Student Body Miscellany
Many nicknames have been applied to students at the university during its first existence. Some of the names were applied to the entire student body; some to specific groups of students. Among the more prominent and memorable nicknames are the following, listed alphabetically:
- Chappies: Applied to athletic teams in the 1890s; derivation unknown.
- Coofer (Koofer) King: A student who has great success with “coofers.” The word “coofer” became a part of Virginia Tech language sometime in the early 1940s. It refers to an old test or problem that has been saved or found and is consulted later, sometimes illicitly, by a student who has not yet taken the test or worked the problem. The term was coined by students at the university’s now defunct Extension branch at Bluefield College who later transferred to Blacksburg, bringing the word with them. The word had its origin in “coffer,” a legitimate synonym for a strongbox. Some students at Bluefield had access to a coffer there that contained files of old tests and problems, and they soon came to refer to the materials themselves as “coffers.” In time, the sound of the word was softened to “coofer,” and still later the spelling was changed to “koofer.” It is often used as a verb in such constructions as “to coofer a problem.”
- Gobblers:Applied to athletic teams from about 1908 to the early 1980s. It first appeared in print in a December 1, 1909, editorial in The Virginia Tech. Although the actual reason for the tag may never be discovered, several sources have been offered. See “Traditions.”
- Highty-Tighties: Applied to members of Band Company. The name came from the first line in a Band Company spirit yell composed by a member in the fall 1919 and used so often that the name was applied to the band itself, primarily after 1933. Though not true, the band long promoted a widely believed legend that a drum major caught a dropped baton on first bounce at a parade in 1921, spurring a spectator to yell, “Highty-Tighty!” (meaning “show off”), thus giving the band its unusual nickname. See “Band Company” under “Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
- HokieBird: The name of the popular Virginia Tech mascot, attired in a costume that resembles a caricature of a gobbler. See “Traditions.”
- Hokies: Applied to all Tech students, athletic teams, and Virginia Tech fans. See “Traditions.”
- Old Lady: Used primarily by cadets in reference to their roommates as far back as the 1880s. The Gray Jacket, a student publication, explained in its December 1888 issue: “The student tries to imagine that his roommate is his better half and calls him his ‘Old Lady’ and his ‘Old Gal.’”
- Rat: Used by upperclass cadets in reference to freshmen as far back as 1876. The nickname was discouraged after 1935 and “mister” was substituted. However, upperclassmen have continued to informally call freshmen cadets “rats.”
- Skipper: A cadet term referring to senior privates as far back as 1912. Also the name given to the cannon cast in the 1960s and fired at football games. See “Traditions.”
- Techmen: Applied to students and athletic teams until the early 1980s, when “Hokies” became popular. Used more frequently after it appeared in the first line of “Tech Triumph”—”Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful”— a fight song composed in 1919 by Wilfred Preston “Pete” Maddux, a member of the class of 1920 and a trombone player in the Highty-Tighties, and Mattie Eppes (Boggs), his neighbor in Blackstone, Virginia. The student body officially adopted the song in December 1919.
- Techs (Polytechnics): Applied to athletic teams after “and Polytechnic Institute” was added to VAMC name in 1896; usage dropped after adoption of “Gobbler” nickname by 1912. Athletes first began pushing for the “Gobbler” nickname to replace “Techs” in 1909.
Through the years, Virginia Tech students and alumni have written many songs. But two of the more famous songs used on campus, Moonlight and VPI and Enter Sandman were written by non-alumni (see below). Among the more prominent songs are the following, listed alphabetically:
- Alma Mater: Ernest T. Sparks, class of 1940, composed the music and L. G. Chase, class of 1941, wrote the words for a student contest held in the spring 1939 by the VPI Richmond Club. The words have appeared in every commencement program since 1954, constituting the closest official adoption of any Alma Mater at the university. R. B. H. Begg, class of 1899, won first prize in a 1914 contest for the best Alma Mater, but it was never adopted. On September 10, 1999, the Virginia Tech Alumni Board of Directors adopted a minor change in the chorus lyrics from “So stand and sing, all hail to thee. V. P., all hail to thee” to “V. T., all hail to thee.”
- Enter Sandman: Written and recorded by the heavy metal band Metallica, Enter Sandman has been played in Lane Stadium since 2000 as the football team enters the field. The tradition of the Marching Virginians and other students jumping up and down during the song started on Dec. 1, 2001, when a Marching Virginians band member started jumping up and down during the song and was joined by his colleagues, establishing a new tradition. The tradition eventually spread to the entrance of the basketball team in Cassell Coliseum.
- Moonlight and VPI: Fred Waring composed the music and Charles Gaynor wrote the lyrics after Sterling B. Donahoe petitioned Waring, taking the famous musician up on his offer to write a school song for any school that requested one. The Fred Waring Glee Club introduced the song on April 17, 1942, on Waring’s NBC radio network show, which was broadcast from New York. The song has been played at every Ring Dance since.
- Tech Triumph: The university’s most popular fight song was composed in 1919 by Wilfred Preston “Pete” Maddux, a member of the class of 1920 and a trombone player in the Highty-Tighties, and Mattie Eppes (Boggs), his neighbor in Blackstone, Va. The student body officially adopted the song in December 1919.
- VPI Victory March: This increasingly popular fight song was written by Charles D. Steinwedel, class of 1943, and was revised in 2000.
Immediately after the General Assembly added “Polytechnic Institute” to the school’s legal name in 1896, Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute was shortened to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and VPI in general usage. Consequently, the old college cheer, “Rip! Rah! Ree! Va! Va! Vee! Virginia, Virginia, A. M. C.,” had to be discarded. A contest was held among the students, and O. M. Stull, class of 1896, received a $5 prize for his new spirit yell, now known as “Old Hokie” and first used in the fall of 1896. (See “Traditions”). Today, the most popular yell is “Let’s Go, Hokies!” generally with one side of the stadium or coliseum chanting “Let’s go” and the other side responding with “Hok-ies!”