- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

It seems an unlikely site for the worst campus shooting in U.S. history, but that’s exactly what students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University witnessed yesterday.

Nestled in a Blacksburg, Va., valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia Tech was founded as a land-grant institution and is now a nationally ranked research university known for its engineering, agriculture and veterinary programs.

“Nobody even locks their doors in Blacksburg,” said Sarah Saxton, outgoing vice president of the Virginia Tech student body. “It’s a safe town. It’s a safe campus. That’s why things like this are so shocking because it is so uncharacteristic.”

The university was founded in 1872 and is composed of 100 buildings, many built in castlelike architecture, on 2,600 acres.

With more than 26,000 students, the university has the largest full-time student population in the state.

Of the 60 bachelor’s degree programs offered there, engineering is the most popular course of study, with 6,898 students enrolled in the college.

Shootings on the campus yesterday happened in two places, including the building that housed the university’s college of engineering, Norris Hall. Thirty-one persons, including the gunman, died in that building.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the engineering college eighth nationally among public universities with engineering schools. It is one of the five largest schools of engineering in the country, with 14 different engineering departments and 5,500 undergraduate majors.

The first shootings were across campus in West Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory, where a man and a woman were killed. Almost 9,000 students live on campus in residence halls, according to the school’s Web site.

The current freshman class came from 46 states and 35 countries. More than 1,800 of all students are from foreign countries.

The school has offered a Corps of Cadets military training program since its founding. It is voluntary, and the first woman was admitted in 1973. Cadets wear their uniforms to class and train on the school’s drill field in the center of campus.

Virginia Tech’s well-known football team has played in a bowl game for the past 13 years. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was a star player for the Hokies.

Blacksburg, near Roanoke, is located about 160 miles west of Richmond.

• Staff writer Seth McLaughlin in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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