On Wednesday, July 8, brick mason Bob Shupe was at work at Roanoke College when he saw something shiny in the dirt.
Shupe and the maintenance crew were in the process of tearing away the old brick sidewalk to make way for the new. The college has been renovating what was originally the front lawn of three fraternity dorms into a new first year complex for the upcoming school year.
Little did Shupe know that he was about to make a 1979 Virginia Tech graduate in Norfolk very happy. By chance, he found a college ring, still shiny, unscratched, with a signature and a social security number engraved on the inside.
“I just happened to see it in the dirt when we were getting ready to put the sod down,” Shupe said. “I got it home, washed it out, and found the name … We’re big Virginia Tech fans and my daughter is a senior there – and I said, ‘we have to get the Hokie his stuff back.”
Within minutes of Shupe’s wife, Sherri, googling the name “Keith Hawkins,” they found the ring’s rightful owner.
“It was funny, when I answered the phone, I didn’t recognize the name and number,” Keith Hawkins said. Shupe asked him if his name was Keith Hawkins, if he graduated from Tech in 1979, what he majored in, and confirmed the last four digits of his social.
“It was back during the winter of ’79, I was a senior at tech and had come over to a party at Roanoke College. It had been so long, when he called me it was out of the blue. It took me a second to register and I hadn’t been back there since, really, about 30 years,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins was playing football at a Pi Kappa Phi party, and a light snow had started to fall late that night.
“I guess at some point in the evening I must have taken it off. I didn’t have it for that long,” he said. In the morning, there were six to eight inches of snow on the ground, and Hawkins and his friend couldn’t find it. He said he returned a couple of times to look for it, but he soon gave up and had all but forgotten about it.
A brick sidewalk was laid over the dirt where the ring rested in 1988, and it probably hadn’t seen the light of day for 30 years.
“I’m lucky that he found it … Not everybody would’ve gone through the trouble to get a ring back to someone,” Hawkins said. Bob and Sherri Shupe took the ring down to Norfolk that very weekend.
“They are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Hawkins.