1896 was a good year for Virginia Tech. That was the year the Virginia legislature changed the institution's name from Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute. After that, the school was popularly known as VPI. That was also the year the college adopted its motto and seal and the school colors of Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange. Perhaps the most influential change occurred when the school held a contest for a new spirit yell.
The ranking cadet officer that year was O.M. Stull of Lexington, Va. He wrote the winning cheer, “Old Hokie,” and gave us a tradition that lasts to this day.
On March 20, 2009, the Roanoke Valley Hokie Club honored Stull with a memorial stone and plaque placed at Stull’s grave at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington.
Three generations of Stull’s family attended the event, held on a perfect early spring day. Also attending were members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Honor Guard. The cadet presence was important, said Ut Prosim Society member Don Huffman, “because many of us have been cadets and we all marched to this cheer.”
Brian Wilson, president of the Roanoke Valley Hokie Club, which sponsored the memorial, remarked that he used to get lots of questions from people wanting to know about Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. These days, Virginia Tech has made its mark and the questions are less frequent. But one he still gets is, “What is a Hokie?” Stull’s cheer answers that question. “It is my honor to dedicate this memorial to O. M. Stull,” said Wilson at the dedication.
Huffman was the driving force behind the memorial and chaired the committee that made it happen. Huffman, a Lexington native, knew Stull in the 1950’s when both men attended meetings of the Rockbridge County Alumni group. A few years ago, while visiting his parents, also buried in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Huffman noticed Stull’s grave and thought the man who wrote “Old Hokie” needed to be recognized for his contribution to the Hokie Nation.
That recognition is now a reality. The 500-pound Hokie Stone memorial, cut from Virginia Tech’s quarry, sports a bronze plaque recognizing Stull and his cheer.
Committee members Jay Rule, Al Hardy, Wally Newton, and John Rokisky played a critical part in getting the memorial in place. Robert L. Faulkner & Son of Rockbridge County, Va. installed the stone.
The message on the plaque is as follows: All Virginia Tech Hokies are indebted to Oscar M. Stull / Va. A and M College class of 1896 for the creation of our Old Hokie Spirit Cheer, a favorite for over 100 years. / Dedicated 3-20-2009 by Roanoke Valley Hokie Club. Also displayed on the plaque are the "VT" letters and the words to the spirit cheer itself. Hoki! Hoki! Hoki Hy! / Techs! Techs! V.P.I! / Sola-Rex Sola-Rah / Polytech-Vir-gin-i-a! / Rae, Ri, V.P.I.
Written by Amy Ostroth.