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Chris Fordney: Parents become Hokies

Ah, college days.

I had thought they were over.

In fact, I had promised myself after walking out of my last college class that I would never again grace the halls of academia. I just felt that my education had been more than adiquate for my porpoises.

But then I became a Hokie dad.

And that's how I found myself back in a college classroom last week for freshman orientation. I'm not the freshman -- my daughter is -- but I had to learn about my responsibilities as a Virginia Tech parent.

Seems a far cry from the day my parents waved me off to college in an oil-burning Chevy station wagon. I showed up with a suitcase, typewriter and a bottle of white-out.

Today's college student arrives on campus in a U-haul stuffed with all the electronic necessities, including a laptop, iPod, cell phone, microwave, microfridge, hair dryer, alarm clock and all the associated peripherals.

One of the administrators pleaded with us to at least check with roommates about duplicating some of this stuff -- no doubt worried about taking down the grid across Southwest Virginia when all these kids fire up their microwaves and hair dryers at the same time in the morning.

All that gear is on top of expenses for tuition and board, which is why officials at last week's event accorded special sympathy and honor to the couple who were shipping off their sixth kid to college. They even got a present of postcards and stamps so they could keep in touch with their final student -- probably the only way they could afford to do so.

Last week's event lasted two days -- my own freshman orientation was a two-hour picnic with faculty -- and covered, among other things, housing, dining, residence life, health, safety, student conduct, sexual assault awareness, substance abuse awareness, academic success, financial aid, career services, fraternity and sorority life, recreational sports, student legal services and the true meaning of the HokieBird.

It started off with an event that had the aura of a rock concert. We were all herded into a large auditorium with flashy lighting, big video screens for the various officials who spoke to us, and a crew of student orientation leaders dressed in maroon and orange outfits.

These kids were great -- a shouting mass of enthusiasm and school spirit guaranteed to bring even the shyest freshman out of his shell. Among the orientation leaders, some of Tech's best students, were Tavia Cawley of Winchester and Frank Waddell of Mt. Jackson.

I'm an alumnus of James Madison University and encouraged both my kids to go there, but they chose Tech. In my several visits to the campus, I've learned why. I have just never run into a current or former Tech student who hasn't loved their time in Blacksburg.

Kate's incoming class has the highest average G.P.A. ever -- 3.93 -- and includes some bright, motivated kids from the Northern Shenandoah Valley. They should do well.

Tech has steadily advanced in recent years -- the tragic events of April 16, 2007, were mentioned but not dwelt upon -- and is a national leader in a number of categories, including first in undergraduate architecture.

My only warning to students is that Tech is also rated highly for its food, so watch out for that "freshman 15."

Cindy and I got a taste of it with an excellent box lunch.

With a turkey sandwich, of course.

R Contact Chris Fordney at cfordney@nvdaily.com

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