The conference is free and open to the public. Please register on this site to attend.
This year’s conference will focus on empowering black men through stories of persistence from several Virginia Tech alumni. Irving Peddrew, the first African-American student to attend Virginia Tech, will give the keynote address.
Peddrew arrived in Blacksburg in 1953 as the first black student to attend any historically, all-white, four-year public institution in the 11 former states of the Confederacy.
“Mr. Peddrew faced a campus and a community that were not ready for him, presenting obstacles to everyday living that would have discouraged anyone else from staying a week, much less three years,” said President Tim Sands in a letter to the campus community in May 2016. “Although he relocated to California before completing his degree, Irving Peddrew’s courage had opened the door for successive generations of black students.”
Because of his efforts as a student at Virginia Tech, Peddrew received an honorary bachelor of science degree at the May 2016 commencement ceremony. It is only the ninth honorary degree awarded by Virginia Tech in the university’s history.
Rev. Virgil Wood, church leader, educator and civil rights activist, will also speak at the event. Wood has served as a church pastor and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. as a member of the National Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In addition, Sands will facilitate a talk between Brian Hemphill, president of Radford University, and Anthony Jenkins, president of West Virginia State University.
Hemphill became president of Radford in 2016. Jenkins earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership from Virginia Tech. He succeeded Hemphill as president of West Virginia State University when Hemphill was appointed president at Radford.
Conference attendees will also hear from Kenneth Cooke, a 1992 accounting graduate who now works as a vice president at Goldman Sachs in New York City. In a recent interview, Cooke said he chose Virginia Tech because he “loved the people and the campus.”
Cooke serves on the advisory board of the Pamplin College of Business’ Department of Accounting and Information Systems and has returned to campus to speak at Pamplin events.
“A university provides you a foundation and learning,” Cooke said in the interview. “If you graduate, there’s no way you didn’t have a great experience, and so you have to make the path a little easier for those who come after you.”
Everette Taylor will also speak at the conference. Taylor will speak about his journey from being homeless to becoming a successful entrepreneur. He has been featured in Forbes, Fortune Inc, and Black Enterprise. Taylor currently serves as the chief marketing officer for Skurt, a mobility company that delivers affordable cars on demand.
Small business vendors and student entrepreneurs will also have displays at the event to showcase their work.