April 16th Memorial Dedication Ceremony: Remarks by Tom Tillar

April 16 Memorial Dedication Ceremony

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tom Tillar

Vice President for Alumni Relations

My name is Tom Tillar, and I serve as Vice President for Alumni Relations.

On the sixth day following April 16th, Dr. Steger asked me to form and chair a committee to recommend how we would memorialize the victims of that tragic day.

Within seven days, I had a very capable and representative committee of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who were eager to participate in this process. And I thank them publicly for their service.

We examined various memorials that have been built around the country to honor those who were part of similar tragic events. In most cases, these took years to plan and construct.

Our committee set about the task of creating a memorial that would be completed in a much shorter period. It was our belief that it would be integral to the healing process for the campus community and larger university family of alumni, friends, and parents of our students.

We were thrilled with the design and timetable that emerged from our meetings through the month of May. Our plan was presented to the president by the 1st of June, and, with his approval, construction began immediately.

The memorial you now see was completed in two months, thanks to the efforts of those who worked virtually seven days a week. It is particularly special for several reasons:

  • It reflects the design elements of the temporary memorial created by our Hokies United students within the first 24 hours of the tragedy.
  • It is in the exact location of the arc of memorial stones they placed, and mirrors the concept of 32 Hokie stones honoring the victims who died.

The smaller temporary stones, originally placed by Hokies United, are positioned today in front of the now permanent engraved stones, all in the order they were placed in during that initial week.

The original stones are in special presentation boxes, and will be transferred to the families or their designated representatives after today's ceremony.

Two stone paths have been constructed to allow viewing of the stones and a memorial flower area at the base of the Reviewing Stand. A row of shrubs provides a backdrop to the stones between the pathways, and ground lighting will illuminate the stones at night.

The new stones weigh 300 lbs. each. A single stone in the center of the memorial honors all the fallen and injured victims of that day. In it are carved seven words that still echo around the world, as they were first proclaimed by professor and poet Nikki Giovanni on April 17th...

"We Will Prevail. We Are Virginia Tech."

This place is special not only for continuing the temporary memorial that has been visited every day and evening following April 16th, but also because it is constructed largely of donated materials and labor in honor of all the victims.

Our special thanks go to the companies that so generously provided labor and materials for this new permanent memorial. We are grateful to all who participated in its inspiration, design, and ultimate construction. I lift up the names of three individuals in particular:

  • Landscape architect Matt Gart, its designer;
  • Wendell Jones from our Grounds staff, who oversaw the construction; and
  • Stone engraver Tudor Lang, who carved the names into each stone with great affection.

The symbolism of this memorial is unique to our university and is representative of Virginia Tech's timeless values, including the manner in which we honor the fallen and injured members of our university family.

To formally dedicate the memorial to the university, I invite to the podium the 15th president of Virginia Tech, who has led us through the healing process these past four months...

President Charles Steger.