Atlanta area alumni share stories of resiliency during Highlander Family Tour

Michael Donnelly '88 received the Spirit of the Tartan Award from President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D.

When Bob Young ’98 left China to start college in the United States, Radford University welcomed him with open arms.

“Back then, in 1996, I couldn’t speak much English at all. The people were so embracing and gave you all the support. It overwhelmed me,” Young said.

The campus became home for Young. He learned about American culture through his peers. And, during study breaks, he found love.

“I came to Radford in 1996, and my wife came in 1997. Now, 20 years later, we have four kids ranging from three to 12 years old. God has blessed us so much,” Young said, who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his family. He’s not the only Highlander there.

The family atmosphere is what brought him, and dozens of his fellow Radford University alumni, to Maggiano’s Little Italy in Dunwoody, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. This event was the third stop on the Highlander Family Tour.

The tour welcomes alumni and friends for an evening of Highlander celebration with a total of eight events in locations from Georgia to the nation’s capital. Radford University’s President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D. join University administrative and academic leaders to network and meet alumni in each location.

At each event, alumni hear from a current student about their Highlander experience and receive updates on new initiatives that promote Radford University’s vision of becoming the premier, innovative, student-centered university in Virginia.

Spirit of the Tartan recipient Michael Donnelly '88 greets other alumni and friends.

President Hemphill highlighted new delivery methods of educational experiences now available to students, through the first competency-based educational program offered at a four-year institution, for example. He also shared updates about the upcoming merger with the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, which will add about 1,000 Highlander students at a health sciences focused educational site located in Roanoke, which will be known as Radford University Carilion.

Listening to the advancements and resources available to current students makes alumna Ashaunda Davis ’99 reminisce about her time as a student at Radford University.

“To finish the path that we started the first day that I started at Radford University, it really indeed took a lot of fortitude. It took a lot of getting knocked down and getting back up. And, if I had not had that experience at Radford University, I can’t say that I would have been able to easily apply it to my career,” Davis said.

Through her challenging times, Davis had many more successes, including initiating the first Educated Women of Color organization on campus. That experience at Radford University allowed her to advance her career to Georgia and begin New to Atlanta, an organization that empowers women of diverse backgrounds.

“There was so much support. There were so many champions, who were in my corner to get that organization up and going,” Davis said. Starting an organization at Radford University “helped me to expand what I’m doing and impact people’s lives.”

President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D. pause to greet Wilma Paris '48.

Davis serves as the Radford University Alumni Chapter President for the Atlanta metropolitan area and connects her Highlander family for regular events.

“I’m proud to be a Highlander, because it taught me a lot of grit and ‘stick-to-it-iveness,’” Davis said with a smile.

That same grit and resiliency she learned as a student is shared by Michael Donnelly ’88. He was honored with the Spirit of the Tartan, which is awarded to a supporter who consistently demonstrates a desire to impact the University and their community.

Donnelly accepted the award with pride and shared with the crowd his astonishment of the growing campus.

“If you haven’t been back, it will blow your mind how beautiful the campus is and how they’ve integrated new buildings. These facilities are absolutely world class.”

Additional stops on the Highlander Family Tour remain and provide an opportunity for Radford University alumni and supporters to come together to reflect on their experiences at the University, celebrate the great work being accomplished and look ahead to an exciting future.

May 24, 2019
Justin Ward