Barbara J. Pendergrass Ed.D. ’87, the first Black dean of students at Virginia Tech, has been named the Class of 2024 class ring namesake, and Brandy Faulkner, the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies, has been named class sponsor.

The ring namesake and sponsor are honorary roles selected by each class. Pendergrass and Faulkner were honored at Ring Premiere on Oct. 5. In March, they will be honored at Ring Dance.

The announcement was revealed to the Class of 2024 at the Sophomore Spring Fest, which was held last spring.

Pendergrass joined the Virginia Tech community in 1979 as a staff counselor while earning her Ed.D. Her focus was on the needs of minority students, and she went on to serve as an assistant to the vice president of student affairs from 1989-95 and as associate dean of students from 1995-98. In 1998, she became the first Black dean of students at Virginia Tech, serving in that role until 2003. She was a major force in the creation of the earliest Cultural and Community Centers at Virginia Tech.

“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Pendergrass as our class ring namesake,” said ring design chair and real estate major Yollande Djossou. “Her care and passion for students during her time at Virginia Tech has made an everlasting impact on the importance of having all student voices be heard. She has paved the way for many underrepresented groups here at Tech, and she has uplifted the student body as one whole Hokie family.”

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2012, Faulkner is an award-winning teacher who has inspired students to exceed their own expectations for learning and personal growth. She has supervised undergraduate research students in the areas of law and judicial policy, and her scholarship has focused on constitutional and administrative law, race and public policy, and critical organization theory.  

“It is truly an honor to have Dr. Faulkner as our class sponsor,” said class president and psychology major Colin Roberts. “An inspiration to many and a trailblazer in her field, Dr. Faulkner truly embodies our [the Class of 2024] motto of Incepto Ne Desistam, ‘May I not shrink from my purpose.’ Not only does she represent the embodiment of intellectual achievement, but represents the ability to truly leave an impact in the lives of others through academia.”

Brandy Faulkner (at left) and Barbara J. Pendergrass (at right) pose with a student at the Sophomore Spring Fest.
Brandy Faulkner (at left) and Barbara J. Pendergrass (at right) pose with a student at the Sophomore Spring Fest.

Beginning with the Class of 1991, the class ring design process has included the recognition of a distinguished Virginia Tech alumnus, alumna, university president, faculty member, or administrator as ring collection namesake.

Recent namesakes include the first Black student admitted to Virginia Tech, Irving Peddrew ’57; former Associate Head Football Coach Bud Foster; Vice President for Alumni Relations Emeritus Buddy Russell ’52; and poet and recently retired University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni.

Officers for each class also chose a university faculty member or administrator to serve as honorary sponsor. Recent sponsors have included Bev Watford, associate dean for equity and engagement and executive director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity; Rosemary Bleiszner, Alumni Distinguished Professor, senior fellow in the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech, and chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee; and Art Keown, Alumni Distinguished Professor in Pamplin College of Business.

Student and Young Alumni Engagement provides sponsorship and advising to Class Programs, which includes the class ring tradition.

Written by Laura Wedin M.F.A.’84