Ren Harman: [Introductory explanations.]
Good afternoon. This is Ren Harman, the project manager for VT Stories. Today isApril 29, 2017, and we are in Houston, Texas, and we have two very special guests with us today, so I guess we'll start with you. So if you can say, just in a full sentence, your full name, when you were born and where you were born.
Linda Patterson: Okay. Linda Pritchard Patterson. I was born in Newport News,Virginia in 1954.
Ren: What years did you attend Virginia Tech?1:00
Linda: That was 1972 to 1976, majoring in mathematics and psychology.
Ren: Can you just tell me a little bit about growing up, and your family, andyour early childhood?
Linda: Okay. Well, my father had gone to Virginia Tech and was a engineer. Andso I knew from the beginning that I was going to be going to college, I think from the point that I was in the womb. They were very education minded, both Mom and Dad, and they were also very--let's find a nice name for it--frugal. They had both lived through the Depression and nearly lost their homes, and had a 2:00very tough time.
And so then when the war came, of course, they were...you had to ration thingsand whatever, so they were both extremely responsible and careful about money, and jobs, and, you know, what they could afford to do. And so they passed that on to my brother and I, so people often said that they thought that my brother and I actually lived through the Depression, too, because it was so ingrained on us.
And so making a living, you know, giving back, taking responsibility, makingsure that, you know, you gave more than you took and all of that was very deep with them. And also with my mother and my grandmother, they had...both had 3:00limited opportunities.
It was expected, of course--my grandmother had been born back in the 1800s--andso she worked on a farm, and being a farm wife and bringing up your kids, and then if it was other people's kids and whatever was what they had to do. And so she had run away from a bad situation and made sure that I understood that.
And my mother also was going to get married. She loved Dad, but, I mean, thatwas the only option. And so both of them were very strong women as far as saying okay, you're a woman, but you can have just as many opportunities as anybody else. And they were really very...not exactly feminist, but pushing in the direction of do what you want to do, treat yourself more like a lumpy boy.
You have all the rights and things that they do. And that was their first4:00opportunity, and they kind of really enjoyed that I would keep going forward like this. They were so very proud. Dad, was, too, but, I mean, they especially were.
Ren: What did your father...what was...so he went to Virginia Tech.
Ren: His major.
Linda: Civil engineering. No, not civil engineering, sorry, industrial engineering.
Ren: And your mother, what did she do?
Linda: She was a housewife, but she had gone to a business college to have somekind of background so she could do, you know, administrative work. And then when Dad went overseas into the Pacific, she sold war bonds in those drives and there in the shipyard. So...
Ren: Did you have brothers and sisters?
Linda: I had a brother. Seven years older than myself. He made a few mistakes.He went to University of Virginia. [Laughs.]
Ren: Ooh, okay.5:00
Linda: Yes. I learned from a lot of my brother's mistakes. Those kinds ofchoices. He wasn't that good at handling money and some other things, so I benefited from a lot of things that he did wrong.
Linda: But yeah, that was one of the things that I think sort of channeled me toVirginia Tech. My father had tried to get my brother to go there, and he didn't want to compete. But I wasn't going to compete. I was a girl. And he didn't know how to apple, orange compare what was going on then. So I applied there and I applied to Mary Washington, 'cause I knew I wanted to do math or engineering. And when I went to Mary Washington, it was lovely, mostly women. And, you know, you got the catalogue of math and physics and you looked at it and went, oh, that's nice. 6:00
And then you went to Tech and it was five times longer as far as what you couldtake, the depth was so much. And so I said, well, even though I'm extremely shy and I'm gonna have to deal with this, this is the place to go. And I also knew that if I did have a problem, I was at my father's favorite place. [Laughs.]
Ren: What stories did your--did your father share a lot of stories aboutVirginia Tech when you were growing up that you can remember?
Linda: Not a great deal. He was in the Corps, and that's part of what, I guess,got him into the Army right after Pearl Harbor. Volunteered to get in because he had the background, you know, to be a leader.
And again, you, [of course then] you'd, you know, you do what you have to do.7:00And so...but he remembered those years and he remembered the lifelong friends that he had made. He graduated in '35. My parents were 40 when I was born, so it was kind of late, but... He did enjoy those years.
And Mom would say that, when they would be coming up to see me for a footballgame, that as he passed the first sign when you come from Roanoke, you know, and you see the first sign out in the field for Virginia Tech, that the speed would pick up about ten miles and about ten years would drop off of him, he was so excited to be going home. She said, do they inject you people with something when you graduate there? Because he was so excited to go back.
And we always went to the field house lunches and all like that. He could not8:00get enough. And of course there had always been Virginia Tech stuff in the house. So he definitely loved it. And later on--at first I went into West Ambler Johnston, but later on in the years I moved up to Upper Quad and moved into Shanks, which had been F Company barracks where he had lived. Oh-ho, so he was doubly home there. He could remember the hallways, remember who lived in which. Oh, my. So--
Ren: You're talking about Shanks Hall?
Ren: So Shanks Hall is where the work space for VT Stories is, and also where myoffice is as well, so full circle.
Linda: Ah, okay. Yeah, it was a dorm. Almost everything was a dorm back then.
Ren: At one point.
Linda: Yeah, because you were in Femoyer, and that was a dorm, and now that's awork space or classes or something. 9:00
Ren: Right. When you found out that you were going to attend Virginia Tech, whatlevel of excitement did your father and mother, for that matter, have?
Linda: My father was thrilled beyond words. My mother was a little scared. LikeI say, I was extremely shy, and she was afraid with such a large institution that it was going to be a problem for me to find my way or persevere. But I had an ace in the hole, Wesley, which initially I didn't know was going there. We hadn't compared notes. And so when I met him, then I had my, you know, future best friend there.
And so that made her ease up a bit because she always said as long as we were10:00together we could beat anything.
Ren: Oh, wow.
Linda: Yeah. So when that was happening, that was fine. But she was concerned,especially the first year. They would come up almost every other weekend, you know, to make sure Linda's okay. And they had also helped by putting me in the no visitation dorm. Three floors of the dorm, West AJ, had been converted for women, but no visitation of men. And freshmen, for the most part.
And so that made it nice because that would have been another surprise, youknow, of having things going on in your room or whatnot. You could walk up and down the hall with your bathrobe and whatever and get used to, just like all of the other girls, used to that first year, and so that was another good thing 11:00that of course I complained about. But it worked out very well.
Ren: Well, let's turn to you. Kind of the same first question. If you can juststate your full name and when you were born and where you were born.
Wesley Patterson: Wesley E. Patterson. I was born in 1954 in Newport News,Virginia also.
Ren: What years did you attend Virginia Tech, and what was your major?
Wesley: I attended from 1972 until 1977, graduated in '77 with a bachelor's in architecture.
Ren: Can you just tell me a little bit about your growing up and your earlylife, and a little bit about your family?
Wesley: Well, I grew up in the Newport News, Hampton area. Was the youngest ofthree kids. Had two older sisters. My mother was a stay at home mom until after I started getting ready to go to college. 12:00
And my father worked as a store manager for a small electronic supply company.That was his occupation. His real love, though, was music. He was raised in South Carolina as part of a large family. He didn't get to graduate high school. I think he made it through either sixth or eighth grade and had to go to work in the cotton mills down there. And then he found he could play fiddle, or taught himself to play fiddle and made a career out of that until he got married.
Ren: Oh, wow.
Wesley: And he continued that later on in his life. In his later years, I thinkabout age 45, he started actually trying to make fiddles. Knew some people who could make instruments, and they taught him what they knew, and he learned on his own. I think by the time he passed away he had made about 25 fiddles, three guitars, a mandolin.
Ren: Wow. Did you grow up listening to a lot of--13:00
Wesley: A lot of country music--
Ren: --country music, yeah.
Wesley: --bluegrass music.
Ren: What were some of his favorites?
Wesley: Oh, you would always have to watch the Porter Wagoner Show, and then HeeHaw, not so much for the comedy, but for the music.
Ren: When did you kind of first start thinking about college, and where didVirginia Tech kind of come into the picture?
Wesley: Well, since no one else in my family had ever gone to college, it was, Iwas the first. Neither of my sisters had gone. They were...both went straight into jobs out of high school. And I guess the guidance counselor in high school may have been the person who kind of steered me in that direction. I don't recall specifically when or why. But in high school I had taken one of the electives of shop, where you had equal parts wood shop,
And I seemed to do well in drafting, so I took that as a single elective in the14:00years following, and I guess my instructors encouraged me to pursue that career, too. I came to find out later once you got to Virginia Tech there's a whole lot more to architecture than drafting. They spent very little time teaching you anything about drawing in school. They taught you much more just how to be open-minded about design in general.
Ren: So big question. How did the two of you meet?
Wesley: Well, I'll give you the short version. She can elaborate. We were bothin Newport News High School in the eighth grade, and since her maiden name is Pritchard and I'm Patterson, we were in the same homeroom, grouped alphabetically, so she pegged me then.
Ren: Oh. [Laughs.] And your side.
Linda: Yeah, he was the cutest eighth grade I'd ever seen. Of course I wasn'tgonna go out of my own homeroom, you know. But yeah, I sat in the very back of 15:00the room, PR, he sat in the front, PA, so... And it was a biology room, and right over his head was a giant jar of formaldehyde and in it was this long tapeworm that the teacher's old student had removed--I mean, it was the biggest thing I'd ever seen, and it was up there right over his head.
So perhaps I was just fixated on how amazing that was and just dropped down, Idon't know, but yeah. So I had determined that I thought he was the one. Of course it took nine years to land him, but that's okay. But we had gone to the prom together. But we had not compared notes to know if we were going to the same school, so when we got to the freshman mixer dance, we were astounded to 16:00see each other.
Ren: Oh, wow.
Linda: Yeah. So that was great.
Wesley: Nothing like a friendly face.
Ren: Were there a lot of students from your high school going to Virginia Tech,or was it pretty...were you kind of going there not knowing many people?
Linda: Well, my roommate the first two years was also a friend of mine my senioryear of high school. Senior year of high school for us was a year of busing for integration, and so it was...they bused seniors to different schools for their final year. That didn't add to how people felt about busing and whatever. So you could...you got to know a lot of people that you'd never seen before, and so you 17:00kind of tried to grab friends wherever you could, because maybe some of yours were gone now.
And so I found that one friend, and it turned out she was going, and so wedecided to room together.
Wesley: I don't know of any other people that I really knew in high school thatwere going. Once I got there I did meet a few that were also going.
Ren: But when you saw each other at the dance, it was a bit of a relief?
Linda: Oh, yes.
Wesley: It was. You tend to be a bit overwhelmed when you first get there withthe number of people and...
Ren: Where did you live freshman year?
Wesley: I lived four years in Femoyer Hall.
Ren: Oh, okay, that's right, you said that.
Wesley: The fourth floor. It was a long climb. Eight steps per half flight.
Ren: Oh, man.
Wesley: I know them well. The fifth year they had a lottery then, by then to seewho got rooms, and I did not get in the lottery, so I found a room off campus in a woman's house she rented out to two students. 18:00
Linda: Yeah, for most of the time we were there, if you were undergraduate andunmarried you had to live on campus. And that changed at the very end of our time.
Ren: I guess a question for both of you, and you guys can just take turnsanswering, however you want to answer this, but your first memory of Virginia Tech, either coming in as a freshman or before. Do you remember what the campus felt like, maybe what it smelled like, what it, you know, what you could see, what you remember from that day? It seems like we all can go back and remember the first time we stepped onto our college campus.
Wesley: I guess my first memory would be the visit for summer orientationbefore you actually signed up to register and all that. And they had us stay in, I think it was Eggleston, which was a woman's dorm, but it was a nice dorm. I guess it's kind of middle of the road as far as accommodations go.
And exciting time to go. My parents stayed, I think, in the same dorm. I think19:00that's how they did it back then. The parents stayed in the dorm with you in their own room. And then after that I guess just showing up, registering, getting settled into the dorm room. What I guess struck me more than anything was just the age of the place. You know, you grow up in one city, or I did, and you don't see a lot of old buildings. You get to experience them. They always have a different kind of smell than a new building does.
Linda: I sort of remember that. My parents didn't stay. They went to a motel.That was the first thing that... Dad loved the place and whatever, but he said never am I staying in a dorm and never am I eating the food from the dining hall. He had a vivid memory, and it was not going to come back again.
But I think the first thing that got me was just the sheer size of the20:00place. You know, you come around and then you come around the drill field, and that is such a huge open space if what you're used to is just a yard. And then all of the buildings. And they all kind of look the same with the Hokie stone and all that. And it was just so massive. And then when you left, the town was, you know, tiny.
And so it was a college town, and you kind of felt like the college was aboutthe only thing there. And that was a little strange. And then when we got to the dormitory, again, it was a converted men's dorm, and my room was almost at the end of the corridor. And so uh-huh, we walk in and I see that between the next door and my door there is a floor to ceiling painted finger, spray painted on 21:00the wall, and you go, well, that's different, okay.
And of course Dad wasn't particularly pleased with that. But, you know, you gookay, and you go down the hall and see, you know, the giant shower room, okay, and then a row of urinals on the wall and you go all right, this is gonna be different, but we can do this. All right, you know, like wow, this is really different from your own room, but okay. And so that was sort of amazing. And I think that then going to the dining hall, that was sort of amazing. Things that...at the time you had to go to the dining hall. You couldn't separate room and board.
And you didn't have, you know, a card that you could go and get pizza or22:00whatever else. You had what was there. And so some of the things were good. Fried chicken, ohhh...shew, boy, they could make fried chicken. [Waffle] would last on your lips with the fried chicken that they could make. But fried perch, some of that stuff was awful because it was...
If you've ever had to dissect something and, you know, the fish or whatever, ithas sort of a little curve to it because it's been in the jar of formaldehyde, the perch always had that same curve to it, and it made me kind of wonder how long it had been dead. But yeah, there were some things that were terrible. In fact I think it was our year that they...we insisted that they put a giant container of peanut butter at the end of the line so there would be something 23:00that you thought you could eat. [Laughs.]
Wesley: Always something.
Linda: Oh, boy. And that was strange 'cause they just put it in the refrigeratorafter every meal, so that they... When they first opened it you had this grease at the top and you'd have to try to work that through, so it would be very oily, but then by the bottom the stuff had cracks in it because it was just the leftover stuff, and so you'd have to dig through that, and then sort of melt it onto the bread.
Ren: Oh, wow.
Linda: Yeah. So there were a lot of interesting [things]. And the classrooms,and how many people were in the class. When I took Intro to Psychology it was in Burruss, and so the teacher was up on the stage, and he said I will not be calling roll. And the computer printout, dot matrix, he just threw it and held 24:00onto the end and let it unroll because I think there were something like 380 students in the class.
And so you'd, wow. And oh, the teacher, my first math teacher, he would come tothe doorway, and there was a desk, and he would throw his book from the doorway to the desk. If it stayed on the desk, it was a good day. If it fell off of the other end of the desk, it was a bad day. One day it was half on and half off and he called off class.
So you got to meet a lot of interesting professors that had their owninteresting way of teaching when you were just used to, you know, Grandma teaching you in eighth grade or something. It was very different, very diverse background of people, and teachers, and class content and everything else. 25:00
And you just tried to suck it in or not, 'cause we had some folks that were notgood at doing that in the girls' dorm. I mean, it was too different, too far away from home and they left after the first year. So I was taking it. They weren't gonna beat me.
Greg: Coming into campus in 1972, with what was going on in the world--Vietnam,unrest--how was that? You mentioned the middle finger that was painted on your wall. What was campus life like for you all in that regard, demonstrations, things that you may have seen?
Linda: I think any of our demonstrations were very subdued.
Wesley: I don't recall any at that time.26:00
Linda: There were a little bit, mostly around the police station, which wasclose to McBride, so I spent a lot of my life at that building. But we did have streaking. I don't know if you remember what that was. But you would strip down to nothing and then go somewhere and streak.
And so you'd be, you know, coming back from dinner or from going downtown atnight to get a pizza or something like that, and Pritchard dormitory, the guys would be coming out, and you saw that they had on no pants and no socks, but were all wearing raincoats, a whole, you know, like 25 of them heading down to the drill field, and you go, well, that's worth following. So you turn around and then they streak from one end of the drill field to the other and then get in a car or something.
And you're just going is that really the thing that you want to do in the middle27:00of January in Blacksburg? We did have panty raids. I don't know if they still do that. It could be too gauche. But since we were on the first floor, it was kind of a dangerous place to be 'cause that's where they were standing on, you know, the windows in order to get up to the next thing, and so we had to make sure they were all locked.
And then we were stupid enough to figure, well, if they can do that--so we helda counter jock raid onto East AJ. It didn't work because you guys were coming out of the windows like nothing, and so we got chased back into our building in no time flat. So that...we learned that that wasn't gonna work. But streaking was big. I guess that's how most folks decided to be different than their parents. 28:00
Ren: You have any memories like that?
Wesley: Ooh, I don't have nearly as good of memories as Linda does. Shementioned the class size. That was something I remember. Most of my classes in architecture were all in a laboratory setting, relatively small. Did have one or two lecture classes in...I forget the name of the hall now. It might have been Norris. Very steep auditorium type room.
And then I did have--I tried calculus in McBride. I had a misconception that tobe an architect you needed to be good in math. I found out that wasn't necessarily true. Being good in geometry helps, but not math or calculus. So I made it through one quarter of that, and the second quarter I found it too tough, and that ended my math pursuits. But large classrooms.
Sliding white boards or blackboards. It was all new. No individual attention.29:00
Ren: Within your respective majors, what were some notable professors or maybeadvisors that had an impact on your life during your time at Virginia Tech?
Wesley: Well, I'll go first. I can only remember really one. It might have beenmy last year or next to...or last two years. There was Professor [Gene Egger], who, for some reason, just seemed to click with me, I don't know why. But he seemed more personable than most, took more of an interest, I guess, in what I was doing or how I was approaching things. Architecture was very open into how you could approach any design problem you were given. And he would go with any direction you wanted to choose.
And I think he was the one who may have steered me towards two projects that,30:00while they weren't technically architectural design projects, they were design oriented. Every year there was an annual picnic for the College of Architecture, and he enlisted me to do a poster advertising that, so that gave me a chance to experiment with silk screening and graphic design.
And then the program also had a study abroad program, which I think primarilyfocused on architecture, but other disciplines were allowed to attend also, where they traveled to Europe, certain cities for a few months in the summer. And he also gave me the chance to do the advertisement for that for the Collegiate Times, the student newspapers. It turned out to be a full page ad. Back then there were no computer software programs to do all this, so I did all the text and all that using press-on letters, transfer letters, where you rub each letter individually, one after the other, till you create the whole word 31:00and the paragraph.
And then we were, of course, responsible for getting it to the newspaper, youknow, the time they needed it in a camera ready format. He was a good mentor. I think he was the one that stood out for me.
Linda: I didn't really have a mentor. I think that was one of my issues. Now Ithink Tech makes much more of a point of finding a mentor for you. I was not getting As, let's put it that way, in math. And so I had from back in high school told people, my guidance counselors and teachers, what I wanted to do was work in mission control in Houston for NASA. 32:00
I mean, brought up in Newport News, it's right there beside Hampton, so we hadseen, you know, the Mercury 7 and everything else. We were very intense about NASA because of that. And so I would say that's what I want to do. I want to work my way there and everything else. I had a big plan. And they would always look at you--and remember the time frame now of late '60s, early '70s--and they'd go, well, I suppose you could teach. You should probably learn how to type, and shorthand wouldn't hurt you. And you'd go, thank you. It's nothing against teachers. Teachers are wonderful people. But you had like okay, administrative, teacher, nurse, you know, a couple of things like that, and everyone assumed that was the only thing that you wanted to do or could do. 33:00
And it just made me more frustrated over time because they all, even in college,the professors said, well, you know, you could probably teach after this, you know, in elementary school or something. You can type, right? And you just go, oh! Thank you. Yes. Okay. So I didn't get a lot of help there. But the teachers were such high quality for math, for physics, for anything else, and in the Psychology Department especially, I think, and so the quality of the education you got was worth so much when you got out as far as how it looked on your resume, who you would interview with, and whatnot. 34:00
Virginia Tech, I expect even better now, but at the time it was a very powerfulthing to have on your resume because they knew the depth and the quality. And so I have always thanked them for having such high quality educators, even if they didn't quite understand that people fell outside of a very narrow range sometimes.
Ren: Favorite memories from your time for kind of both of you.
Wesley: Spent a lot of time on Cowgill Hall. While you did have specific labhours when you were expected to be there, most people usually weren't there even during that time, but you'd find them there all hours of the day and night when they didn't have anything else scheduled like other classes.
Enjoyed going to town whenever you could, to the donut shop that was right next35:00to the little theater company. Yeah. I remember my last year that was my breakfast stop just about every morning. Orange juice, blueberry and maybe a glazed. There was a place called Middle Earth which all of my professors warned was a death trap because the kitchen was between you and the front door and there was no back exit.
Ren: Oh, wow.
Wesley: But we ate there anyway. That was fun.
Ren: Where was that located?
Wesley: Somewhere near the main intersection. I think there might have been aGreek restaurant nearby.
Linda: Is there still a theatre sort of at the top of the hill? You had theLyric that was on the way to the top and then there was another theatre that was built.
Greg: It's now an Italian restaurant called [Ceritano's].
Linda: Ah, okay. Between those, you went sort of behind that row of stores andthen went down into Middle Earth. And it was done like it was a big cave in-- 36:00
Wesley: Spray-on foam.
Wesley: Yeah, and a fire trap.
Linda: Yeah, so... It was fun, it was sexy, but dangerous.
Wesley: Oh, yeah. We sat on the floor or on soft pillows. There were no tables.
Ren: Yeah. Oh, wow.
Linda: A lot of atmosphere.
Wesley: The walkway may have been wood planks, kind of like you were walkingthrough a small creek or something. We used to like to go to the Squires snack bar whenever we needed a break. We found that if you would get soft serve ice cream and waffles--
Wesley: Soft service ice cream and French fries and dip the French fries in theice cream, it tasted a whole lot like waffles.
Linda: Yeah. Don't know why, but it did. And...remind me of the question.
Ren: Favorite memories, experiences for you.
Linda: Wesley. I would go to McDonald's or Burger King--they were next to each37:00other--and get a burger or something for him, and then walk to Cowgill, because of course our classes ended at normal time, but those guys worked all night long on what they were doing. And so I'd go over there and bring him something to eat. And of course they let me stay with my boyfriend. And that was nice. And then that was also an eye-opener because of course I was sitting in classrooms that are physics and math, and so you have a tiny table, and you're taking notes, and you're working with numbers. And I went over to Cowgill Hall and their project is to cut corrugated cardboard and make furniture. And you're just going, well, right.
And there are people that are building a second level over the class, over where38:00the classrooms and the tables are, and you wonder where are they getting this stuff. At the time the gymnasium was being completely redone, and so they were going at night and stealing stuff from there and building their second level and their desk up there, and then they would sleep underneath of it.
And so, you know, you're coming up in an elevator and there's people with two byfours and all this other kind of stuff that has Virginia Tech on it that they're finding on the... You know, this is different. This is different than anything else. There were no rules. Nothing...there was no thinking outside of a box. There was no box. And that was really eye-opening.
So then I learned to scavenge for other stuff, 'cause he was going to try to39:00make things out of the weirdest stuff, and work until 1:00 in the morning or whatever. And I never understood how in the world he could go to his regular classes and still be able to do that.
Wesley: There were a lot of people that would spend all night there. I only didthat once, and that was enough for me, working on a project that required getting it done. I suppose another favorite memory would be just how much freedom the curriculum gave you. They encouraged you to, first of all, to get a 35 millimeter camera as soon as you got there 'cause I think they wanted you to learn to see things in different ways. So you spent a lot of time taking pictures of just any subject.
Silk screening was a very popular outlet for a lot of people. I'm not sure what40:00they do today. We did go back a few years ago and they had done the addition underground in front of Cowgill. And I was a little surprised to see that all the desks were uniform level. Kind of, I guess, made it simpler that way. They no longer had so much individuality in the desk setups or building platforms at second levels.
I think they had done that primarily when I was there just due to space. Inorder to have enough room for everyone they had to build a second level. The college usually provided the materials to do it, in some cases. And when we visited all the computers. Had a laptop computer they were working on. And I hope they haven't replaced model building and physically hands-on with--
Ren: Just computers.
Wesley: --computers. 'Cause you learn a lot about materials by actually workingwith them.
Ren: Greg mentioned earlier, when he talked a little bit about the time that youguys were at Virginia Tech, obviously there was a lot going on in our country in 41:00terms of antiwar movements, and Watergate was happening at the same time. You talked a little bit about the streaking and things. But did you ever get caught up or feel like...maybe not safe isn't the correct word that I'm looking for, but did you ever kind of get caught up in kind of the era of that, or felt like you needed to speak out against some of these issues, or did you guys just kind of keep your heads down and work on your studies?
Wesley: I kept my head down. I did not have a TV in my dorm room, didn't have aphone. I very seldom was in the dorm room because most of the time if I wasn't in Cowgill I was in another class or sleeping. Occasionally would watch TV when I'd go over to visit Linda in the lounge or something. So I was just kind of out of current events for me.
Linda: About the same for me. I found that I didn't really have an interest in42:00what was going on 'cause I had the classes to do and, you know, Wesley and I were dating and things, and being away from home, and dealing with things you never had to deal with before. When you were living in a dormitory, I, since I just had a brother, I had never shared a room with anybody. I'd never had a hallway full of all the same kind of thing.
And so, you know, you dealt with my first roommate, who was in pre-vetmedicine. And so you're sitting there doing math at your desk and you go--[sniffs]--what is that? And she's brought in some pig parts. And she had a saddle 'cause she loved to ride horses.
And you bring that in, and you haven't cleaned it, and that has a fine odor to43:00it. And that would sit in the floor. And then she'd be going out. And she loved Jean Nate. I mean, she would just bathe in this stuff. And so the smell of Jean Nate and a sweaty horse was an interesting combo. But, you know, sometimes you had to leave the room because I'm not concentrating on anything here.
And then you'd, you know, you'd sit with your friend from across the hall whowas afraid she was pregnant, you know, because the rules were all gone. You know, you'd help in some folks from down the hall that had had one too many, and so they were kind of dragging around, and make friends that way, but learn to relate to people of your own age and different areas, things like that. 44:00
So there was so much going on for you to get ahead, you didn't want to endangerthat, and so much going on for study. And then with the people that you were now close to and wanted to help or be there for, 'cause they were there for you, too, then, you know, there was really no time to think about what was going on.
Besides, I thought what are we going to make a difference about? Think of thetime then. There was some, you know, going on, but it usually wasn't the high school or college students going on. We had bigger things to wonder about. And also learning to kind of break the rules. My parents had been real strict. Real with a large R.
And so, I mean, you got to campus and the guys in your hallway would flood the45:00hallway. And it was carpeted. And then you'd get the trays from the dining hall--
Ren: And slide.
Linda: --and slide down that thing. And sometimes it got too much and you'd becoming up the end stairway and water would be coming down. So you're going, okay, that was a little different. And so different games that you'd play, or different things going on that you'd just go, well, it's a Friday night, okay. So there were other things that concerned you, at least for us. I don't think anybody else... There were people that smoked pot in the rooms and stuff. And of course in our dorm there was almost always some pregnancy scare, and what would that mean.
And one of those was--[laughs]--we had a date, and Wesley's roommate was an46:00upperclassman, and so he said find me a date. So Wesley called over to my dorm. We just had a pay phone at the end of the hall. That was all that anybody had. And so I just yelled down the hall, "Who wants to date an upperclassman?" And a couple of people came out. And this one person came down, and I turned it over.
And Wesley's roommate was staggered that he had actually done it. Evidently itwas a joke and he didn't know any better. And so we went out to the movies to double date. And after the movie was over, when we turned around they had already left. Nine months later there was a story to be told.
Linda: So she left school. So yeah, that's the...strange times.
Wesley: I was gonna just add being in the dorm that you were in, the upperfloors did have visitation. And after 2:00 p.m., when visitation would end, 47:00sometimes you would hear the sound of someone running down the stairs, and they got to the end and the door would have an alarm on it, and it would go off. And she was right next to the exit door.
Linda: Yes. I was one door down from the exit door. And they had it set so thatthe resident advisor could hear it, and she was up at the big T. And so you would just hold on. And we had the metal, you know, beds. And you would hold on, and the whole thing would vibrate. And then she'd come down and turn it off, and you'd just, okay. And yeah. And then you'd just hear this ta-ta-ta-ta-ta, BAAAAAA!!! Oh. Oh, gosh. And what, I had three roommates?
Linda: And all three of them had nervous breakdowns.
Ren: Oh, gosh.
Linda: Yeah. What, the one I had the first year, the nervous breakdown was at48:00the end of the first year because she had married an older person that her parents didn't like, and it turned out he was already married. And so she was in the hospital for that, and we were stuck with him, and he was somewhat dangerous. A little unstable. So that was fun for final exam week.
Then I had another roommate, and she also moved in with her boyfriend and thenhad a nervous breakdown. And then the third one was not--these are not my fault, especially the third one. It was summer school and I had moved in and saw all of this stuff for her.
And then she came in and she said, "I'm not going to be here this summer. I'mhaving a nervous breakdown," and left. So I had just met her. That wasn't my 49:00fault. But yeah, there was a...it wasn't easy.
Ren: After you both graduated, you came...did you come direct to here?
Linda: Pretty much.
Ren: Okay. And so I did a little research. You were the, from October of 1976 toNovember 1990, flight controller for space shuttle guidance, navigation and control officer, is that correct?
Ren: Okay. And then November 1990 to January 2010 manager international spacestation, mechanics and maintenance, MCC flight control group. That's a mouthful.
Linda: I wasn't the group lead the entire 20 years, but in the mid '90s I, yeah.
Ren: And then when you graduated, 'cause you were in the architecture program,50:00so it was five years, so you came down I guess shortly after that, and then did you go into private kind of practice or...?
Wesley: I sent out resumes to a lot of firms, mainly in the downtown Houstonarea, where most of the bigger firms were. I was unsuccessful getting a job there, but I did find a small firm in the Clear Lake City area, which is kind of where we are. And he was an older gentleman. He had worked on...had been the project architect for a large bank building downtown back in his heyday, mid '50s. So he had been getting a lot of tenant work, tenant build out work, and I got a job with him, and I worked for him for seven years. Learned a lot from him. He was a tough architect, and not many people lasted that long with him. I saw a lot of young architects--
Ren: Come and go.
Wesley: --come and go.
He also got a lot of industrial work in the ship channel area doing small51:00additions for people like [Brahm], [Romenhaus], Shell, some others, so I learned from him, I think, more about how to put a set of drawings together and how to put a building together. He was very technically oriented, not so much lofty design. He let me go when his work flow just got too slow to even have one employee.
And from there I worked for another firm for a couple years and finally settledon one in [Pasadena] which specialized, I guess, mostly in schools. So I never did any private practice on my own. Never sought that kind of work. But I enjoyed working for other architects who knew what they were doing and you could learn something from them.
Ren: So these next set of questions are kind of broad--do you have any?
Ren: I thought you were trying to get my attention, sorry. 52:58If someone justsays Virginia Tech, what's the first thing that you both think of? 52:00
Wesley: I probably think of the campus and the drill field, that area, and thegood times that we had there, both in class and outside of class. It was a pleasant place to be. Blacksburg is a beautiful town. A small, quaint area.
Linda: I'd say home. It was very nice. You felt very safe. There were a lot offolks in your exact same situation growing at the same rate, and so there was so much that you learned living away from home, living in a big campus, having to, you know, be responsible for yourself and all that kind of thing. I had chicken pox my junior year, so I was quarantined for a couple of weeks with that. 53:00
And I found out who my friends were by they would go to class, you know, and getwhat the lessons were and everything and then bring them to me, and I could work on it and then send it back and whatnot. So you had to find ways to handle things yourself, whatever it was. And it was a tremendous growth time. I would hate to have missed any of that. And so with Wesley there and with my father have...went there and a number of other folks afterwards on my side of the family, it was the go-to place, that it really was home.
Ren: When we were talking earlier and you were talking about your mother andyour grandmother and that there were really some strong women and they really 54:00pushed you to say, in a way, that you can do the same thing as men can do, both in terms of career and elsewhere. And so you're actually part of this women in leadership and philanthropy, right, and outstanding Virginia Tech women. So can you talk a little bit about that?
Linda: Well, I am a Virginia Tech woman. I do not officially belong to theorganization. But yes, I'm proud to be that. I was proud when I got to come back while I was still working at NASA to do interviews of graduates, to try to get them in NASA, and then talk to them even if we didn't have the spots to try to get them in with the contractor staff, if they thought they were, you know, would be okay with that and then maybe transfer across.
So I tried to--and then I was in Toastmasters, and so I would try to go around55:00and tell, you know, Girl Scout groups and whatever else, church groups, that this could happen. I mean, especially now. It couldn't have really happened before, 'cause I was one of the first that came in, the incoming class that had diversity, I guess. And to try to tell them also that don't expect it to just happen. I think back at that time maybe it was more assumed that for men, you know, you'd played on teams or something and there was a natural growth towards that. Not so much for us. And so I hadn't played team sports or anything, really.
I had done bowling and archery, but it was, again, wasn't something you were56:00taught to do. But if you really wanted something and you could plan to do it, what is it that they say? Luck favors the prepared. So yes, I lucked into my dream job at the very beginning, but I had taken the hard classes in high school and the advanced placement stuff in high school, and had gone to a university that was topnotch and taken those classes, and I had worked two summers at Langley Field as a summer intern kind of person, and so you had that on your resume.
And so you...it was the right time for females and blacks and whatever to be57:00brought in because there was pressure on, but you had to be at the top of the pile in order for you to have that. And so I think it's very important that people realize you can do whatever you want to, but you've got to think and plan in that direction. You know, don't necessarily think that you're going to work, you know, it's just going to happen or it didn't happen for me. You've got to work the little steps to make yourself the one that gets picked at the time.
Ren: You've established some scholarships. Is that correct?
Linda: Yes. We...I have a scholarship in my father's name, College ofEngineering, and then a scholarship in my mother's name at the College of Science.
And that was something that I did sort of in memory of them, with part of what58:00they had, you know, handed over to me. And we have Virginia Tech in our will, and so there will be other, you know, set up in our names and whatnot at the time. But when we put it in the will, and after a couple years I thought, you know, why am I waiting until that? Praise God that we, it's not for another 40 years or something, you know. You hope to live for a long time.
But it's not benefiting anyone now, and I thought that's kind of shortsighted onme. So I thought that, you know, we'd start up a couple now, and I continue giving to that. And we've done similar things with the Smithsonian and National Geographic so that some of that can benefit, you know, the next generations and 59:00what they want to do.
Because there's so many gifted people out there that just don't have the fundsin order to go to the school and do their dreams. And so I think Virginia Tech alumni are very generous. The College of Science could use a little more, but engineering and all of that, I think alumni really do give back very much so.
Ren: Why do you think that is?
Linda: I don't know. As my mother said, I don't know what they put in thatneedle that they inject that makes you want to come back, because we've done that numerous times, go back and visit in the fall or [some] when you've got the trees turning. It was just such a great experience because you felt like it was just the school.
And then you had a little bit around the school that was, you know, just to60:00support you. When my brother was a University of Virginia, you didn't even...I couldn't even find the school because it was just scattered all around. You know, all of the office buildings and everything, it was almost like an afterthought of where they would stick something. But it's all that they had.
But he...it did not impress him as much because it wasn't just that communalgroup or feeling. There's a feeling that you get from just being on campus in that group that is all shared. And I don't know if it happens at some other small schools or not. But it was home.
Ren: What changes have the both of you seen over time at Virginia Tech in thetimes that you've kind of been back for various things? And obviously the growth of the campus. And what do you think about some of these changes? 61:00
Wesley: I think they're good, generally. They've filled in a lot of open spaceswith [unintelligible].
Wesley: I kind of miss the open spaces, but I'm glad they're not just expandingoutward and outward and making it hard to be a pedestrian campus. I was a little surprised the last time we went back and the bus service is now available to anyone who wants it.
Back in the old days you had to walk, skateboard or bike. And I was always justa walker, so... I like the fact that you could walk anywhere you wanted to go. The furthest we ever ventured out, I guess, would be the local shopping centers would provide a shuttle bus on Saturdays if you wanted to make a run out to the shopping mall to pick up groceries or something.
Linda: They just built a Kroger's.
Linda: I was very glad to see that Tech, I think, has kept up with where the62:00world is going. At the time we thought we had a lot of things to major in, but now that fields are so interrelated with technology, then that has also come into being, so you have, you know, the pre-med in with the software, and you have so many of the combinations, which people didn't really combo at the time. You were just the one thing.
They thought I was insane for doing math and psychology. And psychology was justso much fun. And it turned out psychology may have been more helpful than math in doing the job because they didn't want you there.
You were gonna ruin things for the guys, you know. It was a very guy thing. And63:00so you had to find a way to fit in. A lot of other ladies came in and expected them to change because you were now there. And why would you? I didn't expect it of them. So I didn't want to become them. I didn't see why they should become me. So you had to work the psychology of the middle ground.
I was sitting in my first office, and I had an older gentleman that was facingthe door. I was facing the window. And at the start of the first day they'd come by and you'd just kind of feel, you know, when people are staring at the back of your head.
And they opened... And so you turned around and they'd go, "Is that one of64:00them?" And they guy would say, "Yeah, it's a female engineer." "Well--[sniffs]--yeah, okay. I thought we smelled something." And they'd move on off and stuff. And then they'd come in, you know, and try to rattle you and everything. So at the end of the first couple of days, my roommate, office mate, had these scissors.
Ren: Oh, my God.
Linda: Very long shaft on that thing. What would that be, 14 inches, 12? Anyway,and pointy at the end, massive scissors. And he says, I can tell that you are going to need these more than I will. So he said, put them on the edge of the desk and then figure out. And I said, okay. So from that point on, when they would come in and kind of hang around your place, you know, and sort of ask you about, hey, couldn't that dress be shorter or something like that, you'd just 65:00get the, you know, the scissors out and kind of balance it on your hand and play with it like this.
And they'd start backing off, you know, and you'd just, ahhhhh, yeah, okay. Andso, you know, play the game. And they had pictures up on the wall, centerfolds, what was called a tool calendar where you looked at it and you defied it to find a tool in there. You could certainly find the woman, but the tool? And all of that. And you wanted them to take it down. And they had the women pictures in the spine of the three inch binder stuff. And so you go, okay. So I got a calendar that was called Buns the first year it was out, and it was men's naked butts.
And that appears to be extremely offensive to a segment of the population, all66:00hair and everything, whatever. So I put it up in my room, and I mean to tell you, people could not stand that. And I said if you deface it, it's fair that I do your [other]. Okay. And they go, well. It only took about three months before they all agreed to take down their pictures if I would take down the butts. Okay.
And so there were a number of things that--oh, when I finally had enough of it,we were doing simulations for shuttle. And in the console--you've seen the MCC. And so you quite often will see the people are plugged into the console and you have a thing at your side so that you can talk. 67:00
And you would push up the buttons at the time for who you were talking to orlistening to, because you [could] listen to about 15 different loops, and then you'd be talking to one. And one of my mentors--oh, gee, what a piece of work. He was fun. Anyway, he was one that was part of the...they had a contract out on me to get rid of the women.
And so they would, you know, make you look stupid in a meeting, you know, 'causeyou'd blurt out something that they'd kicked [here] and all of this. And so his thing was he would push--you also had a thing where you could work a foot pedal. So he would hit the foot pedal when I was talking and put it on the flight director loop, and it would go out on the flight director loop.
And they go, can't you learn that it's not on the flight director loop? You're68:00talking to this other per--can't you understand how this works? You will never get this. And he was doing it. And so I finally decided, you know, I have had this. There was no such thing as--
Linda: --as sexual harassment at the time. There was no definition for it. Thiswas just how people were. So I was talking to another guy that was working back there. He had a daughter, so he was on my side. And so I said let me know when he's doing it, switching it off. He said okay. And so I'm back there talking, and I give him a look, he'd go, you know, oh, and everything.
And so he said, he's moving in it now. Okay. And so I said okay. And so hear thefoot switch go down and I said, "Hershel, I told you never to touch me there!" [Laughter.] Right over that flight director loop, and every one of the people stood up and they're looking at him, and he just got white as a sheet. 69:00
He saw his career going completely south, 'cause he was a contractor and therewas no protection for him. And he was--I mean, 'cause he's a supervisor, you know, he's 25 and I'm just... And so he's just, I didn't! But he was the kind of guy that would, you know. He propositioned everybody. And I'm just standing there going, oh, that was pretty good. And they're just...and so they go, we're talking after this, okay?
And I sit down, and he'd turn around again, point at him. And then the bosscomes in. What's going on here? Well, we're gonna be talking after this. Yeah, okay. And so he unplugs the thing, comes back to me and he says, everything's canceled on you. There are no more hits, nothing else. You play hardball, we're done. And from that point on we could be friends.
Linda: And we were. He was a great guy. But you had--70:00
Ren: It took to that point, right.
Linda: You know, there had been something that I had seen at Tech. It was calledwhat you are is what you were when. And it helped explain to, when you're trying to understand people, when they grew up and what was normal for them at the time, and that's why they were how they were.
Ren: They're a product of their generation
Linda: Exactly. And so how you could then reach them by dealing with their normand whatnot. And so this was, I wasn't going to completely change him, he wasn't going to become a feminist, he wasn't going to do any of this kind of stuff, but I needed to make what they call, it was...a critical incident or something like that, that really broke down the barrier that was there and let a new piece of information in.
And so when he saw his job going down the toilet, that was a significant71:00emotional event, a significant emotional event. And so everybody backed off because okay. 'Cause I said if I'm going down, I am taking people with me. But I don't want to go down, so how do you want to work this.
But I also, for the last simulation of the program, I baked a cake in the shapeof a butt. I put it on a big cardboard thing and I had two butt cheeks, did it all in pink, and then I did the icing and did it all with the fishnet stockings and the whole thing and put "the end" on the cake and took it over. The other three women wouldn't even go over with me. They said, that is so grotesque. I said, oh, grow one. Come on, here we go.
And they go over, and they're going, oh yeah, she's one of the guys, look at72:00this! And they had the reporter from on site come over and take a picture. So it has a number, but then they go God, we cannot put this in the roundup that goes around to everything. So we just had the picture with the official number, but they go, oh, you can't do that, it's so [gross]. And they cut a certain piece for the flight director, and I'm just like, it's cake, people, it--
Ren: It's just cake.
Linda: Learn where you can meet them, where they're gonna meet you, andunderstand there's no reason for the entire life to change to your side. And so through all of that, in dealing when I was a...became a manager, you know, what is this group of people? How did they live? How can I help them if they don't understand finance, if they don't understand whatever, if they're going through a bad time in a marriage?
It's...when you're a manager you have more than just, you know, that one thing.73:00
Ren: So I guess kind of the last question is--and it's kind of a big one, sofeel free to answer it however you like--1:14:17what has Virginia Tech kind of meant to the both of you? And I guess I'll start with you.
Wesley: I guess what it gave me in terms of being an independent way to approacha problem or solve something. You were left so much on your own in architecture studies, how you wanted to pursue it, what interested you, it was more or less entirely up to you. If you wanted to learn how to do calligraphy, you could learn how to do calligraphy. If drawing with ink pens was important to you, that's what you did. If you were more interested in the whole aspect of urban planning, you could approach it that way.
So once I got out into the working world, I kind of...I don't think got74:00pigeonholed, but I kind of found my niche in more of the detail oriented aspects of it. So I credit Virginia Tech for giving me the freedom to explore different ways of approaching things and then finding your own way to solve it. There's more than one way to put a building together, but you have to do it in a certain way. And being able to communicate that to the contractors and the owners is...it takes a certain finesse. So I credit Virginia Tech for giving me that opportunity to learn how to do things like that.
Ren: For you?
Linda: So many things. Definitely the quality of education, because we bothlearned having it on the resume was amazing.
I mean, other than going to Harvard or something like that, it rates very much75:00up there, especially at the time. Also made me try to explore what opportunities were. Instead of just, you know, taking the math courses or something, I tried the...what? Physics, the computer science--but you were punching cards. Oh, boy. Whew! Psychology, 'cause I needed to have an elective, and then I found this is the weirdest thing in the world, I want to do this again. And Shakespearian lit and all sorts of things that you just go what in the world is that about? The physics of music and everything else. You could explore.
And you figured when this is over, you'd have to go back to school, maybe. So76:00other people are doing this, why? What is fun about this, or what is not fun about this? And so it was a great time to do a little bit of exploration. And since then, though, you've also found that there's some things that Tech makes you take, or at least for Arts & Sciences. You had to have English, you had to have a foreign language. Kind of soft on the foreign language need.
But the English and grammar, I wish they required the same thing in Texas. Therewas a propulsion officer next to me, and he'd go, "We ain't got no jets flight." And you'd just kind of go, uh, what was that again? We ain't got none. Texas education. No. Still good, but there were a lot of things that Tech gave you as 77:00a basis.
I wish...I wish there were some ways of getting some real life aspects into aclass that you had when you first came in or as you were leaving or something like that about real life. Understanding a contract. I don't mean a huge thing, but a contract for an automobile, for a credit card, for insurance, that sort of thing.
Ren: Buying a house.
Linda: Buying a house, exactly. The rudiments of how to negotiate with somethinglike AT&T, or about a car or something. About the concept of planned parenthood and some safety aspects.
We were fortunate enough that we had both come from homes where our parents were78:00very diligent about teaching us about life. But we found out, especially in that first year, that there were a lot of people that came that maybe this was their first time at college or something like that, or they had come from Appalachia or some other areas, and they really had very little common sense, would you call it that?
That's almost what the class would be, Common Sense 101. Such that...so manypeople that...I mean, I would hire them and they'd start in to work, would not understand about how to make a budget, that they needed to save money, how did you go about like maybe finding a lawyer if you were going through a divorce, things like that.
How you could maybe send them on trips, I mean, that they had earned, but to get79:00them money so that they wouldn't lose their house. That sort of things that you were just astounded that people didn't understand, especially very intelligent people. We had a lot of amazingly intelligent people. I was okay, I was good, but not amazingly intelligent like some of these people are. And as intelligence goes up, it's like common sense, it's an equal thing, matter and energy, you know? And you would just be flabbergasted at how badly they entered real life.
And I have thought it would be so nice, even though it doesn't fall into oneparticular area, but to understand money, to understand a little bit of law, to understand a little bit of nature so that when you get out, you can better 80:00understand how to live your life so that it works in your favor rather than the other.
Ren: Well, I think that's a good place to end. So I will just say thank you allso much for your time, for speaking with us.
Wesley: You're welcome.
Linda: Thank you.
Ren: And on behalf of VT Stories, Linda and Wesley Patterson, thank you so much.Nice meeting you all.
Linda: Nice meeting you.
Ren: Thank you.
Linda: Thank you for coming by.
Wesley: Thanks so much.
Ren: Thank you.
class and major comes from a family of strong females reason for going to Techreason cont. block quote . class and degree . how they met and became best friends . . . funny story about dining hall food block quote streaking story influential professor sound clip block quote . fun story . Linda post grad sound clip block quote sound clip?