BC Reacts to Tragedy at Virginia Tech

By Chris Shoemaker | April 30, 2007 | RSS

Statement from BC Administration

BC Security Measures

Campus Crisis Communication

Support Services for BC Students

BC Memorial Programs

BC-VT Connections

 

The book of Hebrews in the Bible calls us to persevere in the face of struggle, to "hold unwaveringly to the hope we profess" in Jesus Christ, and to "encourage one another" in the midst of difficulty.

 

In the aftermath of the tragic shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Monday, April 16, 2007, finding hope and encouragement under the circumstances is easier said than done.

 

But, because a tragedy of this magnitude affects not only the Virginia Tech community, but communities nationwide, the offerings of support and encouragement for the Hokienation have been frequent and widespread. And, Bluefield College has been among those to offer sustenance to the VT family.

 

Since the early 1930s, Bluefield College has enjoyed a formal friendship with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI). At that time, while still a two-year college, BC partnered with Virginia Tech to provide undergraduate degrees to engineering students in southwest Virginia. Through an extension arrangement between the two schools, students completed two years of engineering studies in Bluefield before earning their undergraduate degree with two years of additional study in Blacksburg.

 

Today, some 70 years later, Bluefield College has many other formal connections to Virginia Tech, including an articulation agreement with the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) on the VT campus. That agreement offers Bluefield College's biology/pre-medicine graduates automatic admission into medical school at VCOM.

 

But, even informally, Bluefield College students have friends, brothers, and sisters attending Virginia Tech. BC alumni have children who have become Hokies, and Bluefield College graduates and students in the adult degree-completion program are employed at VPI, including Tech Chief of Police Wendell Flinchum.

 

It is because of these affiliations and many others with our sister institution that when the Virginia Tech family was shocked and afraid, the Bluefield College family was stunned and fearful. When VT students cried, BC students cried. When the Tech family sought support, the Bluefield family offered assistance. And, still today, as the Hokienation grieves, so does its higher education partner in southwest Virginia.

 

"We as alumni (of Virginia Tech) grieve for the lost of our fellow Hokies," said Katie Hicks Leary, a VT grad whose mother, Nancy Camper Hicks, attended Bluefield College. "We are in shock with the rest of the world, and it just breaks my heart to see my school in so much pain."

 

On the day following the tragedy at Virginia Tech in which a lone gunman took the lives of 32 students and professors before killing himself, Bluefield College hosted an evening prayer vigil in which students, faculty, staff and friends prayed for the victims, their families, and the Virginia Tech community, and sought their own peace for such an unfathomable event.

 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Virginia Tech community following this tragedy," said Mark Vinson, a 1998 BC grad, whose wife, Mary, a 1999 BC alumna, is a student at VCOM. "Mary was not on campus during the time of the shootings, but my brother, Paul (BC class of 1994), is a police officer for Virginia Tech. He was involved in the security and rescue efforts during the shootings. I am very proud of his efforts, as well as the entire Virginia Tech Campus Police and all of the rescue workers who have put in numerous hours during this ordeal."

 

On Wednesday, April 18, Bluefield College set aside a portion of its convocation program in Harman Chapel to remember the victims. During that time, the students also signed a large greeting card to send, along with flowers, to the memorial service planned in Blacksburg. On Friday, April 20, the BC family participated in the nationwide activity of wearing Virginia Tech school colors and gathered again for a time of prayer, while sporting the orange and maroon.

 

"We acknowledge the impact of the tragic events at Virginia Tech on our campus community," said BC Vice President Elizabeth Gomez in a formal statement to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. "It seems that almost every one of us is connected, directly or indirectly, to one or more people at Virginia Tech, and we are all struggling to understand what has happened. Our hearts and our prayers are with those affected at Virginia Tech, as well as with their families and friends."

 

In the aftermath of the shootings, Bluefield College administrators also communicated often that support services, if needed, were available to BC students. "For members of our own campus community, who may be struggling personally," Dr. Gomez said, "please know that Campus Minister David Taylor is available to offer counseling and support services."

 

That same offer of support and counseling was extended to Virginia Tech and its campus minister. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses were posted on a special response page on the BC web site to encourage students who needed support to seek the college's assistance.

 

"My heart aches for everyone at Virginia Tech," said Bluefield College adult degree-completion student Ellen Ward, who attends classes in Roanoke, but works in Blacksburg at a retirement community where dozens of retired Tech professors now reside. "The burden of trying to keep our children, our elderly, and our organizations safe from such dreadful acts of violence weighs very heavily on me. We will go on and we will learn, but we will never be the same."

 

And, because campus safety also weighs heavily on the minds of BC administrators, the college reminded students, faculty and staff of its Comprehensive Campus Safety and Crisis Management Plan, which is designed to serve as a guiding resource in times of emergency.

 

"While the plan provides detailed guidelines to help administrators react properly and professionally when a crisis occurs, it does not prevent the occurrence of crises on campus," said Chris Shoemaker, BC's director of public relations. "Preventing the occurrence of a crisis is virtually impossible, but our Crisis Management Plan does provide the direction to help limit the damage and control the recovery."

 

In addition, the college posted on its web site, as a reminder to students, phone numbers for Campus Security and additional information about campus safety measures and communication during times of crisis.

 

Interim President Charles Warren, twice an alumnus of Virginia Tech, also has been and continues to be in frequent contact with various friends and colleagues from Blacksburg as they continue to assess needs and plans. Dr. Warren stated that Bluefield College will make itself "available to offer love and support in every feasible way over the next days, weeks and months." He said the school also "stands ready to assist the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) with its response initiatives."

 

"Although it's impossible right now to see how any good can come out of this, we know that God can bring good out of this situation," Dr. Gomez said. "We pray that God will bring forth tremendous good out of tremendous tragedy, because 'we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.'"

 

Statement from Bluefield College Vice President Elizabeth Gomez

On behalf of the administration at Bluefield College, I want to acknowledge the impact of the tragic events at Virginia Tech on our campus community. It seems that almost every one of us is connected, directly or indirectly, to one or more people at Virginia Tech, and we are all struggling to understand what has happened. Our hearts and our prayers are with those affected at Virginia Tech, as well as with their families and friends.

 

For members of our own campus community who may be struggling personally, please know that Campus Minister David Taylor is available to offer counseling and support services. An on-campus prayer vigil has been planned for approximately 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, immediately following a previously planned concert at 7:30 p.m. in Harman Chapel. And, a portion of Wednesday's, April 18 convocation at 10 a.m. in Harman Chapel will be set aside to remember the victims.

 

Although it's impossible right now to see how any good can come out of this, we know that God can bring good out of this situation. Pray with me that God will bring forth tremendous good out of tremendous tragedy, because "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)."

 

Security Measures at Bluefield College

Unfortunately, in today's society there is no guarantee of complete safety -- at home, at work, in church, or at school. But, we can and have taken certain steps at Bluefield College to make our campus is as safe as possible.

 

To begin with, the college has a Comprehensive Campus Safety and Crisis Management Plan designed to serve as a guiding resource to ensure the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff. While the plan provides detailed guidelines to help BC administrators react properly and professionally when a crisis occurs, it does not prevent the occurrence of crises on campus. Preventing the occurrence of a crisis is virtually impossible, but BC's Crisis Management Plan does provide the direction to help limit the damage and control the recovery. The Crisis Management Plan is staffed by a seasoned Crisis Management Team whose members meet regularly to develop, review, and update plans for various crisis scenarios.

 

In addition, the college has a very capable, well-trained and experienced Campus Security staff on duty virtually 24 hours a day, patrolling and monitoring campus facilities. In addition, the BC Campus Security staff works cooperatively with the police force of the Town of Bluefield, Virginia, to maintain a safe environment on campus. In fact, the Bluefield, Virginia Police Department is currently reviewing the college's Crisis Management Plan to offer advice on how to improve its guidelines and our collaboration with their force.

 

Residence halls on the BC campus are equipped with a key card security system, which means those buildings can be accessed by a key card only -- a valuable added security measure for students living on campus.

 

Administrative and academic facilities, including classrooms, are open to the public during the day, but Bluefield College does have the advantage of being a small college campus with fewer buildings and a close-knit community with less students, which limits our vulnerability -- not to mention the fact that the BC campus is compact with only two entrances for vehicular traffic.

 

For additional details about BC's Crisis Management Plan, please e-mail the BC Office of Public Relations or call 276-326-4212. For more information about Campus Security visit the Campus Security portion of BC's web site. To reach a Campus Security Officer, call 304-887-1795, 276-326-4313, 276-326-4206, or 276-326-4232.

 

Campus Crisis Communication

In the event of a crisis or in a situation where quick communication to the entire campus community is required, the college depends on four modes of contact: electronic mail, voice mail, the BC web site, and a person-to-person communications process.

 

Through electronic list-serves, BC can reach the entire student body, faculty and staff nearly instantaneously with broadcast e-mails. All employees on campus can also be reached by phone at the same time through a state-of-the art voice mail system and the use of voice mail messages. Information can also be posted within minutes on the college's web site.

 

The final form of communication falls within the school's Crisis Management Plan, which details a direct process of contact between Crisis Management Team members and includes building-to-building, even room-to-room alerts, if needed, by key administrators, Campus Security, and members of the residence life staff.

 

Support Services Available to BC Students

Bluefield College has counseling services available to students at all times through full-time, on-staff Campus Minister David Taylor and through other staff members in our Office of Student Support Services. Not just during times of crisis, but at any time, Bluefield College students have access to counseling and support services. To contact Campus Minister David Taylor by phone, call 276-326-4257. To contact Student Support Services by phone, call 276-326-4209.

 

Memorial Programs Planned

Bluefield College will host an on-campus prayer vigil at approximately 9 p.m., Tuesday, April 17, immediately following a previously planned concert at 7:30 p.m. in Harman Chapel. And, a portion of Wednesday's, April 18 convocation at 10 a.m. in Harman Chapel will be set aside to remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings.

 

BC-VT Connections

Bluefield College has a longstanding friendship with Virginia Tech, which dates back to the early 1930s when Bluefield was a two-year college and the two schools developed a partnership to provide undergraduate degrees to engineering students. In fact, through an extension arrangement, Virginia Tech Professor Clarence Trent taught the engineering students at BC before the students transferred to VT to complete their undergraduate studies.

 

Today, Bluefield College has many other formal connections, including an articulation agreement with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. But, even informally, Bluefield has students who have transferred from BC to Virginia Tech, BC students have friends, brothers and sisters attending Virginia Tech, BC alumni have children who have become Hokies, and Bluefield College has graduates and students in its adult degree-completion program employed at Virginia Tech, including VT Chief of Police Wendell Flinchum.

 

What other connections do you know about between Bluefield College and Virginia Tech. Can you think of other ways BC and VT are linked and why this tragedy in Blacksburg hits close to home in Bluefield. Share your connections by e-mailing the BC Office of Public Relations.

 

Other BC-VT Connections

• Dr. Charles Warren, current interim president of Bluefield College is an alumnus of Virginia Tech.

• Edwin C. Wade, Jr., a 1942 BC alumnus and son of former BC president Dr. Edwin C. Wade, Sr. was one of the students who studied engineering at Blufield under Professor Clarence Trent before transferring to Virginia Tech to complete his undergraduate degree.

• Katie Hicks Leary, a Virginia Tech alumna, whose mother, Nancy Camper Hicks, attended Bluefield College.

• BC alumna Dee Perkins, a graduate of the college's adult degree-completion program, OMD Group 236, is an employee at Virginia Tech, and while fortunately safe now, she was working the day of the shootings in her office on the third floor of Norris Hall, one of the affected buildings.

• Margaret Newcomb Leonard, a 1955 BC alumna and current member of the BC Board of Trustees, and her husband, Bob, both earned degrees from Virginia Tech. Before retiring, Bob also taught engineering at Tech...in Norris Hall.

• Ellen Ward, an adult student in BC's degree-completion program in Roanoke, Virginia, is the director of risk management for Warm Hearth Village, a retirement community adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus, but "connected" in so many other ways because of the number of retired Tech professors or parents of current VT professors that reside at Warm Hearth.

• Jerry Huffman, 1980 BC graduate, finished his studies at Virginia Tech and now works as a community clinician for the New River Valley Community Services Board just a hundred yards from the VT campus.

• Mary Clements Vinson, a 1999 BC alumna, is currently pursuing a medical degree at Virginia Tech's Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. She and her husband, Mark, a 1998 BC grad who now works for the Durham Bulls, both lived in Blacksburg when Mary began her medical studies and while Mark served as athletic trainer for Bluefield College.

• Paul Vinson, from the BC class of 1994, is a campus police officer for Virginia Tech and was directly involved in the security and rescue efforts during the shootings.

• Donna Hardy Watson, Bluefield College alumna and director of BC's Teacher Education Program, is a 2005 Ph. D. graduate of Virginia Tech; her brother Dennis, niece Kelly, and nephew-in-law Connie are also VT grads; her great nephew Nick Smith, brother of former BC student Heather Smith, is a current engineering student at Tech.

• Jennifer Thorn, secretary for the Teacher Education Program, has many friends at Virginia Tech, including Sabrina Allen, a fiscal coordinator for VT's Graduate School, and Brandy Smith-Scott, a BC graduate from 2001 and a current grad student at Tech.

• Mark Fields, attended Virginia Tech before finishing his degree through BC's adult degree-completion program.

• Mark Helms, a student in BC's adult degree-completion program who will graduate in May, is an operations manager for facilities and director of grounds at Virginia Tech where he is now in charge of bio-hazard clean-up and restoration of facilities.

 

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Media Contact

Chris Shoemaker, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

276.326.4212