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Benjamin Cohen on Blacksburg

i-1ccd17f32808d5b7e2117d6427e3d99c-blacksburg.jpgBlacksburg, says ScienceBlogger Benjamin Cohen in Tuesday’s issue of The Morning News, has a “bucolic town” reputation so entrenched as to almost have become a cliche. Cohen spent 11 years in Blacksburg—long enough to know the area’s natural beauty deeply, and also to know that no town is simple enough to be reduced to a one-word tag. He writes:

I went to Virginia Tech because its application didn’t require an essay. When I graduated, I had no idea why I’d chosen my major (chemical engineering), and I wasn’t even particularly fond of the school itself. But Blacksburg was significant to me. In this way, I have always been critical of an institution that has also come to define me; I placed the natural setting of Blacksburg as one thing, the human institution of Tech as another, as if they were separate, which they are not. So yes, I finally admit it, my adult identity was born there. There’s that. My biography’s tightly intertwined with the town, the valley, the school.

I met my wife there. She had been a freshman in West Ambler Johnston Hall. Three months after graduation, we got married in the chapel on the Drill Field at the center of campus. I played wiffle ball out there all afternoon on my wedding day, getting a slight sunburn in the calm afternoon sun. The sunburn shows in the wedding pictures. The Drill Field is that seemingly fabricated collegiate setting, the only one admissions folks want you to see–frisbees, wiffle ball, rugby, picnics, sunbathers, dogs and tennis balls, kites. It’s also a good place to hold candle-light vigils.

Read the whole essay, “Blacksburg and Biography,” here.

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