Irving Linwood Peddrew III, the first Black student admitted to Virginia Tech, will join Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, for a #VTUnfinished Conversation at noon on Dec. 9.

During Wednesday’s conversation, Peddrew will recount his journey to Virginia Tech and his experience as the first Black student.

The full conversation can be watched below or on the InclusiveVT YouTube channel.

An honor student at his all-Black high school in Hampton, Virginia, Peddrew began his post-secondary education in 1953 as an electrical engineering major and member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. He was the only Black student among Virginia Tech’s 3,322 students that year.

During his three years at Virginia Tech, Peddrew was subject to exclusion and harassment. Prohibited from living on campus and eating in the dining halls, he lived with the Hoge family, a middle-aged Black couple who lived a mile from campus. Peddrew recalled having to “walk to class every day and walk back for lunch and then walk back for my afternoon classes.”

Peddrew studied three years at Virginia Tech before moving to California to join the workforce. He did not complete his degree program at Virginia Tech. In 2016, Peddrew received an honorary degree from Virginia Tech and was recognized at the 2016 spring commencement.  

Peddrew worked several years in the aerospace and fruit industries, at Newport News Shipbuilding, and at Hampton University before his retirement in 1994.

Virginia Tech’s Unfinished Conversations on Race is a virtual series that supports the university’s dedication to promote the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. The series arose from the need to have honest and sincere conversations on race and inclusion. 

Past guests of the #VTUnfinished virtual series have included Whit Babcock, athletic director at Virginia Tech; and Jodie Geddes and Thomas Norman DeWolf, authors of “The Little Book of Racial Healing.” The full series and past segments can be seen on the InclusiveVT YouTube channel.

Peddrew’s story of his experience at Virginia Tech makes it possible to appreciate his impact. #VTUnfinished Conversations provides a venue to ensure these stories are heard.

In 1953, Virginia Tech accepted one Black student. In 2020, Virginia Tech welcomed 571 Black students, constituting 8 percent of the entering class. Read more about the fall 2020 class.


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