University Distinguished Professor and poet Nikki Giovanni has been named the Class of 2020 class ring namesake and Maj. Gen. Randy Fullhart (Ret.), commandant for the Corps of Cadets, has been named the class sponsor.

Selected by each class, the ring namesake and sponsor are honorary roles.

"We are pleased to honor Professor Giovanni as our class ring namesake," said ring design chair Georgia Matthews, of Haymarket, Virginia, a rising junior majoring in marketing management in the Pamplin College of Business. "In meeting her, even with all of her many accomplishments, it's clear that she enjoys working with students."

A renowned poet, Giovanni is being honored for her longtime service and support to the university. As author of more than 30 books and recipient of numerous awards, Giovanni is a visionary ambassador of her craft and of Virginia Tech. A devoted teacher, Giovanni encourages students of all ages to express themselves creatively through writing and appreciates “being around the young people and learning about their lives and challenges.”

She is the first person of color to be recognized as a class ring collection namesake.

Fullhart received his commission in 1979 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. As a command pilot, he has more than 3,500 flying hours in the C-141, KC-135, C-17, F-16, T-38, and T-37 planes and served in a variety of military leadership roles in the Air Force. He retired with the rank major general after 32 years of distinguished service before coming to Virginia Tech. His initiatives have seen the numbers in the corps increase as well as the construction of two new residence halls for cadets.

“Maj. Gen. Fullhart has been a solid supporter of the Corps of Cadets and student life at Virginia Tech,” said class president Greg Klatt, of Manassas, Virginia, a junior majoring in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering. “He has been a champion of our traditions and class ring program since his arrival to campus in 2011. The Class of 2020 is honored to select Gen. Fullhart as our class sponsor."

Beginning with the Class of 1991, the class ring design process has included the recognition of a distinguished Virginia Tech alumnus, alumna, university president, or faculty member or administrator as ring collection namesake. Recent namesakes have included Tom Tillar ’69 for the Class of 2019 and former head football coach Frank Beamer ’69 for the Class of 2018.

Officers for each class also choose a university faculty member or administrator to serve as honorary sponsor. Recent sponsors have included Patty Perillo, vice president for student affairs for Class of 2019, and retired Capt. Vince Houston of Virginia Tech Police Department for the Class of 2018.

Since 1993, Alumni Relations has provided sponsorship and advising to class programs, which includes the class ring tradition.

Written by Laura Wedin