As a relatively new employee at Virginia Tech, I’ve been learning about the university by working occasionally on records in the University Archives. Currently, I am working on memorabilia and documents regarding the Ring Design Committee and the annual Ring Dance. You may already be aware of the tradition of the Virginia Tech class rings, but if not, then let me share what I’ve learned from our materials!
Each class at Virginia Tech designs their own class ring, rather than having one school ring for multiple classes. The tradition began in 1911, when the classes of 1911 through 1914 designed the first class rings at Virginia Tech. Each class since then designs and premieres their rings in the fall of their Junior year. A committee of class officers and student body appointees works with the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and a vendor to design a ring unique for that class but with traditional elements, such as eagles, the American flag, campus buildings, and a chain symbolizing class unity surrounding the school name and stone. Each ring collection since 1991 is named in honor of a distinguished alum or important associate of the university. (On a related note, the Class of 2011’s class gift to the university is a statue of a class ring merging the designs from the 1911 and 2011 class rings, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the tradition.)
In addition to ring proposals and committee planning documents, the University Archives has many wax molds like in the picture above and ring brochures, exemplified below.
One of the ring brochures discusses a a new tradition started in 2012 by alums of the Class of 1964. The Hokie Gold Legacy Program allows alumni to donate or bequeath their class rings to be either displayed or melted down for reuse in new class rings. The Class of 2014 received the first class rings made with the donations. This is a really neat initiative to bring together the past, present, and future students at Virginia Tech and to promote sustainability through reuse.
Another part of the Virginia Tech class ring tradition started in 1934. Each class holds a Ring Dance in the spring of the Junior year to symbolize the transition from junior to senior. At the dance, each student wears their date’s ring on a ribbon of one of the class colors. The Corps of Cadets form the shape of the class year and perform a sabre arch. Then, couples exchange their rings, during the song “Moonlight and VPI”, written by Fred Waring and Charles Gaynor for Virginia Tech. Over 30 years ago, one company of the Corps of Cadets released a small pig onto the dance floor after the ring exchange as a prank, and the Virginia Tech Swine Club continues the tradition to this today! At the end of the night, attendees go to the Drillfield to watch fireworks, hear the playing of “Silver Taps”, and witness the firing of the Corps cannon, Skipper. The students also receive gifts with the class logo and ring dance theme, such as t-shirts, drink glasses, and koozies.
The University Archives receives some memorabilia as well as invitations and tickets to the Ring Dance and Ring Week:
If you want to see some of the class rings, check out the Virginia Tech Alumni Association’s website. Also, visit the History of Virginia Tech (2010) website to learn more about university traditions.