Nikki Giovanni, the legendary and world-renowned poet, is retiring from Virginia Tech after 35 years of professorship at the esteemed institution.
Giovanni has stepped down from her throne in the English department, which took effect on Sept. 1, 2022.
“In all fairness, I’m getting old,” Giovanni, 79, told Virgina Tech News. “I hope that I’ve done a good job. I hope that I’ve done at least my fair share.”
The multi-award-winning writer is being celebrated campus-wide and nationwide for using her prodigious gifts and worldwide platform to champion civil rights and women’s equity in America.
“Nikki Giovanni has been an important and deeply valued presence on our campus, giving voice to the spirit of Virginia Tech and helping us celebrate, mourn, learn, heal, and be better,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “Her words will continue to inspire us and touch readers around the world, and while we will miss her regular presence on campus, she will always be a beloved member of our university community.”
Kwame Alexander, now a New York Times bestselling writer and winner of the Newbery Medal, which is given to authors of American children’s literature, treasures his memories as a student in Giovanni’s class.
Giovanni once told Alexander, “Kwame, I can teach you how to write, but I can’t teach you how to be interesting,” he recalled, according to Virginia Tech News. “When I look back, I learned everything. That’s where I got the tools to be able to write.”
Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, currently a professor and chair of the Department of English, said Giovanni is the No. 1 reason she chose to work at Virginia Tech in 2020.
“You don’t find such recognizable poets much anymore across the generations,” said Weaver-Hightower. “Her work in poetry, in diversity, in social justice have made her name a household word and made her a model for aspiring poets, young women, and people of color, as well as others.”
Below is an excerpt from an interview about her friendship with both Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.