Highlanders in the News: Week of June 5, 2023

Every other week, our Highlanders are using their education to do extraordinary things. Here, we’ll highlight some notable mentions from local, regional, national and international news media. Whether our students, alumni, faculty and staff are featured as subject matter experts in high-profile stories or simply helping make the world a better place, we’ll feature their stories.

Grace Pfleger

Positive notes

Grace Pfleger has a few projects in the works these days, to put it mildly.

The Radford graduate student is in the final year of her Master of Science in music therapy program, and in January, she was crowned Miss Blue Ridge, so she’ll be competing in the Miss Virginia competition this summer.

A trained mezzo-soprano, she headlined the Radford music department’s fall production of the opera “Venus and Adonis,” then in April pivoted to the national anthem at the Blue Ridge Marathon, and recently taught a weekly music class at the Rescue Mission of Roanoke.

Despite all that activity, she managed to sit down last month for an interview with Radio IQ’s Roxy Todd for a WVTF profile that went online May 31.

The radio spot offers an audible sampling of Pfleger’s talents – listeners will hear an in-studio recording of her singing part of “Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio,” an aria from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Among other topics, Pfleger talked to Todd about how she supplemented deliveries she made for Meals on Wheels with vocal performances and her desire to use her music therapy training to help those suffering from mental health issues.

“From what I’ve read … and what I’ve seen, it [music therapy] can really align with a person and help them find a space of calm,” she explains.

So how does she cover all those bases?

“It's really the support of my family, especially my mother, Lezle [Pfleger]. I wouldn't be able to balance all of this, but she helps me in every way that she can,” she recently told us. “It's also a matter of taking advantage of the skills and opportunities that you already have, and maybe just adding on a little bit, and it can build up and turn into something really great.”

The Miss Virginia competition will begin June 29 and end July 1. Readers can follow Pfleger and her progress via Facebook and on Instagram at “missblueridge.va.”


Vince Wyatt '15

Keeping track

You know an interview is getting to the heart of its subject when it feels more like a conversation than a question-and-answer session.

Case in point: Vince Wyatt ’15, who’s about to mark his first year as athletic director for Mountain Gateway Community College, recently had just such a chat with WSLS television’s Eric Johnson for his one-on-one segment “Around the Way with EJ.”

Johnson isn’t talking to a total stranger, however; he and his subject go way back. They first met when Wyatt moved to Roanoke from Atlanta, Georgia, at age 12, and both were later students at William Fleming High School. Their friendly connection is clear in the interview, which runs about a half-hour. 

Vincent Wyatt
Vince Wyatt '15 (MGCC)

Wyatt, a record-setting hurdler while at Radford, was named Big South Men’s Track Athlete of the Year in 2014.

He talks about that background, what it was like to reach the semifinals of the Olympic trials and his later career, and also discusses how the university marked a good fit for him, both on the track and in his studies.

“I’m not a valedictorian,” he tells Johnson with a laugh. “So, the small class sizes, the relationships you’re able to have with your professors and the opportunities you get for academic success, y’know, that was a thing I knew I needed.”

His accomplishments as a hurdler also had profound longevity for him, Wyatt said.

“Everything I took as a student-athlete, I translated it over to my actual life, and it has not been the same since.”


Robert Warren, D.B.A

Follow the money

Back in March, we told you about a publication by Robert Warren, D.B.A., “Exploring Embezzlement by Catholic Priests in the United States: A Content Analysis of Cases Since 1963.”

Warren, a retired IRS investigator who’s now an assistant professor of accounting with the Davis College of Business and Economics, co-authored that report, which examines nearly 100 cases of such thefts.

Not long after, a situation came to light that directly matched Warren’s expertise.

Investigators were looking into the transfer of millions of dollars from a U.S.-based Vatican fundraising account to a nonprofit company and a private equity firm. Both of those receiving entities were created by a priest who, at the time, was also the fundraiser’s national director, according to reports. While the priest in question has not been criminally charged and is not under investigation, the money raised is currently unaccounted for.

An Associated Press article from May 31, by Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield, gives an extensive overview of the situation and includes contributions from Warren.

Warren said he was interviewed on the subject by Winfield earlier this year and provided some background consultation.

He’s quoted in the piece discussing the potential pitfalls of venturing outside “arm’s length transactions,” a term that describes separate, unaffiliated parties conducting business with each other.

Interlocking or interrelated business transactions, on the other hand, of the sort the story describes, require heightened scrutiny by auditors, Warren explains.

The AP article was picked up by numerous other media, including U.S. News & World Report, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Roanoke television station WSLS.

Prior to joining Radford’s faculty, Warren worked as an IRS Criminal Investigation agent for more than two decades. Last month, he used his experience to coordinate a daylong investigatory workshop for business students from Radford and Bridgewater College.

Jun 9, 2023
Neil Harvey