World-famous poet, Virginia Tech professor, retires

BLACKSBURG, Va. – World-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni is retiring after 35 years as a Virginia Tech professor, the only job she’s ever known.

“When the opportunity arose to come here, it was a job,” Giovanni said. “And I really didn’t know what to do with a job.”

35 years later, Giovanni said she didn’t want to spend her time anywhere else.

“People ask, ‘Why are you at Virginia Tech?’ But that’s my family,” Giovanni said.

Now Giovanni is ready to step down after earning 30 honorary degrees and a Grammy nomination.

“It was good to retire before I got fired,” Giovanni joked.

The world-renowned poet and activist may be retiring from Virginia Tech, but she’s not done writing yet.

Giovanni’s new children’s book, The Library, will be presented at the Library of Congress this fall.

“Somewhere the clock is ticking, and I thought if I don’t get some of the stuff I want to write, then the clock will stop ticking,” Giovanni said.


The Virginia Tech icon is also remembered for her writing after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

“What do you want to say about this tragedy? Well, you want to remind us who we are and we are Virginia Tech,” Giovanni said.

The same work took her to Richmond, where she met the Queen of England.

“When she got to Richmond, she asked her people to call Virginia Tech and ask me if I would be willing to meet her, and I said, ‘You’re kidding,’ so I met Queen Elizabeth II,” Giovanni said.

Giovanni hopes that the students will not forget their work in the classroom.

“Some didn’t like me, and I know that, but I think they’ll agree that I created a safe space for you to create whatever you wanted to create,” Giovanni said. “And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here at Virginia Tech.”

As she leaves campus, Giovanni knows she will always have a home at Virginia Tech.

“I felt like I had family when I came here, but I still do.”

Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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