Vigil for Virginia Tech, Cornell University, April 19, 2007 - Program and Remarks


Vigil for Virginia Tech, Cornell University, April 19, 2007 - Program and Remarks


From: Thomas W. Bruce []
Sent: Thu 4/19/2007 3:58 PM
Subject: President Skorton, Provost Martin, and Dean Fuchs in Remembrance of the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Dear Friends,

This afternoon witnessed a gathering of the Cornell community in Sage
Chapel to honor the memories of the victims of Monday's tragedy at
Virginia Tech. I would like to share with our entire Cornell family
the program and the remarks of the three speakers: Dean W. Kent Fuchs
of the College of Engineering, President David J. Skorton, and
Provost Carolyn "Biddy" Martin.

A video of the service can be seen on the web at the Cornell
University home page: <>

Tommy Bruce
Vice President for University Communications


A Service of Remembrance and Reflection
for Victims of Virginia Technical Institute and State University Tragedy

Thursday, April 19, 2007
12:30 p.m.
Sage Chapel, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Prior to the service, the chimes of McGraw Tower rang thirty-three
times in memory of each victim of the tragic shootings at Virginia
Tech on Monday, April 16, 2007.

Prelude: Master Tallis&#39;s Testament
Herbery Howells (1892 - 1982)
Professor Annette Richards, University Organist

Welcome and Remembrance
W. Kent Fuchs
The Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering
Father of Eric Fuchs, Virginia Tech, Class of 2008

Music: &#39;In Paradisum&#39; from Requiem
Maurice Durufle (1902 - 1986)
Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus
Directed by Katherine Fitzgibbon

David J. Skorton
President, Cornell University

Music: Panis Angelicus
Rev. Heewon Chun
Chaplain, Korean Church at Cornell University

Carolyn "Biddy" Martin
Provost, Cornell University

A Time of Silence

Postlude: Fantasia in G Minor
J. S. Bach (1685 -1750)
Professor Annette Richards, University Organist

"We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly. We are brave enough
to bend to cry, and sad enough to know we must laugh again."
Nikki Giovanni
Virginia Tech University Distinguished Professor, Poet and Activist


Today the Cornell family joins with the Virginia Tech family in
remembering the many students and faculty that unexpectedly and
violently died this week.

Our grief at this loss is profound because we are a part of the same
family of students, faculty, and staff. Like those at VT, Monday
morning we were in class, taking exams, giving lectures, and sharing
with Virginia Tech students and faculty in the hard work but great
joy of learning and teaching.

Many in the Cornell family have very personal connections to VT.
Some of you have studied, lived, and even have grown up in
Blacksburg. A number of you have degrees from Virginia Tech. Others
of us have colleagues, friends, sisters, brothers, daughters, and
sons now at VT.

My first visit to VT four years ago was with my son, Eric. He was
looking for a good engineering school, but one that wasn&#39;t too close
to his parents at Cornell. On that first visit Eric and I were
immensely impressed by the people of VT and the peaceful beauty of
the campus.

With Eric now studying Engineering at VT, I have come to greatly
appreciate the VT family. The students and faculty care greatly for
each other and have an immense loyalty to their university.

I have also come to appreciate, through my son, what it means to have
a Turkey as your school mascot, to have statues of a Turkey in town,
and to call yourself a Hokie, which my son does with enormous pride.
He loves the campus, his studies, and the people of that university.

The unspeakable tragedy of this Monday morning in Norris Hall and
West Ambler Johnston Hall is particularly difficult to comprehend,
because of its scale, because of its stark contrast to the peaceful
beauty of VT&#39;s campus, and the love and care demonstrated by VT&#39;s
students and faculty. The tragedy is also an enormous contrast to
the common mission that we share in the joy of learning and teaching.

It will take many years before we will be able to see how the good
resulting from this tragedy could possibly be greater than the pain
of this week. Although I have not experienced the depth of loss now
present at VT, I do pray that I will become a better person because
of this week. I pray that I will value more greatly the enormous
privilege of being at a university with students, staff, and
colleagues. I pray that I will more dearly love the students, staff
and faculty on this campus and will work more diligently to serve

I will close by reading a few words from my colleague, the Virignia
Tech Engineering Dean, Richard Benson. I have been in his office on
the 3rd floor of Norris Hall, the floor above where most of the
deaths occurred. I was at a meeting with Dean Benson Monday morning
in another city when he received the urgent message about the first
shootings. Here is a part of what Dean Benson wrote to his
Engineering students and faculty:

"My heart aches for the lives of the students lost. These bright
young men and women were in the prime of life, planning for rich,
fulfilling futures. They came to Virginia Tech to acquire an
education; an education that would forever change their lives...

"The murdered faculty members had devoted their lives to scholarship
and education. They so beautifully embodied Virginia Tech&#39;s motto of
Ut Prosim - that I may serve.

"Virginia Tech is a noble place. It is a nobility born of our great
Land Grant tradition, a nobility born of a place of learning. Young
women and men - many of modest beginnings - come here to learn. We
ask that they work hard - and they do

"While our loss is huge and our grief unbearable, the nobility of
this great community of scholars is undiminished. Those of us that
survive, and those that will come after will continue to dedicate
themselves to teaching and learning. And we will never forget the
friends that we lost. As long as there is a Virginia Tech they will
be remembered. They are more than friends. They are family."

We are here as members of the Cornell family. But this week we are
also members of the VT family. This week it is an honor and a
privilege join with those at VT and to call ourselves Hokies.


We Are One

We are one; one community, one people, one planet.

We are here today to affirm that one-ness and to draw strength from
each other, to find peace in each other, to care for each other and
to share our love.

We are one.

We are here to bear witness to the passing of the 33 members of our
family at Virginia Tech University who have met an untimely and
terrible fate.

We are here for all of those who are gone, for all 33.

We are here for the 32 who have passed from the immediate to another
place, not by their own choice.

We are also here for the 1 who has also passed.

We are one.

We are here to join arms and hearts with the families, friends and
colleagues of all of these individuals.

We are here to join with our friends in the Korean and Korean-
American communities for we are all one family, most especially today
we share the same sorrow and the same need for comfort and reassurance.

We are one.

We are here to recognize that there are many issues to discuss, many
plans to be made, many disagreements to be settled, causes to be
sought, remedies to be conceived -- but not today, not now. Now, we
are here to comfort and be comforted, to remember.

We are one.

We are here to seek meaning, to make sense out of the senseless, to
somehow find a way to move forward.

We are here to find courage, to find a way to still believe in
tomorrow, a tomorrow without fear, a tomorrow that still has endless

We are here to affirm the importance of openness on our campuses, the
openness that permits us to be together in this way, in this place,
at this time.

We are one.

We are together today to look both backward and forward, to look both
within and without, to look at the person next to us and at
ourselves, to find our bearings, our place.

We will stay together, we will go forward together, we will never
forget our loss.

We are one.


On Monday morning I was in my native Virginia at my mother&#39;s home
when word began to break of the shootings at Virginia Tech. On the
local Roanoke news, there were anchors who were graduates of Virginia
Tech, and we received the news from people who knew and loved the
campus. One of the many things that struck me in the coverage that
day was the dignity of the students who were approached for
interviews--their humility, their respect, their unwillingness to
offer superficial commentary, and their resistance to easy analysis
and the assigning of blame. In their responses to questions, they
made a plea, sometimes implicitly, other times directly. What did
they ask of the journalists and, also, of us? That we not reduce
their university or their experience of it to this horror, this
unspeakable tragedy, that Virginia Tech not be defined only by that
spectacular phrase that we have heard so often since Monday-"the
biggest massacre in U.S. history." In their efforts to defend
against this stain, the students kept open a space of thought and

The media rushes, understandably, to cover the event, and the events
become spectacle, compounding the effects of depersonalization as
journalists and the public press for immediate and abbreviated
responses and analyses. How extraordinary, under those
circumstances, were the efforts of the students and alumni to express
their love of Virginia Tech, of one another, to hold open the gap
between their experience of the place and the violence and death that
were coming to define it. They had been robbed of friends, of
classmates, and of teachers; they had had the taken-for-granted
safety of the dorm room and the classroom shattered. They have lost
for now a sense of safety in the thrilling openness of university
campus. They did not want, in addition, to be robbed of their
experience of the place or their attachment to it; did not want their
murdered friends, classmates and teachers to be remembered only for
the horrifying way in which their lives were taken. Just as the
names and stories of the victims began to give a human scale and
texture to an otherwise surreally traumatic and depersonalizing
event, so, too, the students&#39; reserve and their claims to the
totality of their experience and attachment began to restore to them
all that they have learned and loved at Virginia Tech. In their
expressions of pride, they fight to have life and attachment prevail
over the isolation, illness, and rage that appear to have been major
factors in this horror.

It is not difficult for Cornellians to answer the students&#39; call, to
attach to Virginia Tech, out of compassion, and with a capacious
understanding of what Virginia Tech is and what it represents. Like
Cornell, it was founded in the 1870s as a land grant university, and
it is beloved throughout the state of Virginia for its remarkable
contributions for over a century and a quarter to the state, the
nation, and the rest of the world. It is nestled among some of the
most beautiful and gentlest mountains in the Appalachians, and even
in this cold Virginia April, has already displayed wild profusions of
yellow forsythia and daffodils (or jonquils, as my mother would say),
pink and white dogwood, and the beginnings of that splash of color
that only azaleas can produce in the turn toward Spring.

It is a university with a great faculty and great students, proud, in
particular, of its Agriculture and Life Sciences, its engineering,
and creative writing, the liberal arts, and its outreach and
extension, proud, too, of its legendary athletics teams. It is
beloved, as I have said, not only by students, faculty, staff and
alumni, but by the entire state of Virginia, even those who choose
the University of Virginia in the great rivalry between Virginia Tech
Hokies and Virginia Cavaliers that is one of Virginia&#39;s great
sports. This week, everyone is a Hokie fan. Already on Monday and
then on Tuesday and Wednesday, counties all over Virginia were
covered with Hokie colors, Virginians having donned Virginia Tech
sweatshirts and hats, some spontaneously, some at the urging of the
churches that were holding vigils.

At the convocation in Blacksburg on Tuesday, poet Nikki Giovanni used
her poetic genius to invoke, indeed, to activate a healing sense of
community and of perspective, linking the tragic deaths and injuries
at Virginia Tech to other tragedies in other parts of the world, and
emphasizing that none of them was deserved, also repeating, as
incantation, the words: "We are Virginia Tech," the emphasis on the
word "are," signaling the fact of being, of continuity, and a
commitment to life and to community. "We will prevail," she said,
but not by moving on, not by denying our shock or the many dimensions
of grief. We will prevail, she seemed to be saying, by going
straight through the effects of horror, together.

Here at Cornell let us remember what unites us in our shared
humanity, our shared vulnerability, our capacity, indeed, our
responsibility to attach to others, especially the most isolated.
Let us also risk even, and today, especially, a certain hokiness.
May life and attachment prevail over isolation, social deaths,
physical death, and violence, everywhere.

Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance of Monday&#39;s


Thomas W. Bruce, W. Kent Fuchs, David J. Skorton, Carolyn "Biddy" Martin




Brent Jesiek




Thomas W. Bruce, W. Kent Fuchs, David J. Skorton, Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, “Vigil for Virginia Tech, Cornell University, April 19, 2007 - Program and Remarks,” The April 16 Archive, accessed September 28, 2023,