just knew people?

Nehrt: He was from…I think he was from southwest Virginia, and I do not remember where. Actually, sadly, I don't even remember--his name was Bill. I remember his name was Bill. And he was a very nice guy.


Bolt: But I guess maybe lasting friendships didn't come out of that particular thing. If you have any longtime friends from Tech, where did you meet them?

Nehrt: Really the only friends I still have from Tech I met in graduate school. But I've mostly lost track. Remember, it's been what, 40 years, so… [Laughs.]

Bolt: Right. And I guess the time here in comparison is the blink of an eye.

Nehrt: Well, for me, I returned and went to graduate school here too for a few years. And I was actually working some, so it was kind of an on, off, you know. I actually took a job where I was making so much money that I actually stayed on that job and worked it into the wintertime, so I didn't really do the straight 10:00four years. And then in graduate school, I sort of made my own way through graduate school, which was a lot easier to do back then. The expense of college back then is nothing like it is now. I was actually able to work and pay for my graduate school. I believe--you guys are going to hate this--but Virginia Tech was on a quarterly system then. I think tuition was less than $600 a quarter back then.

Bolt: Oh, that would be nice.

Nehrt: Back then.

Bolt: That would be nice. Wow, yes.

Nehrt: And then the federal government went a slightly different way and pulled a lot of money out of education, and then tuitions have risen steadily ever since then.

Bolt: Yes, it's just a slight bit more than that now, but…

Nehrt: Yes.

Bolt: All supposed to be worth it. That's what we're being told, so I hope that's the case. So I guess either during those first undergraduate years or 11:00during graduate school, were there any notable professors, advisors, mentors, or anything like that that you remember?

Nehrt: I can't remember his name, but know that my sister was good friends with a math professor who I guess would have been the closest thing I would have had towards a mentor back then, except for maybe my older sister, who I did, you know, impinge upon to help me with some English assignments and things like that. Math, I did pretty well with that, but the creative side of my brain was not quite as good as the logical side of my brain.

Bolt: What exactly did you major in or get your graduate degree in?

Nehrt: Well, I started out in math, so I took all the calculus and all that stuff. I got to the more theoretical classes. And again, I think you needed the 12:00more creative side of your brain for that. So that's when I sort of lost interest in that. But I did take a lot of math, some physics, I think a couple astronomy classes. And then I went over to economics.

Bolt: And that's what you got your graduate degree in?

Nehrt: I got a B.S. in economics and I had friends in the graduate program. And they talked me into going in and meeting with the graduate school, and it was really a pretty simple transition. I mean, it was just seamless. I just kind of stepped into the graduate classes.

Bolt: Well, that's nice, to avoid all the potential chaos that happens during that graduate application process.

Nehrt: Yeah. Most people go to a different school, and there's that vetting, and the GREs and all of that stuff, and moving. And for me, I just sort of slid 13:00right into it. The economy was in a bad spot right then. I think the S&L, the savings and loans had flopped, and it was not like the last recession we had, but it was a pretty bad recession and hiring wasn't that good, so the cost of going to graduate school versus what I might have, could have done anyway, was not as great.

Bolt: Right, okay. Yeah, I went here for undergraduate as well, so now I'm in my master's, so I kind of got to experience a little of that seamless transition as well. It could have been difficult to go try and learn an entirely new place for a couple years.

Nehrt: I think you'd be fine. With the undergraduate school under your belt, I don't think it would be as… I don't think to go from undergraduate to graduate is as large a transition as going from high school and living with your parents 14:00to going to live in college on your own.

Bolt: Yeah, I would certainly say that's the big transition there. So I guess during the entire period of time, do you have any favorite memories? It could be anything that went on during your entire time here at Tech, anything that stands out.

Nehrt: We enjoyed a lot of things here, and especially the countryside. We enjoyed the hiking and the camping. I had always had a motorcycle, so I met other people with motorcycles. Here it was real simple to go for a motorcycle ride out in the middle of nowhere, without a lot of traffic. That was a fun, easy, inexpensive thing to do. And then the hiking and the camping we loved to do.

We usually found shorter cuts to go to where… There was a place called 15:00Dragon's Tooth that, the first time that we went it was a four mile hike up and down all those ridges, and we were able to--and back then people, I think, took a different view. I mean, we would cut through this farmer's pasture and he never had a problem with it. He would just wave at us when we walked through. He knew where we were going.

And I can remember sitting up at the top of Dragon's Tooth, and I don't know where they came from, but they were fighter jets. They could have come from Norfolk, they could have come from somewhere, but they flew through [Ellett] Valley under us.

Bolt: Wow.

Nehrt: We were looking down at the tops of these jets.

Bolt: That's wild.

Nehrt: Briefly, because they were going pretty fast. But I guess they were practicing flying low through, you know, and maneuvering through, because you had just a little small valley there with ridges on either side, and they were 16:00down below the ridge lines.

Bolt: That's a pretty cool experience.

Nehrt: Yeah, so that was kind of a trip. So we liked that. And then of course we liked going out. There was a lot of stuff to do in the evenings and stuff. And then I remember also in the springtime was a lot of fun because a lot of either apartments or groups, you know, people would get a permit from the town and they'd have a big party, and that was always fun in the spring.

Bolt: Oh, wow. That's cool. I don't know…I'm trying to think if now people even get permits. It's probably why a lot of those parties are broken up now.

Nehrt: Well, I think they got permits because they would usually get kegs of beer. So you would get a banquet license or whatever from the town and then they'd be allowed to have a band. It would be noisy for a certain amount of time. But it was Cinderella. When 5:00 came, or whatever that time was, the 17:00police came, too, and you had to shut it down. And if they saw anybody take a drink off of beer, they got arrested for drunk in public.

But that was really fun, too. I do remember that. And the weather, of course, you know, you've had this long winter, and now the weather's just starting to get warm, and everybody's getting ready to go back. Most people went back and worked or did whatever during the summer at their parents' house, so it was like one big fling before you went back to Mom and Dad's.

Bolt: Right, to send everyone off.

Nehrt: Yeah.

Bolt: Yeah, that sounds like a good time. You mentioned the long winter. How about those cold treks across the drill field? Did you have any of those?

Nehrt: Oh, I'm sure I did. And we had what we called the Ice Follies, because we'd be walking along and the next thing you knew somebody would just start flailing their arms and legs, myself included. I can remember a few times where…I didn't ever actually fall, but I can remember a few times where I don't think my head was more than two feet from the ground while my arms and legs were flailing until you could get your feet back under you.


We were always warned about how terrible winters were, and my first winter here was nothing. It was probably one of the warmest winters on record. And by February people were running around in t-shirts. But my second winter here was probably one of the coldest on record. I think I remember that they declared a state of emergency up in the Chesapeake Bay because the bay was freezing.

Bolt: Wow.

Nehrt: So that was one of the coldest winters that we ever had while I was down here. And of course they did not close school, so you had to be in class. And I can remember driving, I think it was, a Chevelle, a big Chevrolet Chevelle, and I drove it into this parking lot, and there was about a foot of snow in the parking lot. And they had laid down telephone poles to demarcate the end of your 19:00parking space. You were supposed to park up against the telephone pole.

But I did not even see the telephone pole, and I was driving around, and literally drove up over the telephone pole so that the frame of my car was resting on the telephone pole. And about 20 students just came running up. And all those cars were rear wheel drive cars back then. So I immediately had 20 guys up there on the front of my car, and we were trying to rock it back and forth, and we were able to get it off, so…which was nice.

Bolt: Well, that's some Virginia Tech solidarity right there, to get your car off the telephone pole.

Nehrt: Yeah. Well, they saw me trying, you know, and they all just put their backpacks down and ran over. And there were enough guys that--'cause that was a V8 in the front of that car, and they were able to get it up and push it back over with a little help from the back tires. But it was mostly them. The back tires weren't doing much in the snow.

Bolt: Yeah, those Virginia Tech winters. I feel like the wind gets caught in 20:00here. It's like a bowl, and you just get knocked out by it. But I wouldn't say those are bad memories, per se. Just, you know, that comes with maybe the territory of being around here.

Nehrt: No, no. Winter's everywhere, I mean, so…

Bolt: True, for the most part, yes. How about any bad memories? Or they don't even have to be bad, but more challenging memories that you had during your time here.

Nehrt: Well, there was a certain amount of stress. I don't really remember having any real bad memories. But there was a certain amount of stress that you guys all experience now, and I doubt that that's changed, with large assignments that are due, how am I gonna juggle all these things. You know when you have five or six teachers how they all love to put their big assignment all during the same week because as far as they know, they're the only teacher you have, right? And finals, things like that.


And then some classes you blew right through and other classes you struggled with, and you felt it more intensely in those classes.

Bolt: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But you would say that's probably the most challenging thing you remember during your time here?

Nehrt: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don't, you know--and it's been a long time, and you always tend to remember the good things.

Bolt: That's a nice thing, yes.

Nehrt: I think that's human nature. I think even if you were in a war you'd tend to forget the horrible things and--well, maybe not completely forget them, but you would tend to, most of the memories that pop up in your head would be the good things that you remember, the people and the better times that you did. But, I mean, as far as anything bad, I mean, I just don't remember. I don't remember ever having any real conflicts with people or professors. I mean, for 22:00the most part, you know, it was a pretty good experience. We went to our classes and we got our work done.

And there were a lot of fun, inexpensive things to do besides that. We talked about the winters. Here you weren't very far from a lot of places that you could go hike. Like now I can't really, you know, I don't want to get in my car if it snows a foot and go. But back then I was going to live forever, and it never occurred to me that I might wreck my car. We'd pile into the car and go anywhere. We'd go skiing, snow skiing somewhere in Blue Mont, Blue Field.

Bolt: Yeah, Blue Field, West Virginia.

Nehrt: It was just past Blue Field. I think there was a little place that we used to be able to go to that was only about an hour away. And I do remember on one of those trips over to Blue Field we were going west, and on the east side 23:00someone had spun around, and he was going down this hill backwards with a tractor trailer right in front of him.

Bolt: Oh, no.

Nehrt: And I don't know how that turned out, obviously, because we were on the other side of the road going the other direction, but it didn't seem good.

Bolt: Yeah, I guess you were glad to be on the other side of the road at that point. Well, other than hiking or going skiing, was there a downtown that you ever went into? I know the downtown has changed maybe as much as--

Nehrt: Yeah, the downtown's changed, but we went…of course you've probably heard of Mr. [Foods]. I know they had an article on it in the Virginia Tech magazine not long ago.

Bolt: I've never heard of it. What is it?

Nehrt: Mr. Foods was just one of the small restaurants. It was basically a big rectangle. It was pretty deep, and they had the bar on the side. And they did a Wednesday night thing.

So you could count on, if you didn't have too much to do, you could go there on 24:00a Wednesday night and you'd see tons of people that you knew. And they practically gave away…pitchers of beer I think were like a dollar or something. There was a place… What we mostly liked to do was to go see the bands. And a lot of the bands--have you guys heard of REM?

Bolt: Yes.

Nehrt: REM came here. One of my friends that was in a fraternity talked them into coming back to their fraternity and hanging out after one of their shows.

Bolt: Really?

Nehrt: Yeah.

Bolt: Wow.

Nehrt: Because we had beer there. Because it was too late to serve beer. And they had been working, so they went over there, they hung out with us, they drank beer. There were a lot of good bands that came through. There was someone named Bob Margolin who moved here, and he was a professional musician and had 25:00played with a lot of…he would probably have been most famous for playing with Muddy Waters, who was… B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker were kind of like the founders of that blues sound. So when he moved here, he brought a lot of good people to come and play, and that was really fun.

But they had a lot of good local bands, too. A lot of college kids that were pretty good musicians and would play these little places. I'm sure the building is probably still there. But one was called 117 and then later it became the South Main Café. It was an old, old building, probably over 100 years old, and had been a church at one point. It had a balcony up top, probably where the organ was, and they had some extra seats there. They had a lot of good bands.


But the businesses all, like they probably do… Well, they were all privately owned then. There's probably more corporate things here now. But they would pop up and then disappear, and pop up and disappear all the time. There were a lot of them. And mostly it was right there off of College Avenue, right there on Main Street.

Bolt: Perfect walking distance.

Nehrt: Mm-hmm.

Bolt: Did you ever go see any movies at the Lyric?

Nehrt: Yes, we did. Occasionally we would go. We didn't go to see a lot of movies. I'm not sure that…I guess my interests were other places then.

Bolt: It still sounds like you went and did a bunch of different things and had a good time, though. Okay, so transitioning a little bit… This is always kind of an interesting question because of the different responses that we may get. I'm going to say two words and your first thoughts, or your first memory you can 27:00reiterate back to me. If I say the words "Virginia Tech," your very first thought.

Nehrt: My very first thought? Really just the campus is what I guess is my first thought. The campus, and the quad, and… That's really…it's just kind of an image that comes to mind. When you say Virginia Tech, I see these gothic gray limestone buildings, and the drill field, and the little chapel, and that's really my first thought. It's not really a concrete thought, it's really more an image.

Bolt: Well, a good one, and maybe the one that stays kind of stable as everything else is being built up around. The drill field seems to stay pretty…

Nehrt: Yeah. I mean, I don't hardly know where I am. I thought we were coming up on McBride, but they've snuck another building in there since the last time I was here.


Bolt: Anywhere a building can go, they will find it.

Nehrt: McBryde was the new large building.

Bolt: During your time here?

Nehrt: When I came here, yeah. I know it had been here a while, I believe, but it was like the new building, much bigger than the other ones.

Bolt: Yeah, it's wild to think of…I don't even know how many would have gone up since then. And like I said earlier, it seems like a new one truly every single semester or year.

Nehrt: I'm sure it's at least quadrupled since I was here. I mean, basically, up here you had the Pamplin and the Norris and the McBryde. And it was all right on the Drillfield. And just on the other side of that Drillfield, we came today and parked in this massive parking structure. We had a gravel parking lot. That was what we had. That's how we parked.

Bolt: That's wild to think about. Because there are just parking garages everywhere now.

Nehrt: And it was just on the other side of McBryde.

Bolt: Wow. I can't even conceive of that, I guess, because all of that behind it 29:00has been there my entire time.

Nehrt: You got right out of the parking lot and you went up and if you went straight through the light, you went right out onto Prices Fork Road. I mean, it was just much, much smaller.

Bolt: And I guess they're still increasing, every year, I think, population size. They're just trying to get more and more students in. I guess that's probably the goal of any university.

Nehrt: University, yea.

Bolt: But I've heard projections of another 10,000 over the next how many years, I'm not sure, but that's wild to think about where do they go. I meant to ask this earlier, but I can ask it now. Were there any organizations you were involved in? Intramural sports, or just groups, study groups, anything like that that you were involved in?

Nehrt: We did do study groups, but they weren't organized, particularly in graduate school. That was a good way to…because there were always things that 30:00you didn't understand, and if you put a group together, there would be people…you know, there would be things that you could understand that they didn't understand and vice versa, so it was a good way to help each other.

And it really paid off in a quick, high bonus way. Versus trying to meet with a professor in study hours, or trying to get it from a book or whatever, to have someone that understood and could explain it to you, and vice versa. Because even if you were explaining it to someone else and it was something that they didn't understand, by being forced to explain it to them, it helped you understand it better yourself.

Bolt: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Definitely the utility of the study group. I know you said earlier in that graduate group those were kind of where your, I guess, 31:00circle of friends or the people you hung out with came from. What about in undergraduate?

Nehrt: No. Well, I mean, some of them obviously would be your friends, but mostly they were groups for a class. And it was a good way to meet people. They didn't necessarily become--you know, I mean, most people keep a pretty tight circle of friends, and then you have these overlapping groups that go with it. So those people would usually tend to be in an overlapping group. But some of them did become closer friends. In graduate school, anyway. Not so much in undergraduate school.

I did have a lot of friends in, I think it was called, Tau Sigma Chi was a fraternity. I don't know if it still is. Particularly because some of the younger friends that I had from home, when they came--and everybody went to the rushes. And I took them over to rush that fraternity because I liked a lot of 32:00those guys that were in that fraternity. And about two or three of them joined that fraternity, which kept me coming back there through the years, because they were real close friends that I'd known since, you know, that had grown up actually in my neighborhood, some of them, and went to high school with other ones of them.

Bolt: Okay. Very cool. So those were kind of the people who would go out on skiing trips with you or hiking?

Nehrt: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Bolt: Very cool. So since you've left Virginia Tech, I guess after graduate school, do you come back frequently? Or what are the types of occasions you have come back?

Nehrt: No. I did have one friend in graduate school that, for a while, he came back to northern Virginia also, but the company that he was working for sort of folded and were laying off a lot of people. And he ended up, after a while, 33:00getting a job in Salem, so we came down a few times for that.

We came down for his wedding and we came down a few times to see him. But really I did not come back very much. Now I did bring my daughter here after she graduated high school to interview here. And goodness, I think this is the first time I've been back since then.

Bolt: I guess she decided to come here after JMU, was it?

Nehrt: Well, no. She felt that the school was too big and that JMU was too big, and she went to Longwood for two years. And then she went to JMU, to graduate from JMU. And then she came here for graduate studies.

Bolt: So she's gotten to see a spectrum of different…

Nehrt: Yes. And that's good. What I did was fine, and it was easy, but really I 34:00think you would get more if you went to…because you're exposed to different things.

Bolt: Yeah, definitely, in different environments.

Nehrt: And you learn when you're taken out of that comfort zone.

Bolt: Right, definitely. So we've discussed a lot of the changes you've seen pretty much in just buildings or parking options, maybe the downtown. Are there any changes you would like to see in the future? That could be the infrastructure, but it could also just be a direction you'd like to see Tech go in.

Nehrt: Well, really, you know, most of these changes that you guys are doing now were talked about even back then.

Bolt: Really?

Nehrt: The infrastructure, especially, the way to get to Roanoke from here. I mean, you've basically got your own road from 81 now, which you didn't used to have. I mean, Christiansburg was--it was the county seat, but it was a sleepy little town, and you got off in Christiansburg in this sleepy little town, on 35:00the edge of it, not really in the center of it. So a lot of what you're doing now was, you know, most of these things take…you'll see. If you come back here in 20, 30 years, they'll be doing stuff that they talked about while you were here.

Bolt: That they're talking about now.

Nehrt: Yeah.

Bolt: That's hard to imagine. But at the same time, you've seen it, and I'm sure when I come back it might be unrecognizable to me, and I might have to search for the drill field to find some sense of grounding when I come back one day as well.

Nehrt: Well, that's the only place I know my way around, is right on the drill field. Really, there just wasn't that much of it, much more than that when I went here.

Bolt: Yeah, absolutely.

Nehrt: They were in the process of building some things. And they had clearly built off the Drillfield, but now they're building way off the Drillfield.

Bolt: Yes, and taking over parking lots as they do.

Nehrt: Well, they were gravel parking lots, so you didn't lose much there.


Bolt: So the last couple questions are--they're not rapid-fire, but they all kind of relate to one another. Is there anything that you would like people, anyone who ends up listening to this interview, to know about you? That could be you as influenced by Virginia Tech or just in general.

Nehrt: Well, I think everybody's influenced by their college years and the friends that they make. I don't know how I would elaborate on exactly how I was influenced. I think that would require a little bit of reflection. But you grow up. I mean, you grow up. When you come to college, that's when you start having to budget, and cook for yourself, and do your own laundry, and do your own grocery shopping, and figure out how much you can spend on groceries, and how much you need for the electric bill and that sort of thing.

And I think that--and obviously, you know, the people that you meet and what you 37:00learn academically as well as what you learn from the people that you meet are the things that influence you. And I think that any four year period like that is going to have a pretty profound, lasting influence on everybody.

Bolt: Right, definitely. Well, that makes me wonder, and as part of this project it's one of the questions we're asking, why so many VT graduates become such engaged alumni. Many don't or can't come back to southwest Virginia every year, but there are some who come back every football game or all the time they seem--you know, there's a reunion or something every weekend. So I might pose that question to you. Why do you think that is that they are so willing to come back?

Nehrt: Well, if you had a good experience here, and as you get older, you do love to come back and visit the places. And they may be able to stay in touch 38:00with that group by coming back, which would be really nice. I mean, I didn't do that personally. I pretty much lost touch with a lot of them when I got married and started doing the family thing. But I would think that people come back partly for being drawn to the geographic location and then partly for if they can stay in touch that way with some of these people that they bonded with so strongly during that time.

Bolt: Right. Yeah, definitely. And then if there's a football game that weekend then, you know, even better, I guess, if they want to come back and watch one.

Nehrt: Well, from my understanding, yeah, they go big on the football games here with the RVs and huge tailgating parties and the whole thing. And I imagine that's a lot of fun.

Bolt: Well, what about during your time here? Were they doing any…was football 39:00as big?

Nehrt: Not that type. Now, you got to understand, they hired Frank Beamer when I was in graduate school. I think the first person that they hired that started to bring this football program to another level was someone that had coached at Alabama, and it was a pretty big deal that they'd gotten this big name coach. And I sadly don't remember who he was. But I think he took them to a bowl game.

But for the most part, Virginia Tech, it did not have a good football team when I started school here, and it didn't win a whole lot of games. When they got Bruce Smith was when they…he was their first impact player that they actually got someone that could actually push the team to another notch just by a player. And then obviously when they got Frank Beamer and Bud Foster, they really ramped 40:00that up.

I grew up watching Redskins games and stuff like that, and you never heard--you know, when they talk about a player and what school they went to, you never heard Virginia Tech mentioned, ever, until Bruce Smith got in there. I'm sure that he was not the… But he was the first star player in the NFL.

But if you watch football games now, you'll hear about Virginia Tech all the time. But it was not quite the… The program just wasn't successful, and it didn't draw the people back. And then the glory years of, you know, when they were ranked in the top 20, you can see how that would get more alumni coming back to go to the games.

Bolt: Oh, yeah, definitely, and maybe the hope for a return to that is what keeps people [coming back].

Nehrt: Well, once you've been there, I mean, you know, using the Redskins as an example, you know, I grew up they were a pretty bad team, but as they got, you 41:00know, George Allen and Joe Gibbs, they became, every year, a good team every year, hunting to try and get into the playoffs. And so even now that it's been, you know, gosh knows how long. They've been to the playoffs two or three times in the last 15, 18 years or whatever. You still have that hope.

And with Virginia Tech, the program has been successful enough that even though some years they've fallen flat of their expectations, everybody still probably begins the next year with that feeling that this is going to be the year. And you've got to remember that you look at that record and a lot of those losses hinged on a couple of bounces of the ball. So that really could be the difference between a really good year and a not so good year.

Bolt: Yeah, you're right. So it isn't…I guess like anything else here, the football had its transitional period, too. It's hard to imagine a period of time 42:00where it wasn't such a huge hoorah every Saturday.

Nehrt: When the first coach came and they put up a program to get lights installed so that they could play games on TV, there was a lot of opposition to that, spending all that much money and stuff on football. So yeah, there was a lot of opposition to that. So it was a completely different atmosphere than it is now.

Bolt: Yeah, I would say. I think that's humbling to know. In the six years I've gone here, or the past however many years, everyone's like yeah, Virginia Tech football, whether we win or lose, it's Hokie, it's maroon and gold--I mean, maroon and orange in my blood. But it's good to know that we didn't just start out that way and continue on.

I asked you if there's anything that you would like people to know about you. 43:00But is there anything you would like anyone who listens to this to know about Virginia Tech that they might not otherwise? There may be a national understanding or perception about Virginia Tech, but is there anything that an individual listening to this might not know that they should?

Nehrt: That would really be a tough one because I've been gone for so long. I mean, to speak to the time that I was here, I think, and it still is to this day, I think there's just a good sense of community here. And the college and the town even seemed to work pretty well together even back then. And it's in such a great spot. This is a really nice spot, with a lot happening around it.


Not if you're an urban type person. Although Roanoke now you can get to pretty quick, and it's probably got everything now that, you know, you--almost everything. Growing up in D.C. was a little more urban for me then. But yeah, I would guess just that this is a good, good spot, and you have a good sense of community here.

Bolt: Absolutely. Do you think there's anything that would be helpful to talk about, given Tech's history? And I know you said it's been a while since you've been back, but even things you've heard about Tech since you've left or during your time here, events or just aspects, maybe even community, that are just helpful to talk about?


Nehrt: I've kept sort of an eye on engineering. You know, the smart car stuff is starting to roll. And it was started here, is--well, I might be overstating it. But my first awareness of it came from Virginia Tech engineering. I think the engineering part of it has really grown in leaps and strides. When I came here in the '70s it was known as an engineering school. But I think they've taken it sort of national now, so that's an interesting thing, I believe.

Bolt: I don't know if you had the opportunity when you parking in the parking garage. Did you go in the new engineering building down there at the bottom of the hill?

Nehrt: No.

Bolt: I haven't been in either, but I've heard it's insane.

Nehrt: We came straight here.

Bolt: Well, maybe you'll have some time to…

Nehrt: Well, I do. I have a few hours after we finish this to wander around.


Bolt: That might be worth looking into, yeah. So I guess the last wrap-up question would be is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to talk about or something you thought I'd ask you and I didn't?

Nehrt: No. I tried not to overthink the interview before I came.

Bolt: That's good.

Nehrt: I just wanted it to be off the top of my head and fresh.

Bolt: No, that's great. Yeah, it's candid.

Nehrt: So I didn't really give that much consideration.

Bolt: Okay. But are there any memories or any last things? It could be as off the wall or anything that you would want, any last things that you would like to include in this interview?

Nehrt: No, I can't really think of anything right off the top of my head, no.

Bolt: Okay. Well, that's perfectly fine. This has been wonderful, and we appreciate you doing it so much. This will be great to add to our VT stories project, so thank you very much.

Nehrt: All right. You're most welcome.