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Manisha: My name is Manisha Sharma, or Mo Sharma, as I often go by, and I'm one of the interns for VT Stories. And I'm just going to ask you to say your name, when you were born, and where you were born.

Clara: Oh, okay. My name is Clara Cox, née Brown, and my birthday is July the 7th, 1943, and I was born in Newport News, Virginia. My folks were from North Carolina, but during World War II my father went to Newport News to work in the shipyard.

Manisha: So your father worked in the shipyard. What did your mother do?

Clara: She looked after my older brother and me.

Manisha: So how was growing up in Newport News like?

Clara: Well, I didn't really grow up there. They moved back to Mount Airy, North Carolina, when I was two. And I remember a little bit about that, but we moved 1:00then from Mount Airy to Pulaski, which is about 30 miles from Blacksburg, when I was four, so I guess I would say I did most of my growing up in Pulaski.

Manisha: What were your school years like early on, high school?

Clara: Well, back in those days--it sounds like two or three centuries ago--we did not have public kindergarten, so when I started to school I started into the first grade at the age of six. And the school was about four or five blocks from where I lived, so I generally walked to and from school. Then they had what they called a middle school, which was sixth and seventh grades, and usually walked to that, too, although it was further.


And then high school back then was eighth grade through twelfth. And they had just added a twelfth grade because before that, at least in Virginia, there were only 11 grades, and so they made up a twelfth grade with the people who flunked and people who moved in from other places, so when I was in the eighth grade we had a very small senior class.

Manisha: When did you first start thinking about college?

Clara: Probably when I was really young. because my parents didn't go to college, and my father really wanted all of his children to go. I have two younger brothers as well. And so, I don't know, I may not even have been ten yet. But I remember my father talking about Tech. Of course back then it was 3:00called VPI, because it was Virginia Polytechnic Institute, was the name.

And I remember that the president was Newman, because he would talk about things he had done. And he took me to a basketball game. And back in those days they played in the War Memorial Gym, and so I got to see a game there. And so I just grew up thinking Tech must be heaven. [Laughs.]

Manisha: Did you get your undergraduate degree here?

Clara: No. I wanted to major in English, and they did not have a major in English. I think they started having one the next year. So I went to Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee my first three years. But before my junior year the man I'm married to now, we were dating, and I only saw him about every five or six weeks because most students didn't have cars back in 4:00those days. And so my senior year I transferred to Radford so I could--he was here at Tech--so I could see him more often. So my undergraduate degree is from Radford. But I did eventually get a degree in English from Tech, a master's.

Manisha: Right. So talk a little bit about that. What was your first memory of Virginia Tech?

Clara: Just my father talking about it. And like I say, my age was probably the single digits. I mean, it was back that far. My older brother did go to Tech. He was in the Highty-Tighties a couple of years, and then he stayed at home and commuted one year and about drove us all nuts because he didn't want us to talk or anything because he was always studying. [Laughs.] He had an interesting 5:00college life. He was on academic deficiency every other quarter. They were on a quarter system then. So he would have to pull his grades up so he could stay in. It was kind of weird.

Manisha: So his experience, did it influence you at all, or was it mostly your early experience?

Clara: My father, I think, was the biggest influence. And of course when I did start working on my master's here I was working here. I had started working for the Virginia Water Resources Research Center as a clerk-typist.

And when the director found out I could write, he had me start working on projects. And I worked on things like best management practices, and marine sanitation devices, what they would do to the water, and wrote, I think, three 6:00bulletins. They called them bulletins. And I also started editing and typesetting other people's work, so I got a lot of experience there.

But there was a woman there who was working on a master's degree, and she was working on a project. I can't remember what it was now. And she left, so they gave me her project to finish. Well, she made about double what I did, and they couldn't pay me like that because I wasn't a master's student or didn't have a master's degree, so I thought that's just not right, I'm going to start. So I found out, went and talked to some people in the English department and found out I could start as a, you know, a part-time student.

The interesting thing was that back in those days the water center was in a house on Main Street, across from where Taco Bell is now, and as a graduate 7:00student my parking permit wouldn't let me park there. [Laughs.] But I couldn't get free parking because I was a student. And I was working part-time, so they didn't consider me a real employee.

Manisha: Oh, my gosh.

Clara: So anyway. So I moved into University Relations as the PR person for the College of Architecture & Urban Studies before I finished my master's degree, and then I finished while I was there in the college. And the interesting thing is that the dean was Charles Steger, who later became president of Virginia Tech.

Manisha: Right. Oh, wow. So being on campus, do you remember thinking about the 8:00five senses, like what it smelled like, what it sort of felt like? Did it have any sort of profound impact when you first kind of stepped foot here?

Clara: Well, I just always loved this place, probably even before I ever saw it. But I can remember--this was after I was in Architecture & Urban Studies--sitting in my office just marveling at the colors that are in the Hokie Stone. And I just think Hokie Stone is beautiful. It's just not gray and black and shades in between. You can really see color in it. Like late in the day it just really would pop. It was beautiful.

Manisha: Yeah, I remember Hokie Stone was one of the first things that really gripped me when I came to visit here for the first time. It's just so notable. You obviously don't see it anywhere else, so it just sticks in your mind like that.


Clara: It's very stately.

Manisha: Yeah. So when you were getting your master's degree, did you have any sort of notable professors through your time here?

Clara: Oh, yeah. Michael Squires. I don't know if he's retired or not, but he was fantastic, just wonderful. I had him for some novels classes, and he was so nice that after I got my degree he let me audit one of his novels classes.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: So I really liked him. And yeah, I had several, but gosh, it's been so long and I'm so old it's hard to remember names now. John [Byers]. I had him for Hawthorne and James, and he was incredible. There was another guy who was really 10:00good. He had been department head. But I'm having a senior moment and I can't remember his name. But I just loved him to death. Yeah, a lot of them were really good.

Manisha: I'm always really curious about what the courses were like back then as well. Did you have any standout favorites?

Clara: Well, I can't remember the professor's name, but I had never read Milton, and I had Milton under this professor, and it was absolutely incredible.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: Just incredible. I loved it.

Manisha: I know there's still a Milton class. I'm always like curious about how it's evolved or changed over time, or if it has a whole lot.

Clara: Well, it depends on the professor, too, because this professor taught the way I--I always preferred to hear the professor lecturing. I wasn't as keen on 11:00hearing my classmates talk about topics. [Laughs.]

Manisha: [Laughs.]

Clara: Because I always thought they may not know much more than I do, so I'd rather hear the professor.

Manisha: From a more educated mind, I guess, someone who has more experience with it.

Clara: Yeah.

Manisha: That makes more sense, yeah. It's funny, they... So I'm sure you probably have heard of this by now, but like the English department, sometimes I think about just the funny courses that we have. We have a Harry Potter course now.

Clara: Oh.

Manisha: Which I took a couple semesters ago. It's just funny to see how it's changed over time. It was a great class, but it's just really interesting.

Clara: Well, back then they let us take one class that was below...let's see, it may have been had to be a senior level class, maybe, but it wasn't one of 12:00the graduate classes. So I took Greek and Roman Mythology, and that really upset them, for some reason, so they said nobody could take that anymore.

Manisha: Oh, my gosh.

Clara: I don't know. I'd never had it, and it really was helpful.

Manisha: Oh, wow, yeah. It's funny the way they do it now, when you have to take sort of your...well, I'm sure it's different between undergraduate and your master's degree, but taking sort of those elective classes that cover different areas. I remember I took an Ancient Mediterranean World class, so it's interesting. But it is nice to have a little bit of variety in that sense, I think.

Clara: Mm-hmm. Of course I could only take one or two classes a quarter--we were on quarters--because I was working.

Manisha: Right. I know you've written and edited a lot of brochures, and 13:00newsletters and magazines, specifically on Virginia Tech, and I see you have like the women leaders of Virginia Tech. How did that sort of become your--

Clara: Bailiwick?

Manisha: Yeah, basically.

Clara: While working at the water center I learned how to put publications together. So the College of Architecture & Urban Studies wanted a newsletter, so I started a newsletter for them, laid it out and everything myself. And the faculty, it was just too, quote, unquote, square for architecture people. And in retrospect, I certainly agree with them. So they wanted someone on the faculty to design it, so someone on the faculty did design it, and it looked a lot 14:00better, especially for an architecture school.

Then when I moved, after I left Architecture, I was still in University Relations. My office was in Burris and I was the manager of Public Service Communications. And part of the job was to start a magazine, a public policy magazine. So I started this magazine called "Virginia Issues & Answers." And I think it's been since I retired it has moved into CPAP, Center for Public Administration & Policy, so they do it now.

Manisha: So what kind of information would you find?

Clara: Well, we would try to come up with topics that were areas the General Assembly would be interested in, issues facing Virginia. And my idea to give it 15:00more credibility was to find people who were experts on the topic, even if they weren't at Tech. So I had authors from other colleges and universities, some from public agencies. And it did rate high on credibility, and I think that was one reason. So my subtle message was Virginia Tech will find the answers for you, even if we have to go elsewhere to get them.

Manisha: So specifically on the history of women, what inspired that for you?

Clara: Oh. Well, I guess because of my work on the magazine. And my boss, who was Larry Hincker, found out that I really liked history, and so he assigned me 16:00to be the editor of Tech's 125th anniversary publication, which is a coffee table book. And what I wrote was just summaries of all the presidential administrations. And I guess because of that, Pat Hyer, who was in the provost's office, asked him if I could work on this women's history because she knew I was working on Tech history. So that's how that happened.

Manisha: I just think it's always nice to have something like that around. And the fact that we can still like look at that now, it's just like a nice reminder, you know?

Clara: Yeah, facts don't change. Of course it needs to be updated. And when I wrote this, I did not know how much President Eggleston had done in getting women here. But they were in summer courses, and they were, you know, I guess 17:00those were extension courses. And a master's student wrote her thesis about that. But that didn't exist when I did this.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: So there's more background that I didn't have, and didn't have time to go into all of that, either.

Manisha: I think it's great. So thinking sort of back during your time at Virginia Tech, did mentorship play some kind of role? Was someone your mentor? Were you someone else's, in a sense?

Clara: There were people I liked to talk with that I considered really good at what they did. One was a woman named Mary [Holloman], and she was an editor. And I really enjoyed talking with her, and it felt like she would help me out any 18:00time I needed it. She's probably the strongest one I can remember right now.

Manisha: So how did you come in contact with her?

Clara: Well, she was in University Relations, too. Because of my publications, I was always having to go to the media building, and her office was in the media building, so that's how I met her. The photographers were there, the editors, the writers, the graphic designers.

Manisha: Just all the different parts of it, I guess.

Clara: Publications people, right. Of course I had no idea at the time that I would wind up being the boss of a lot of them, but... [Laughs.]

Manisha: [Laughs.] So speaking of which, how did that kind of build up?

Clara: How did that happen? After I became Manager of Public Service Communications, I was the only manager in University Relations. There were 19:00several men who were directors, like Director of Broadcast Communications, Director of Extension Communications and all that. So I was rather ambitious, and I decided it would be nice to be a director, so I started asking if I could have more work. I would take on certain offices that did not have a PR person.

Actually, when I was in Architecture & Urban Studies, when they made my job full-time salaried, they said, "You have to do 25% of your work outside the college," but they didn't tell me what to do. So one day I was talking to the director--they called the head of the library the director back in those 20:00days--and I said, would you like a PR person? And he says, well... I said it won't cost you anything. So he said sure. So I did PR for the library, too. So I guess that's how I came up with that idea.

So I took on Student Affairs, Multicultural Affairs, and I kept university libraries. And I thought maybe if I did all of that I would be made a director, but that didn't happen. But finally my boss decided that I should be over "Virginia Tech Magazine," which is the alumni magazine.

And I was still doing the magazine "Virginia Issues & Answers," and he just thought it would be good to put those together. And then he decided he would add oversight of the Visitor Information Center, which one of the directors was 21:00doing, but I guess it--he was a director of publications, and I guess it just interfered with his work. So that's when I first started taking on publications. Well, then one of my colleagues was elected to the General Assembly. And he was the spokesperson. Well, they couldn't have a member of the General Assembly being the spokesperson for Tech, you know, conflict of interest and all.

Manisha: Right.

Clara: So they came up with this job for him. I can't even remember what it was now. So everything had to be reorganized. And so my boss decided I would take over all of publications, and the guy who was over publications, the web had started becoming bigger and bigger, and he was going to be over web communications. So that's how I actually became a director. [Laughs.] Finally, 22:00after all that time.

Manisha: It was worth it.

Clara: It was fun. I had good people, incredible graphic designers, good editors, people who really wanted to see a good product. And we did newsletters, magazines, brochures, and then a few books here and there.

Manisha: It's good to have a good team like that that's passionate about it. I guess that's how you get the best outcome.

Clara: Yeah. I was always amazed at the graphic designers, the ideas they came up with. I just never thought that way and really envied them that talent.

Manisha: So looking into your repertoire, I know you wrote "The Grove: Recipes 23:00and History of Virginia Tech's Presidential Residence," and that book sales support an endowment for the university Employees' Spouse and Dependent Scholarship program.

Clara: Yes.

Manisha: Can you talk a little bit about that?

Clara: Well, before I retired, the president's chief of staff approached me about writing...about editing this book of recipes.

And her thought was that I could start when I retired, because we knew I was retiring then. And that sounded okay to me, but with this great love of history I have, I don't think I mentioned that coffee--yes, I did mention the coffee 24:00table book for the 125th anniversary. So I really love Tech history. And so I proposed--[laughs]--adding a history of The Grove to it.

And when I started working on it, I started finding recipes from first ladies. So I said, well, how about if we have a section of recipes from first ladies as well? And they said okay okay. [Laughs.] It meant more work for me, but it was something I enjoyed. It was a lot of hard work. Janet Steger--Charles Steger was president then and his wife Janet Steger was very helpful. She set up teas for me to meet some former first ladies of the university and other people who had 25:00contributed things that needed to be covered.

Manisha: So I guess that put you in a lot of contact with people you wouldn't have otherwise have gotten to meet.

Clara: I knew who they were, but did not know them well at all. The one that I really enjoyed meeting was Dr. [McComas's] wife. She was just a lovely person. I'm sure she still is.

Manisha: Also in 2006 at the National Federation of Press Women communications contest you won a first place award for university libraries, is that correct, for a four color brochure category?

Clara: I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but I won so many of those awards I honestly can't remember. But I was a member of the Virginia Press--I'm sorry. 26:00We've changed our name to Virginia Professional Communicators now. So anyway, that first one, they would have a state competition. If you won first place in your category in the state, they sent it to the national competition. So some of them won first in the state, some won second. I just... The first one that I ever won a first place in the nation was with "Virginia Issues & Answers." [Laughs.]

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: That was a real thrill. We won awards from some of the higher education organizations for our publications. My unit also did the university's annual report. It was called the President's Report back then. And I don't know if they 27:00even do it anymore. But every year we had to put out this annual report. We also did the university's directory, which was a lot of trouble.

Manisha: Oh, wow. Oh, my gosh.

Clara: But we made lots of money off of it, so that's why we kept doing it, I think. But it was a chore. And I mentioned all those things we did for colleges. It was a lot of work.

Manisha: What were some of your favorite memories from your time at Virginia Tech?

Clara: I think memories always involve other people, of course. And I made some lifelong friends, people that I'm still in touch with, even though I've been retired now for almost eight years, and they're younger. One I walk with once a 28:00week. She's a student advisor, and one year older than my daughter.

One thing that I really, really enjoyed was finding out about Tech's first student to register. Tech didn't know very much at all about him. And his nephew and namesake donated his Bible, the first student's Bible, to the library, so the editor of "Virginia Tech Magazine" said why don't you see what you can find out about him? And I was still in Architecture & Urban Studies then, so I started doing all of this research and just found out as much as I could.

And one of the good memories is that the first student's namesake and nephew and 29:00I became very good friends. He was an elderly man and I just loved him to death. He was so helpful. He would go after his relatives to send me things so that I could put this biography together. He was just wonderful. He would periodically call and say want to go to lunch? And I'd say sure. Sometimes his wife would be with him, sometimes she wouldn't, but he was just wonderful. He lived in Radford. His name was William Addison Caldwell, of course. But he went by Bill. And the first student went by Add.

Manisha: I always love seeing that, the little statue of Addison Caldwell.

Clara: Well, it's supposed to be a statue of him, but it really doesn't look like him.

Manisha: Really?

Clara: I believe the sculptor used a relative, and did not use the photo we have of him.

Manisha: Oh, wow.


Clara: And the idea of the hat, that came, I believe, from a cover on "Virginia Tech Magazine" during the 125th anniversary writing articles and all, and the editor had his son put on this hat, this--looked like a farm hat--and carry a stick, and he was photographed walking through a field. So that's what the statue looks like.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: We don't know that Add Caldwell ever wore a hat like that. [Laughs.]

Manisha: I'm never going to be able to look at it the same way.

Clara: [Laughs.]

Manisha: That's really funny, actually.

Clara: I think I wrote what's engraved there. I did write something about the first student that's in the Caldwell Lounge, which is in GBJ. And I don't know if you know this or not, but these bio markers that are in front of the buildings, they're brass plaques mounted on Hokie Stone pedestals and they give 31:00a real short bio of the person the building's named for.

Manisha: Right.

Clara: Well, I wrote all of those. But it's not finished. I think I wrote around 60, 65, something like that.

Manisha: At least you have your mark, sort of, on Virginia Tech.

Clara: Yeah. [Laughs.] Yes, I told my boss one time, I said, well, I'm not a wealthy person, so I can't contribute something and make my mark, so it'll just have to be another way.

Manisha: Did you have any sort of difficult experiences, and how did they affect you?

Clara: Well, some of them I don't feel like I can talk about because they involve sexual discrimination.

Manisha: Oh, gosh. Just whatever you're comfortable with.

Clara: Yeah, I was trying to... Usually things like that jump out at you. Unfortunately, the part that jumps out is what I can't talk about, or don't feel comfortable talking about. Hm.


I did have a difficult photographer to work with. He was very temperamental and you never knew when he would fly off, or what would set him off. But I managed to work with him okay most of the time, although I sat down and told him one time that if one of my employees had done what he did, they would be out the door. [Laughs.]

[But I didn't even talk to his boss about it. He would leave me these real--I thought they were funny--messages. He would call and if I was not in my office he would say, yeah, I see you're out goofing off again. Or if it was 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, well, I see you haven't gotten into work yet. And I 33:00thought it was funny. So I left him a message like that and he went to his boss, and his boss went to my boss. [Laughs.]

Manisha: Oh, no.

Clara: So I had to go work it out with him. I couldn't believe that he could leave the messages but I couldn't. [Laughs.] But he was a really good photographer.

Manisha: At least there was something to make up for it.

Clara: Yeah, yeah.] --delete!

Manisha: If someone just says the words Virginia Tech, what's the first thing that you think of?

Clara: Oh, gosh. I guess my family. My husband has three degrees from here, my daughter and son-in-law have their masters' from here, and I have my master's from here. And my older brother has an undergraduate degree from here.

Manisha: Do they all, I'm sure, did any of them follow into your English footsteps?

Clara: No. My daughter is a really good writer, but she followed into her 34:00father's footsteps. She's an environmental engineer. He was a civil engineering professor.

Manisha: I like that. I like hearing about sort of the legacies of it going down the line.

Clara: [Laughs.]

Manisha: So I know you're retired now, but are you you still get involved with the campus at all?

Clara: Yes. Right now I'm on the university's History Council that was started last year, this year? [Laughs.] No, I think it was started late last year. We're looking at things that we can do for the 150th anniversary.

Manisha: Right, which is coming up in...?

Clara: '22.


Manisha: Oh, wow. That's faster than you think.

Clara: It is. A lot faster. And the women's 100th is coming up in '06--no, wait. That's not right. What am I doing? I'm looking at the wrong year. Yeah, it's coming up a year before that, one or two years before the university's.

Manisha: Do you know what you have planned so far?

Clara: You mean on the council?

Manisha: Right.

Clara: We haven't nailed it down yet. We meet like every other week. We had an all day retreat. We do know that there are a lot of areas that have been ignored in the past, and there are mistakes that have been made in publications that 36:00need to be corrected.

For example, one of the quote, unquote Bibles of Virginia Tech history is "The First 100 Years." And in that book, the author says that the first black student flunked out. He did not flunk out. He had to live off campus, but he had to be in the corps, and he could not eat on campus. So at the end of his junior year he went to, I think it was, a YMCA event in California, and he was representing Tech, and he just didn't come back.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: And he wouldn't have anything to do with Tech for many, many, many years. And he finally, I think he had a nephew going here and somehow that got things started, and the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs asked me if I would 37:00interview him. But before he would let me interview him--the student's name was Irving Peddrew. They gave him an honorary degree a year or so ago, which he deserved. But he wanted to meet me first before he would decide if I could interview him. So we went down to Hampton and met him and then he said okay. So then we went back and I spent two or three hours interviewing him.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: I really thought a lot of him.

Manisha: I bet you came away with a lot, knowing about him from that.

Clara: Yeah. Yeah. I wrote an article about him for "Virginia Tech Magazine" because they named Peddrew-Yates Hall after him and Charlie Yates. Charlie was the first black graduate. And I also interviewed Charlie after I interviewed Irv. Just really good men. How they put up with things they put up with, you've 38:00got to admire them.

Manisha: Right. It's always, like, something to reflect upon.

Clara: Mm-hmm.

Manisha: When you're thinking about it.

Clara: Well, the interesting thing about Irv is that his father wanted him to join a club he was in that was all black, and he asked his father, he said, well, any whites in it? And his father said no. He said, well, I'm not going to join.

Manisha: Oh, interesting. Yeah. So one of the things that is really prominent in Virginia Tech, something that I think everyone notices, is just how engaged alumni are, or just graduates in general. They become so, I wouldn't say obsessed, but very connected to the university once they graduate. Why do you think that is?

Clara: You know, I've thought about that before, and I can't put my finger on 39:00it. I'm sure there are different reasons for different people. I was always amazed at the intelligence of professors, the things they know. If it's your major it just pulls you in, and you're so appreciative of them sharing this knowledge with you.

So it's hard for me to say because I loved the place before I came here, you know, because of my father. Which reminds me of a story. Let me tell you that one. The last Tech football game he ever went to was when Michael Vick was quarterback, and it was the last regular season game, and when we won that game, 40:00we had a perfect season.

Manisha: Oh, my gosh.

Clara: And then we went to the national championship against Florida State. But that was the last game my father saw.

Manisha: What a way to end it.

Clara: Yeah.

Manisha: Oh, my gosh.

Clara: Yeah. And my brothers were here, too, so it was wonderful. Oh, you asked me about "The Grove." I was trying to remember how long that took. I think I worked on it like a couple of years.

Manisha: Oh, wow. Just compiling everything together?

Clara: Yeah, working on the history. And then the chef at The Grove would give me recipes, and then sometimes when I was looking at them I would find something in the description of what to do, how to put things together, there would be something in there that wasn't in the list of ingredients or vice versa. So we 41:00had to work all that out.

And he would tell me occasionally, "Just calm down, Clara, it'll be okay." [Laughs.] And we were on daytime Channel 10 after that, and they got him to do the cooking segment at the end, and he made these crab cakes. Man, they were incredible. [Laughs.]

Manisha: I think the fact that you can still, like, really think about the crab cakes, like that says a lot about them.

Clara: Oh, yeah. Everybody was...they loved it so much they invited him back, but not me. [Laughs.] All I did was talk about it. I couldn't provide them with any food.

Manisha: People follow their stomachs sometimes.

Clara: Yeah, yeah. But one thing I'm working on now that very often involves 42:00Tech history is the "Smithfield Review." And it's a publication. It's published by the Smithfield-Preston Foundation, which runs historic Smithfield, and the Tech history department just agreed to be a co-publisher, although they've supported it financially for years, I think more than 20 years. And we have articles like the one that will be coming out this spring.

There's an article in there by a former graduate student at Tech about how World War I changed the military tradition at Tech. And strangely enough, it decreased military, led to the demise of the strong military tradition. Because the Army essentially used Tech as a base and the faculty members were told you've got to 43:00teach this and this and this, and the president didn't know if he was in charge or if the military was in charge. He was so upset--that was Eggleston, as a matter of fact--he was so upset with the way they did things, the Army, he resigned.

Manisha: Oh, wow.

Clara: So anyway. So that will be in the upcoming issue.

Manisha: I'm sure lots of people weren't aware of that.

Clara: Yeah. There have been a lot of articles related to Tech. Like a couple of years ago we had one in there by a woman who was also a graduate student. She was working on a master's. The last time I saw her she was working on a Ph.D. 44:00But she wrote an article about Burruss, what made him accept women as full-time students.

Manisha: I'd be curious to learn about that, yeah.

Clara: Yeah, and last year, for the first time, University Library started putting the journal online. So last year's is online, and then we're hoping to get permission signed by people before so that we can put their articles online as well.

Manisha: So thinking about from when you got your master's here and working here throughout the years, and now even during your retirement, what changes have you really seen at Tech, and--

Clara: Ah. [Laughs.]

Manisha: --what do you think of them?

Clara: Wonderful question. The thing that I've most enjoyed has been the acceptance of women in higher positions. When I started working as the PR person 45:00in Architecture & Urban Studies, there were no women in high positions. There had been a woman dean of the college that became human resources, but she had retired, and they replaced her with a man, so there were no women deans, even in the college considered a traditional woman's college, and no women vice presidents, no women provosts.

And I made a comment to an official one time. I said you know, it really looks bad. And he said, well, we had a woman, but she didn't work out. They had had a woman vice president for...I don't know how long she was vice president, not long. And I said, so how many men have you had who didn't work out, but you keep 46:00hiring men. [Laughs.] Anyway.

So the first woman in a high position was Peggy Meszaros, and she was the provost. A very bright woman. I think she did a really good job. She had her problems, though. We didn't have any blacks in high positions. And the first one was Patrick Liverpool, who was hired to be over Outreach and International Affairs. And so I covered that area when I was the manager of Public Service Communications. And ah, he was wonderful. I hated to see him leave.

And then they hired Ben Dixon as Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, and we became good friends. He was wonderful. Finally got Barbara Pendergrass as the first black dean of students. And I think every student who met her considered 47:00her their mother. Everybody loved her. She's on the council too now. She's just fantastic.

But then they finally, they got a woman to be Dean of Architecture & Urban Studies, they got a woman Dean of Agriculture, and then Human Resources. And they've added College of Liberal...Human Resources and what's it called?

My English department was in the College of Arts & Sciences, and then they said oh, that's too big, so they broke part of it off and put it with this other thing, so I guess that one's almost as big as the first one. Liberal Arts & Human Sciences. I thought it would come to me eventually. So it was really 48:00interesting. One day I was over near the plaza beside the library, and the deans were walking through, and at that point the only woman dean was the dean of Architecture & Urban Studies, and I said, hey Pat, you really stand out. [Laughs.]

But we did have a provost, Fred Carlisle, just really worked hard to get women promoted to higher positions, and it's really nice to see a man do something like that. And McComas was interested in promoting all kinds of people. Tech's been a little behind on things like that, like accepting black students, 49:00accepting women, putting women in high positions, putting blacks in high positions. But Tech's getting there. And I think that's been the most exciting change I've seen.

Manisha: So in terms of changes that you'd like to see in the future, does it sort of continue off of that?

Clara: It needs to go further, yes. Yes. We haven't had a woman president yet. University of Virginia has, but we need to get to that point. Yeah, I think... It's hard to imagine having better faculty members, though. Most of the ones I've been exposed to have just been very intelligent, and willing to share their knowledge.

Manisha: When you look across sort of what the state of the university is at 50:00right now, what are some of the things that inspire you? And on the flip side of that, what are some of the things that concern you?

Clara: Hm. Well, I think the fact that the president decided to have this council to look at history and how it should be celebrated is inspiring. It's inspiring to know there are people who want to correct things that in the past just weren't right and to put more focus on some of the things. I didn't know that black students had to live off campus the first several years. That's terrible. But they had to be members of the corps., what concerns me? Well, universities never have enough money. And it 51:00concerns me that the state doesn't pay enough for state students to come here. They decided at one point that they should pay a certain amount. I don't know what the percentage was, but that has come down, down, down.

And also a lot of times think Tech doesn't get the credit it should get, because I'll hear about something on TV and I'll say, well, there was a professor at Tech who was working on that. So that concerns me, that they don't get the credit they deserve in the national arena, international arena. I don't know, sometimes I think Tech might be known better in Europe and Asia than we are in 52:00the United States for the academic part, coursework. Known all over the place for the massacre, unfortunately.

Manisha: But I think, you know, past that, the way students and faculty kind of have made this one of know, the university is ranked as one of the highest universities that people...of people who love their university, which is always, it's always really nice to hear about that.

Clara: Well, the spirit, that's something else that I find inspiring, is the spirit of the place. Of course most of the time when you see that it's at an athletic event. But yeah, there's a lot of spirit, and you see so much orange and maroon on campus. And I understand, from visitors, that they just don't see that other places.

Manisha: Yeah. So thinking about that, what does Virginia Tech mean to you?


Clara: Oh, gosh.

Manisha: I'm getting a little--

Clara: It's just been such a big part of my life. I worked here for...I can't even remember now, about 35 years, and I went to school here. My daughter went to school here, my husband went to school here. I had to work to support us when my husband was getting his master's and Ph.D. degrees. Geez, like I say, I've heard about it since I was a little kid, so it's hard to imagine my life without Virginia Tech in it. I don't know what would have filled that. It was a great place to work and we have great retirement benefits. [Laughs.]

Manisha: Which always helps.

Clara: Yes.

Manisha: What would you like people listening to this or reading about your 54:00story, what would you like them to know about you?

Clara: Gosh. Hm. I think maybe I broke some ground for women. I was the first woman director in University Relations, and it was hard to get to that point. I really had to work hard. And I would like people to know that they know about our first student because of me. [Laughs.]

I actually started calling him Uncle Add. Well, that I think this is a great place, and I hope they will find the same thing out for themselves.

Manisha: So lastly, is there anything that I haven't asked you about that you 55:00thought I would or that you'd like to talk about?

Clara: I can't think of anything. [Laughs.]

Manisha: I know we dove in.

Clara: Of course when you're my age you can't think of much, but...

Manisha: So I just want to say thank you for sitting down with VT Stories and taking the time out to talk with us. We just love hearing all these different perspectives from people that have been involved with the university, especially to the extent that you have been. So one more thing. If you could restate your name and your class of when you got your master's.

Clara: Oh, okay. It's Clara Cox, née Brown, and I got my master's in 1984.

Manisha: Okay. Thank you so much.

Clara: Thank you.