Leading female engineer (1962): Mary V. Berry (mechanical engineering '62) was the first woman registered as a professional engineer in Virginia and the first woman appointed to the State Board of Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Landscape Architects; the first female engineer appointed to serve on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors; the first woman to receive Tech’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award; and the first woman to serve on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Board.
Black student to receive degree (1958): Charlie L. Yates (mechanical engineering '58) was the first black student to receive a degree. After earning a Ph.D., he returned to Tech as an associate professor of mechanical engineering, leaving in 1983. A member of the Board of Visitors, he returned in 1987 as an associate professor of aerospace and ocean engineering, retiring in 2000 as a professor emeritus. Peddrew-Yates Residence Hall was co-named in honor of Yates and Irving L. Peddrew III.
Humanoid robot (2008-10): Born in the College of Engineering's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, CHARLI (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence), was the first untethered, autonomous, full-sized, walking, humanoid robot with four moving limbs and a head built in the United States. A subsequent version went on to dominate the international robot soccer competition, known as RoboCup.
Frances Yancey Smith was ZTA's first Grand Vice-President. She graduated from The State Female Normal School in 1901, receiving one of the first classical diplomas ever conferred by the school. She later received her bachelor of science degree from Columbia University.
Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia (1960) and Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946). The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.