There were numerous engaging events during Homecoming and Family Weekend Oct. 14-16, 2016.
Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill, wife of Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, served as keynote speaker during the Women of Radford Luncheon.
Thirty alumnae from the Class of 1966 visited the Governor Tyler House to celebrate their Golden Reunion.
President Hemphill meets alumni across the Commonwealth and beyond.
Luncheon honors alumni who have made an impact in their professions, community and their alma mater.
The "accidental" young-adult-fiction writing career of Kiera Cass '03.
A head-turning campus display of donor support.
Radford University Sigma Phi Epsilon alumni and current brothers participated in a day of service in memory of John Signorello ’89.
For three decades, Bill Carroll '86 has given to his community and alma mater.
Brian Korte '00 is an artist. His medium is Lego.
Sherrie Austin '98 is owner-operator of Austin ImageWorks, a still photography and video production company.
An alumna creates a teaching tool to help educate thousands of nurses nationwide.
Sophie Monica stopped at the campus fountain to pose for pictures with family members.
The freshman from Manassas was in the middle of giving a tour of the Radford University campus to her parents and grandparents on the sunny and warm October morning.
“I wanted to show them where I’m staying, what’s going on and what I do on a daily basis,” Monica said. “I think that’s important for my family to know since I’m living so far away.”
Monica’s grandparents traveled a long way to see their granddaughter’s new college home.
“We’ve been looking forward to seeing where Sophie is, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful place,” said Monica’s grandmother Marilyn McWhorter, who lives in Missouri. “It’s so impressive. I’ve never seen a campus like this, and we’ve been on a lot of campuses. Sophie fell in love with Radford right away, and you can see why. Who would not want to go here?”
There were numerous events available to engage former and current students and their families with the Radford University community. This year, visitors experienced the vast changes around campus and explored the new facilities and offerings while sharing in memories of the past.
Alumna Laura Geisen ’86 walked around campus with her daughter, Bridget, a freshman, and marveled at how the campus has expanded. “It’s grown, but Radford is still Radford,” Laura Geisen said. “When Bridget first came for a visit, she loved it. She said the vibe here is so nice."
Earlier that morning, members of Radford’s class of 1966 met for breakfast in Peters Hall. Good friends Nancy Dyer Manning and Sandy Lindner Curtis, who came all the way from her home in
Washington state, shared memories of their time at Radford, including the time they became “blood sisters” in biology class.
“We’ve always been good friends,” Manning said. “We went to high school together and we came to Radford together. It’s nice to see each other and so many good friends.”
Pals Ed Zimmerman ’85 and Mike Mathes ’86 sat outside on the patio of the new College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences building. The two had a full day of plans that included seeing “old” friends — “very old,” Mathes joked — and going to the lacrosse alumni game that afternoon. Both were impressed with the direction Radford University is taking toward its future.
“Radford has come a long way and it looks like it’s going to continue to grow and become a great institution,” said Zimmerman, who serves on the College of Business and Economics Advisory Council. “It always has been. It’s just getting better.”
Saturday’s festivities began early in the morning, when President Brian O. Hemphill hosted parents and families for Conversation with the President. Hemphill provided updates about the university, which was followed by a question-and-answer session.
The president then dashed off to compete in the 5K Fun Run by the New River at Bisset Park.
Other activities over the three days included a ribbon-cutting for the new Center for the Sciences, the 31st Annual Appalachian Folk Arts Festival on the Heth Lawn, Women of Radford luncheon, the National Pan-Hellenic Council StompFest Step Show and planetarium shows. There were lectures and various open houses and building tours, too.
Sarah Sosa, a senior anthropology major from Norfolk, took her mother, Heidi Wilson, around the new Center for the Sciences building. “I wanted her to see the new CSAT (College of Science and Technology) building. I wanted her to see where we spend most of our time,” Sosa said.
“Hours and hours and hours,” joked Sosa’s friend and fellow anthropology major, Dakota Townsend of Richmond.
“Yeah, we live here,” Sosa said. “And I wanted my mom to see the labs and see what I do and get a better understanding of what I do.”
Wilson was impressed.
“Sarah is passionate about anthropology,” said Wilson, standing outside the newly opened Museum of the Earth Sciences. “I’ve seen her grow in the past two and half years, and the depth of knowledge these students are learning and the experiences they are having, really has impressed me. I’m really blown away by this program.”
Later in the day on Saturday, alumni, students and friends gathered at Moffett Lawn. On one end of the large field was a spirited lacrosse game being played by alumni and the Radford University club team. Fraternity and sorority members put on a spectacular halftime show as they raced homemade chariots across the playing field.
On the other end of the lawn were groups of red and white tents where music blared and people gathered for conversations, to play corn hole and learn more about the happenings at Radford University.
As Duran Duran blasted over the speakers, Allison Marentette ’84, of Herndon, and Angela Underhill ’86, of Virginia Beach, walked by the tents on their way to “watch the guys” play lacrosse, Marentette said. “It’s such a beautiful day to be back here,” Marentette added.
The two look forward to coming back to campus for Homecoming every year because “It’s always great to be back home,” Underhill said. “Radford always feels like home to me.”
Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill stressed importance of education and community service during Homecoming’s Women of Radford Luncheon.
Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill, wife of Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, served as keynote speaker during the Women of Radford Luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Her remarks expressed her passion for education and making a difference in the local community.
“I am proud to have discovered that Radford University has a rich tradition of service and engagement with the community,” said Hemphill. She said that those in higher education have a responsibility to provide opportunities for students to become involved in the community.
“Our goal here at Radford should be for us to continue to challenge our students to be informed and actively engaged citizens. In looking around, our students here have a multitude of opportunities to make meaning of their actions and their motivations while connected to local/national/global community issues,” said Hemphill.
Many Radford University alumni carry their passion for civic engagement throughout their lives. Ten years ago, Gail Henshaw ’82 and her husband Ken Henshaw ’82 founded the Richmond chapter of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. The foundation encourages and supports Richmond inner-city students to complete high school and attend college.
During the luncheon, Henshaw and her friends Patricia DeLoatche ’82 and Denise White ’83 reminisced about their service and leadership roles while at Radford. “I was super, super shy,” said White. “Pattie came along and talked me into getting involved. She said ‘You should do this!,’” said White about the time DeLoatche encouraged her to be the representative for Pocahontas Hall in the Inter-residence Hall Council. The next year, White became a Resident Assistant (RA) and served in that capacity for two years.
All three friends were members of the Student Government Association while Radford students. “Gail’s husband Kenny was very persuasive in recruiting us to be involved. He was the president of SGA,” said DeLoatche.
The passion for community service begins at Radford University and alumni continue to make a difference across Virginia and beyond.
“We are honored to have you in our home tonight, to hear your amazing stories and find out just what Radford University means to you,” said President Brian O. Hemphill as he welcomed 30 alumnae from the Class of 1966 to the Governor Tyler House to celebrate their Golden Reunion. The dinner, which was hosted by President Hemphill and his wife, Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill, on Saturday, Oct. 15, featured over 60 guests, including alumnae who have previously celebrated the 50-year milestone, as well as alumnae who have not been back to campus since their graduation.
“There have certainly been some big changes,” said Sandra Curtis ’66 about the campus she was seeing for the first time in 50 years. “The changes are good to see, except they did build over our ‘passion pit.’”
The ‘passion pit,’ as it was known to the students of the then all-female institution, was a stretch of lawn that featured benches and shade trees that served as a favorite romantic rendezvous point for the ladies and their male suitors.
Dating — or more specifically, the rules surrounding — was a hot topic of discussion during the dinner, as Nancy Dyer Manning ’66 was able to find some of the ‘yellow slips,’ or date cards, that students were required to fill out if they wished for some time with members of the opposite sex.
“I even had to fill one out for my now husband,” Manning says. “It is funny to think that there is probably a box full of these slips somewhere on campus right now.”
Some of the questions the women were required to answer about their prospective beaus included where they met, how long they’ve known each other, and whether or not he has “called” at their home. There was also a references section, just in case there were further questions regarding the qualifications of a potential suitor.
Manning was also able to find her 1963-64 rulebook, which spelled out to students their required classroom and social attire, pet restrictions and — most notoriously — where they were allowed to walk.
“No student was ever allowed to walk on the grass,” said Manning, reciting the much-maligned decree. “In fact, at least one member of our class was ‘campused’ because she was caught walking on the grass between classes.”
To be ‘campused’ meant that a student was not allowed to leave the campus for a set amount of days.
While much of the evening’s discussion centered on their days attending the former Radford College, the alumnae were very complimentary of today’s campus and its students.
“I am so impressed with how polite and friendly the students are,” said Carol Sealock ’66. “My husband and I were attempting to find the new Center for the Sciences building and a few students noticed we were a bit turned around and came right over and led us to the building.”
Sealock and her former roommate, Alda Draper ’66, also managed to find their old room in Moffett Hall.
“It has changed so much, but it was still good to see,” said Draper. “It is just so nice to be here.”
Following dinner, President Hemphill joined Laura Turk ’87, M.S. ’90, executive director of Alumni Relations, and Melissa Wohlstein, vice president of University Advancement, in officially inducting the Class of 1966. Each alumna was awarded a medal in honor of her alma mater.
“I now give you permission to wear pants, walk on the grass and speak your mind,” Turk said after officially inducting the class. “But please, stay out of the ‘passion pit.’”
Throughout July, August and September, President Brian O. Hemphill traveled across the state and region discussing his key initiatives for the university’s future. He made stops in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Roanoke, New River Valley and Southwest Virginia, as well as Chapel Hill and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta to meet as many alumni as possible and outline his goals for Radford University’s future.
“I’m very impressed. As soon as I walked in the room I felt a good vibe,” said Demetree Wiley ’15, who attended the Northern Virginia President Hemphill Alumni Tour event in Reston, Virginia. “He’s only been in the office a short time, and I’m so impressed in the amount of studying he has done about Radford University.”
Close to 200 alumni from the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. area spent the evening at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va., on July 13, 2016.
Kim Taylor-Wilson ’88, M.S. ’92 is a member of the Radford University Alumni Association Board, and her son Brandon is attending Radford. “President Hemphill has an awesome vision for the University and how he is going to take it to the next level. Hands down, it is the best university in the state of Virginia,” said Wilson.
President Hemphill said he will be engaging alumni, students, faculty and staff in transforming Radford University into an innovative, premier university. “We are always going to focus on excellence in everything we do,” said President Hemphill.
He discussed telling the Radford University story with our many voices. He challenged alumni in attendance to tell others about their experiences at Radford University. “We have to engage alumni, your foundation boards, the businesses you’re connected to. We desperately need you to reconnect. We want to touch base with as many people as possible to excite them about Radford University,” said President Hemphill.
Glenwood Morgan ’02, M.S. ’06 said that President Hemphill’s ideas on increasing student success hit home. “I liked his ideas about increasing the retention rate. I struggled at Radford and almost got caught up in the statistic. I was lucky and connected with the right people. But I’ve been there and know what it’s like,” said Morgan, who earned two degrees from Radford University’s College of Education and Human Development.
President Hemphill discussed other topics, such as academic excellence and research, philanthropic support, strategic enrollment growth and economic development and community partnerships. After his presentation, he opened the floor to questions from alumni.
When President Hemphill took questions in Virginia Beach, alumna Kaitlin Haddock ’11, a former Radford University Student Government Association member and resident assistant, asked President Hemphill about the affordability of a Radford University degree. “I promise you,” said President Hemphill, “that we are going to be very intentional about costs.” He said that Radford University is rated one of the most efficient institutions in the Commonwealth and will continue to be as it moves forward.
“I’m excited that he’s facing the issue head-on and working to find solutions to continue to make the University affordable for students. I want to be able to send my kids to Radford and to be able to afford to do it,” said Haddock.
President Hemphill said that the 72,000 strong Highlander family all across the Commonwealth and beyond has a key role in moving the institution forward. He said alumni will be important in providing students with internship and employment opportunities, offering financial support and telling their stories about the opportunities and success at Radford University to their colleagues, friends and family.
“He can’t do it himself,” says Mike Wilkerson ’87 of Richmond. “He has to rely on us — the alumni and his team to make it happen. Let’s put it in action.”
“Thank you all for volunteering to help Radford University,” said Kevin Rogers ’87, president of the Radford University Alumni Association, in his introduction to the Alumni Volunteer Leadership Business Lunch and Awards Ceremony. “I’ve never been so motivated to volunteer as I am today with President Hemphill at the helm,” Rogers continued.
The luncheon, which was held Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 in Kyle Hall, honored those alumni who have made an impact in their professions, community and their alma mater. The event — which hosted over 80 alumni, family and friends of Radford University — also helped to kick off Radford University’s Homecoming Weekend 2016.
Shirley Williams Walton ’60 received the day’s first honor, the Outstanding Service Award, for her contributions to furthering the mission of the University, as well as her support to her community and to Radford University. “Radford means the world to me, and I will always give back to her,” said Walton, who has dedicated her life and career to teaching and cooperative extension efforts throughout Southwest and Southside Virginia.
Walton, who has referred numerous students to Radford University, was also able to encourage her granddaughter, Hannah Gullickson ’16, to follow her example.
“I was able to relive my dreams when Hannah came to Radford,” Walton added.
“Philanthropy to my husband and I is simply paying it forward,” said Nancy Artis ’73, who was the recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Philanthropist Award. The award, which recognizes generosity and civic responsibility as demonstrated by significant financial contributions to charitable organizations, was given to Artis because of her support of Radford University as well as other institutions and community projects throughout Virginia and Colorado.
“Without the generous support of donors like all of you,” Artis continued, “I would not have been able to attend Radford University. That is what inspired me to become what I call an ‘active donor.’ I find a need and I fill it. I challenge every person in this room to do the same.”
Stephan Cassaday ’76 received the Outstanding Alumnus Award, which recognizes a graduate who has made remarkable contributions to society through their profession. Cassaday, who entered Radford University with the first class of men admitted to the University, founded Cassaday and Company, an independent wealth management firmthat manages $1.8 billion in assets. Cassaday and Company has been recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work” by Washington Business Journal, Washingtonian Magazine, Pensions and Investments, and Virginia Business Magazine.
This past year, Barron’s Magazine recognized Cassaday as the “No. 1 Advisor in Virginia” and as one of the top 100 financial advisors in the nation.
“Life is what you choose to make of it, and I learned that lesson here,” said Matt Crisp ’04 via his brother-in-law, Radford University student and Marine veteran Brandon Snead, who was accepting the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award on his behalf. The award is given to an alumnus 35-or-under who has made significant career achievements and has been actively involved in Radford University programs or civic and volunteer activities.
Crisp, as a finance student, left his mark as the founder of the Student Managed Investment Portfolio Organization, which today manages more than $1 million in investments. Today, Crisp serves as co-founder of Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company focused on improving photosynthesis in crops. Crisp was a member of both the Radford University Board of Visitors and the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors, and he served on the Presidential Search Committee that selected President Brian O. Hemphill.
“I believe the possibilities are endless to the students and alumni of Radford University,” said Angela Joyner, executive director of Career Services at Radford University, who served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker.
“Everything you do at Radford matters — from the first day to the last day,” Joyner said while laying out her vision of what Career Services can help achieve. “My ambition is to create a center that fosters career and talent development. I want to begin that process as early as when students begin their application process — and the journey will not end when they graduate.
“It is a bold plan, but our students deserve nothing less. And the world deserves nothing less.”
“I love my work — I love writing for young adults. My characters are precious to me, as are my readers,” says Kiera Cass ’03, four-time #1 New York Times and international bestselling author. Last May Cass, best known for her young adult romance series “The Selection,” celebrated the release of her fifth and final novel in the series, “The Crown.”
The novels, published by HarperCollins imprint HarperTeen, are “like a cross between ‘The Bachelor’ television series and ‘The Hunger Games’ book series,” according to Cass.
First published in 2012, “The Selection” follows the story of protagonist America Singer, a 17-year-old girl living in a dystopian society whose citizens are broken into eight different castes. Singer is chosen to participate in the Selection, a competition where 35 girls attempt to win the affections — and ultimately the hand — of a prince.
Publisher’s Weekly called the book “fun,” saying that Cass “deftly builds chemistry” between the two leads, while also creating “an easy heroine to root for.” The Roanoke Times says that novel is “real in a way that some [Young Adult] authors never touch. The series is a great read, and once you pick it up, it’s very hard to put down.”
“The Selection” reportedly sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide and spawned four sequels and five companion novellas; its rights were also optioned by the CW television network. The CW filmed consecutive pilots in 2012 and 2013, but ultimately neither was picked up for a full-series run. Warner Bros. announced that it had purchased the film rights to the novel in April of 2015.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Cass never aspired to become an author. She never even planned to attend Radford University.
“This is an accidental career,” Cass says.
Originally a musical theater major at Coastal Carolina University, Cass ended up at Radford University purely by chance. “I met a group of people from Radford University while I was at a camp,” Cass explains. “And I loved them so much. So I decided to transfer.”
Cass changed plans again during her first semester at Radford University.
“I originally majored in communications after my transfer, but it wasn’t for me,” Cass says. “So I changed my major to history, which ultimately ended up influencing my writing today. My work as a history major allowed me to gain experience in research, which I now utilize when creating characters and stories.”
As a history major, Cass was introduced to a variety of different personalities. “One of my professors, Dr. Gingrich, insisted that we call him ‘Lord Gingrich,’” Cass says with a laugh. “The staff as a whole was very eclectic — I was never bored.
“And it was great because everyone was so passionate about what they were doing.”
As Cass would show during her time as a resident assistant, the professors were not the only ones passionate about their jobs.
“I loved it,” Cass says. “It gave me great practice in meeting different people’s needs. I enjoyed being a helper and a guide for other students.”
After graduation, Cass married and started life as a stay-at-home mom. It was during this time that she started reading heavily.
“What was popular at the time were the ‘Twilight’ books,” Cass explains. “So that’s what I began reading.”
Ultimately, though, a national tragedy ended up changing Cass’ life forever.
“I started writing as a form of therapy in order to help deal with the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech,” explains Cass. “My husband worked on campus when the incident occurred. We both ended up losing people we knew.
“After the shooting, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Around the time of the one-year anniversary of the event, I decided to give all of my issues to a character in a story. Once I did that, I then began to write as a habit. It was shortly after that I came up with the idea for ‘The Selection’ novel,” Cass says.
“All that I have done has sprung from one of the worst days in my life,” she continues. “I believe that good things have to spring from the bad.”
After completing the novel, Cass began the painstaking process of shopping it around to different publishers. “I sent out over 80 query letters to potential publishers,” Cass says. “But none were interested, so I self-published my first book. Thankfully, the readers found it and enjoyed it.
“In fact, the readers enjoyed it so much that, by the time my second book came about, I was able to choose who my publisher would be.”
Navigating a career she never planned on having has not always been easy for Cass. Because of this, she is quick to offer advice to prospective writers.
“Develop thick skin and get it quickly,” Cass says. “Rejection is part of the deal.”
Her best advice, however, is advice that she makes sure to follow every day.
“Daydream often,” Cass says. “I even schedule it into my day.”
Along with a dusting of shoe-imprinted snow, rows of empty chairs blanketed Heth Lawn for a brief spell this past winter.
For weeks, the installation sparked the curiosity of students as they journeyed back and forth across campus. After all, chairs belong in warm classrooms, not exposed to the blustery Southwest Virginia winds.
The artistic display, titled “I Am Here,” was created by staff of the Student Organization of Radford Alumni Development (SoRAD) to show the impact scholarships make in the lives of thousands of Radford University students.
Last year, generous supporters donated close to $950,000 toward Radford University Foundation scholarships. Each empty chair in the temporary installation, which was dismantled in March, represented a student who may not have had the opportunity to receive a Radford University education without one of those scholarships.
Crystal Hubbard ’00, MBA ’08, assistant director of University Advancement, helped envision and eventually set up the powerful display.
“The initiative is meant to jar the consciousness of students and visitors to campus about the importance of philanthropy and why and how some of Radford’s students are still ‘here,’” Hubbard explained.
Although not “still here” at Radford University, alumna Giancarla Rojas Mendoza ’16 is benefiting from the scholarships that will allow her to travel back to her birthplace with newfound knowledge and skills.
Mendoza, a native of Bolivia, graduated this spring with a degree in international economics. The first in her family to attend college, she aspires to return home to make a difference in her country’s economic stabilization. She is also considering a career in politics.
Mendoza shared her moving story with SoRAD, which was highlighted in the “I Am Here” installation. Her testimony was attached to one of the empty chairs.
It read, “My scholarships allowed me to continue my education and follow my dreams.”
On Arpil 2, 2016, Radford University Sigma Phi Epsilon alumni and current brothers converged on the Signorello farm in Leesburg to participate in a day of service in memory of John Signorello ’89.
“Only one guy from the current Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Radford University knew John, but that doesn’t matter. He was a brother,” said Devin Jones, current president of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Four years ago, Signorello passed away from a heart attack. In his professional life, he is known for having been a technological innovator. In his personal life, he was a family man — a father of four who married the love of his life, Carolyn Weisskopf Signorello ’89, in 2001.
Signorello also had a passion for lacrosse. He came to Radford University on a full scholarship to play. Before he passed, he served as the assistant lacrosse coach at Tuscarora High School.
In 2009, Signorello and his wife Carolyn purchased 280 acres of land for which they shared a vision. The couple saw it as their little slice of heaven and were excited for the opportunity to make it their own. Today, John’s four children, who share his passion for lacrosse, often play the sport in a small field on the family’s farm.
“He got to telling me about this place,” said Mark Angelus ’91 of the land Signorello had purchased.
“He had just gotten it and he was so excited about it. I couldn’t wait to come out here and see it. Unfortunately, though, he passed away and I never got my chance. That’s why I am out here today — doing my part to help make his dream come true.”
Every November since his passing, a group of alumni and John’s friends have cut wood for Carolyn to ensure that the family has enough to last them through the winter months.
This year, that fall tradition of helping the Signorello family has transformed into a full-on springtime day of service in an effort to make Signorello’s vision for the farm a reality.
“It was always their dream to establish this beautiful farm where he could run lacrosse camps and grow his family,” said Scott Arthur ’91. “The unfortunate thing was that he passed before he could really see it come to life.”
The overall goal of the 2016 day of service was to address some of the immediate needs on the farm. “We basically had Carolyn make a ‘honey do’ list. A bunch of us came out and looked around to figure out what was possible to get done in a day,” said Arthur.
A few of the jobs were to gravel the driveway, repaint the barns, clean out the pool and repair the fences. “I was blown away that no one felt discouraged at the magnitude of the tasks before them,” said Carolyn. “They all worked tirelessly into the night.”
Radford University Sigma Phi Epsilon raised $7,000 to provide food for the volunteers, fund the project supplies and support the Radford University Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter and alumni in the Brother by the Wayside account. This account was created to come to people’s rescue whenever brothers are in need.
“We look out for our own,” said Arthur.
The commitment, love and brotherhood on the Signorello farm that Saturday was unforgettable.
“These current [Radford University] Sig Eps all uniting together around a singular set of life-directing commitments were able to witness firsthand how the brothers before them stay true to each other and have a bond that goes beyond their letters,” said Carolyn.
“It is beyond whatever letters you are wearing or when you graduated from Radford University,” said Chris Ducey ’95. “We all come back and it is exactly what you think. Just a group of guys that love each other and want to do well for one another.”
Throughout the day, many could say that they felt the presence of their dear brother and friend, John Signorello.
“Who knew that the Sig Ep heart symbol would come to life at our farm,” said Carolyn. “The weekend was a true testament to how much he was loved.”
A part of the beauty on that day was watching not only Radford University Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers coming together, but also other alumni uniting to honor John’s legacy.
“A big theme that is prominent at Radford University was present on the Signorello farm today. The Reason is Radford,” said Kent Warren ’90. “That is the reason we are all out working hard to help this family.”
No matter the generation and no matter the organization, the Highlander family is strong. We are always Radford.
This past December, Bill Carroll ’86 made a gift to Radford University, just as he had the year before. And the year before that. And the year before that.
In fact, Carroll has made a gift to Radford University every year since 1986, joining a group of fewer than 40 donors who have given with such consistency.
“I want to lead by example,” explains Carroll. “Giving is a habit. So I make a point to give when I can.
“Also, I like knowing that someone from the Class of 1986 is still thinking about Radford University.”
Giving apparently comes naturally to Carroll, who has spent the last 20 years working for DePaul Community Resources in Lynchburg, a nonprofit organization that is a “touchstone provider of services to individuals with unique challenges.” Carroll provides case management with the Child and Family Services division at DePaul.
“I’ve always liked being around people — you never know what you are going to get,” Carroll says about his choice of career. “I’ve always been interested in the social and psychological aspect of people, and I’ve always wanted to be able to help those in need.”
His time at Radford University only strengthened his interest in — and ability to — help people.
“After graduating from Radford University with a degree in psychology, I wanted to go into police work,” Carroll explains. “I applied for a job, and was one of the final five candidates after a yearlong hiring process. Ultimately, though, I was not chosen.
“I did some substitute teaching for a bit while I decided whether or not to attempt to give law enforcement another go. Instead, I decided to utilize my psychology degree in another way, and I began working at an acute psychiatric unit at a hospital. I’ve been working with children and parents ever since.”
However, it wasn’t an easy path for Carroll. Coming into Radford University after graduating from community college, Carroll’s first semester at Radford was almost his last. The transition from a community college to a new environment with new expectations was a challenge.
“A friend of mine was attending Radford University while I was at community college,” Carroll says. “I came on a visit and felt like I belonged. Once beginning classes, the teachers were engaging and I liked the size of the community.
“But I became a little discouraged during my first semester,” Carroll explains. “I was so comfortable and I didn’t want to leave, though. So I didn’t give up — I met the responsibility and put in the work.”
It was that hard work and perseverance that ultimately helped fuel Carroll’s habit of giving back to Radford University.
“I’m proud of what I did by graduating,” Carroll says. “I wasn’t always sure I was going to make it. So I make it a point to give every year. The people at Radford University were good to me so I want to be good to them.”
Carroll also illustrates why giving back to the University doesn’t necessarily need to be a wholly altruistic endeavor.
“I like being connected with something with a good reputation,” Carroll says. “And Radford University’s reputation enhances my reputation.”
Additionally, Carroll says, “I like getting my little sticker in the mail as an Alumni Contributor. It shows that I am committed to Radford University.
“When you work in the nonprofit sector, you are not going to get rich. But I know that with every little bit that I give back, it adds up to make a big difference.”
And the big difference between Radford University and other schools is, as illustrated by Carroll, the people.
“The connections with different people is the beauty of Radford University,” Carroll says. “I met many good people and developed relationships with some that continue to this day.
“I’m proud of the school, and I am happy to be connected to it.”
In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell famously writes that “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.”
If the work of Brian Korte ’00 is any indication, Gladwell may need to replace the word “hours” with “bricks.”
As in, Lego bricks.
Korte is an artist. His medium is Lego. The owner of Brickworkz, Korte creates greatness for his clientele one brick at a time.
“It all started with one piece,” Korte explains. “My friend at Radford University, Jeff Pollard ’00, and his girlfriend, Olivia ’00, were getting married, and I wanted to give them something unique and personal for their wedding.
“While on vacation in Orlando, Florida, I began to peruse the Lego website and stumbled across a [now-defunct] program called LEGO Mosaic. Basically, the program took an uploaded image, converted it to pixelated ‘brick-bybrick’ details, and Lego would then mail you the directions for the design along with 2,000 bricks.”
Korte realized that this was what he wanted to give to his friends. But he also knew that what he wanted to do had to be bigger than 2,000 pieces.
“If you don’t see what you want, make it,” Korte says with a laugh. “Just like that, Brickworkz was born — on vacation, in a hotel room, in Florida.”
For someone with an advertising and media studies degree, a career as a brick artist seems a little odd — that is, until you dig a little deeper into Korte’s background.
“I started as an art major and wanted to focus on digital design. But back then, media studies had better equipment and programs, so I changed majors,” Korte says.
While at Radford University, Korte served as executive director of Whim, Radford University’s student-run online magazine. He was able to parlay his experience at Whim, as well as his media studies background, into a job as a webmaster after graduation.
“That’s how I learned how to do business from the web,” Korte explains. “I certainly didn’t see my career as a brick artist happening. But looking back, I can definitely see how I was on this path.
“The most important thing to do is get involved,” Korte says. “What you do and the people you meet are what spark ideas. If I didn’t get involved while at Radford University, I would be a completely different person.”
The tedium of a project that takes around 35-40 hours to design and another 15-40 hours to build is of natural interest to Korte.
“I used to cross-stitch to relax,” he recalls. “Crossstitch requires a larger picture to be broken down into smaller squares. That’s essentially what I’m doing with my Lego mosaics.”
For each mosaic, Korte takes a picture and digitizes it, breaking it down into individual pixels, with each pixel representing a Lego brick. From there, he creates “instructions” for how to literally piece together the mosaic. He begins to collate the bricks needed to complete the mosaic.
“I find my pieces through third party vendors,” Korte explains. “It’s strange, but every color and shape of Lego brick has its own market value. Some discontinued bricks can be quite rare — and expensive.”
The number of bricks in each mosaic varies, but usually falls in a range from 6,000 bricks for smaller pieces to over 10,000 for larger ones. “Sometimes,” Korte says “I’ll flip the mosaic upside down to literally come at it from a different angle. That way it keeps things from getting too tedious.”
Because the spirit of Korte’s work lies in the subject of each piece, it is only natural that he is sometimes asked to create a memorial piece. One piece, and the story behind it, recently captured national attention.
“I met Kevin Kirk and his two children, Connor, 13, and Brittany, 14, at a Lego convention,” Korte explains. “Connor was especially excited about my artwork being a Lego fan himself. Several months after meeting the Kirks, I received a package in the mail. In the package was a handwritten letter from Kevin as well as Connor’s entire Lego collection.
“In the letter, Kevin explained that his two children were tragically murdered in their home. He entrusted his late son’s Lego pieces to my care. I told him that I would find a good use for the parts as well as find a way to honor the children.”
Utilizing the pieces from Connor’s collection, Korte created a vibrant mosaic of the children, allowing their spirit to live on through his art.
“Everyone we know is in some sort of pain,” Korte explains. “People get this and are moved by it. To know that a little plastic toy can help someone heal is an amazing thing to think about.
“We may have tapped into something here.”
“I found my home at Radford University,” says Sherrie Austin ’98. “It gave me the space I needed to be who I was while also giving me the structure to become better than what I was.”
Austin is owner-operator of Austin ImageWorks, a still photography and video production company based out of Maui, Hawaii.
“I began this career as a child with a camera from a cereal box and a borrowed camcorder from a neighbor,” Austin says. “I found something I liked and it ultimately became my passion.”
Finding that passion was not always easy for Austin.
“I was a bit of a wild child growing up,” Austin explains. “It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a video production class at Pulaski County High School and met the teacher, Jesse Shelton, that I was able to bring things into focus. Working with Jesse and his video production company changed my life.”
Austin’s work has provided her the opportunity to travel the world perfecting her craft, whether it be photographing the people of Nepal, filming a concert for bands like Maroon 5 and Santana, producing imagery for corporate events, or even producing a documentary on Saint Damien of Molokai. But, according to Austin, none of that can hold a candle to what she accomplished during her time at Radford University.
“Helping found ROC-TV was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Austin says. “It almost trumps everything else I’ve done professionally.”
Radford On Camera — or ROC-TV — is a weekly, hourlong, student-produced broadcast that currently airs on the Res Life channel. Its content ranges from traditional sketch comedy to talk shows, variety shows, news programming and short documentaries.
“When I first got to Radford University, the only student programming available was news-based,” Austin explains. “So myself and [fellow student] Kim Gallante filled out the necessary paperwork, convinced the professors and staff we were serious and dedicated, and in short order we formed the first student-produced television at Radford University!
“We started with $100 out of my bank account, a borrowed camcorder and a microphone purchased from Radio Shack,” Austin muses. “By the time I graduated, we had offices, a budget and a show that was available nationwide.”
“Radford University gave us the space to create and be creative. We were allowed to go against the grain. Not many universities would have been able to see the potential in their students like Radford did. The spirit of creativity is alive and well at Radford University!”
Reflecting on the freedom that her time at Radford University provided, Austin recounts a dream she had during her time with ROC-TV.
“I dreamt about spelling the words ROC-TV out with people on the ground and filming it from the air. Two weeks later I was flying in a plane, videotaping people spelling out ROC-TV for the show’s new opening … My dreams literally became reality.
“I’m still close to the people I met at Radford University,” Austin says. “We created something together that we may never be able to replicate.
“But I sure hope we do.”
While her career accolades are quite impressive, what Austin is most proud of is the impact her charity, the Cynthia Rose Foundation, has made on the world. The foundation, named after Austin’s late sister, was “born out of a true desire to give back to the world both in honor of my sister Cindy and her son [Austin’s late nephew] Tyler, and to outwardly express gratitude for all I have been given.”
The Cynthia Rose Foundation was created after the sudden death of Austin’s sister. “It rocked my world. I didn’t even know if I wanted to go on,” Austin explains. “I decided I wanted to give back to the world. So I began setting aside 10 percent of my funds every month to seed the foundation.
“In April 2015, we became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.”
Austin wants to make sure that the Cynthia Rose Foundation is different than other nonprofits in that it “has the ability to fulfill its mission of celebrating kindness and promoting joy in any way possible and on our terms,” adding, “I have come to believe that small things are the big things.”
According to Austin, “It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to have an impact on someone’s life. We have the freedom, with the Cynthia Rose Foundation, to do both the large and small acts and make an immeasurable impact no matter the financial cost.”
One example of the foundation’s impact is the Lei of the Day program, where leis are handmade by elders at Hale Makua health center on Maui and given to those who perform any act of kindness — no matter how large or small. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, the foundation made national news when a mile-long lei, hand-woven out of ti leaves by the people of Maui and Hawaii, was presented to the city of Paris.
“It’s about spreading joy throughout the world,” Austin says. “I feel like I’m doing [my sister’s] work in the same spirit of kindness that she embodied.”
While Austin and the Cynthia Rose Foundation are half a world away in Hawaii, it does not prevent her kindness from reaching back to the area she once called home.
“We will be building an inclusive playground at Dublin Elementary School with the help of local businesses and the community,” Austin beams. “It will be the first playground in the area geared toward children of all abilities.” Inclusive playgrounds are designed to provide children with disabilities the same play opportunities as children without disabilities.
“I feel like I am only now beginning to serve my true purpose and providing the platform for other people to begin serving theirs as well.”
Although Austin has moved on from her days at Radford University and ROC -TV, the lessons she learned from both are never too far from her mind.
“Through my experiences with ROC-TV and seeing the commitment and dedication of the crew, I was taught that the drive of a person’s passion and creative expression is stronger than the allure of money,” Austin says. “Passion and the belief in what we were doing kept ROCTV alive and fuels the core of happiness in a person’s life as a whole.
“I am convinced that any person is happier and more fulfilled when they connect with their passion, no matter their vocation or circumstance,” she says. “That happiness is not found through money, though, interestingly, it tends to produce more money in a person’s life just by virtue of living in alignment with one’s purpose.”
When asked what advice she would give to today’s students, Austin referenced a fellow “wild child” and artist.
“There’s a quote from Janis Joplin, ‘Get it while you can.’ I believe that. You need to go out there and grab a hold of your dreams — whatever that dream may be — and hold onto it and convince yourself with every certainty that your dream is out there waiting for you.
“It’s not going to be easy,” she says with a laugh. “Heck, I haven’t even accomplished all I have in mind yet. But with the help of my friends, I am convinced I will.”
“I knew before finishing my bachelor’s degree that I wanted to pursue my Ph.D. and teach,” said Tami Wyatt, assistant dean and professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “But I could never have imagined that I would one day help create a multimillion dollar education tool.”
Wyatt co-founded DocuCare, an educational electronic health record (EHR) program that is currently being utilized by more than 40,000 students at more than 500 collegiate programs, including Wyatt’s alma mater.
“While in graduate school, I needed to find a niche for my career trajectory,” Wyatt says. “Since I was interested in education and I knew that computers would continue to change the information age, I pursued a degree in instructional technology. That has become the foundation of my research and contributions to nursing education.”
DocuCare, according to its publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, integrates more than 150 patient scenarios with web-based academic EHR simulation software, allowing students to learn how to use an EHR in a safe, true-to-life setting, while enabling instructors to measure their progress.
“It is used on a daily basis for student education,” according to Jackie Muir, administrative specialist with the Clinical Simulation Center in the Waldron College of Health and Human Services. “It teaches the students to think critically about the proper documentation per each patient and condition. This software is very similar to what the student would be using in ‘real time’ at any hospital or medical facility.”
Regarding where the idea came from, Wyatt explains, “I saw a need in the students enrolled at the University of Tennessee. Nursing students were to gain informatics skills through EHRs, yet they had minimal opportunity to access the EHRs during clinical learning due to time constraints, required training by hospitals and HIPAA regulations.
“So in 2007, I partnered with a graduate student, Matt Bell, my research partner, Dr. Xueping Li, and his graduate student, Yo Indranoi, to develop an ‘in-house’ solution HER for our students at the University of Tennessee.”
It soon became apparent to Wyatt that the need for the program, then known as iCare, went far beyond her campus in Knoxville. “We developed our prototype and while presenting our findings at various research conferences, it became clear that other nursing programs across the country needed access to a learning EHR.
“My partners and I then developed a start-up company to sell the product,” Wyatt says. “Within six months of being on the market, we were approached by three publishing companies who wanted to purchase the product. By December 2010, the publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins had purchased the product, rights to the product and its name.” The name was then changed to DocuCare.
While Wyatt and her partners may have sold the product, the four founding inventors continue to work with Lippincott Williams & Wilkins to refine and develop new versions as the product continues to evolve.
Wyatt recognizes two Radford University professors, Dr. Marcella Griggs and Dr. Karma Castleberry, for having a profound impact on both her education and career.
“They saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Wyatt explains. “It was their influence that helped me gain confidence to become an educator.
“As an educator, you don’t realize the kind of influence you have on students. I think of them [Griggs and Castleberry] often. They were a strong force in the nursing program. My time at Radford University has led me to a lifetime of teaching.”
Wyatt’s own students may very well say the same regarding her own teaching and the innovative nursing education tool she helped develop.