There’s a new HokieBird statue on campus, and this one honors a special group of Virginia Tech graduates — the Class of 2020.

In February, several masked construction workers and administrators gathered on campus — at the sidewalk leading from the Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center to the Inn at Virginia Tech and Holtzman Alumni Center — to install the newest HokieBird statue.

The bird, fully funded by the Class of 2020 and designed by 2020 graduates, wears the university’s traditional commencement regalia, including a cap, gown, class ring, and cords. The statue stands as a bittersweet reminder of the disruption of campus life due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, commencement ceremonies for universities across the country, including Virginia Tech, were held virtually, rather than in-person.

Virginia Tech will host a special in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on May 12 at Lane Stadium. Graduates may register for the ceremony beginning the week of April 19.

Also in May, for the Class of 2021, Virginia Tech plans to hold multiple in-person commencement ceremonies along with a universitywide virtual commencement. All planned activities will adhere to public health guidelines.

The concept for the new HokieBird statue, which is the first one to represent Hokie graduates, was born last April. Laura Wedin, associate director for student and young alumni engagement at Virginia Tech, reached out to the Blacksburg Partnership Foundation for help developing the idea. The foundation, which has placed more than 100 HokieBird statues in and around the Blacksburg area, connected Wedin with Heather Gearhart, a local artist from Elliston.

A group of soon-to-be 2020 graduates, headed by Greg Klatt, president of the Class of 2020, provided design direction for the project.

The student-led design team worked with Gearhart to create an authentic representation of the Class of 2020. The completed piece depicts a HokieBird holding a diploma proudly in his claws, wearing a Class of 2020 ring, and it features the class logo emblazoned across his chest. A stole and a senior class gift cord are draped across the bird’s shoulders.

“My favorite part is how the statue displays a typical graduating Hokie, instead of displaying anything that reminds graduates of the sad parts of 2020, like a face mask or a thermometer,” said Taylor Buckner, a 2020 graduate who earned a degree in entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology management, with a minor in professional sales. “I love the design of the Hokie statue and how it demonstrates a traditional graduation ceremony.”

At commencement time last May, Buckner and her family did everything they could to make her graduation special. They decorated their home with balloons and yard signs, served a celebratory brunch, and encouraged out-of-state family members to tune into Virginia Tech’s virtual commencement.

"To me, the statue will serve as the final conclusive feeling I would have gotten walking across the graduation stage,” Buckner said.Nikki Giovanni, a renowned poet, University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, and the namesake of the Class of 2020 ring, commended the graduates in her commencement address last May.

“The Class of 2020 was an incredibly gracious class,” said Giovanni. “It’s no one’s fault what happened to them, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make up for what they lost and make them understand how proud they should be.”

Written by Rosie  Hutchison '21,  an intern  for Virginia Tech University Relations

Share this story