The end of an era: World-renowned poet, Virginia Tech professor retires

Nikki Giovanni is hanging up her hat after 35 years

She says she's ready to take a step back after receiving around 30 honorary degrees and an Emmy nomination

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

“When the opportunity came 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 this is my family,” Giovanni said.

Now, Giovanni is ready to step back after receiving 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 isn’t done writing.

Giovanni’s new children’s book, ”The Library,” is debuting at the Library of Congress this fall.

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

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

“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.

That same work led her to Richmond, where she met the Queen of England.

“When she came 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’ve got to be kidding me’, so that’s how I met Queen Elizabeth II,” Giovanni said.

Giovanni hopes students will not forget her work in the classroom.

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

As she departs from the campus, Giovanni knows she will always have a home at Virginia Tech.

“I felt that I had a family when I came, but I still do.”

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.