Alumni e-News

August 2010

The Newsletter for RU Alumni & Friends

Radford University Named "Best in Southeast" for Third Consecutive Year

For the third consecutive year, Radford University has been named one of the nation’s best colleges and universities in the Southeast by the Princeton Review.

RU is one of only 133 institutions The Princeton Review recommends in the "Best in the Southeast" section of its website feature "2011 Best Colleges: Region by Region.”

“This recognition is an affirmation of the quality of our academic programs, our outstanding faculty, and Radford’s strong commitment to provide a ‘student-first’ educational experience,” said Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle.

The Princeton Review also factors what students report about their campus experiences into the assessment, according to Robert Franek, Princeton Review's Senior VP / Publishing.

“The professors here would have to be Radford’s greatest strength,” said one surveyed student. “They’re easy to get in touch with and easy to talk to and ask questions,” and “they want to teach,” added others in the RU profile on the review’s website.

To view RU’s “Best of the Southeast” profile or to learn more, visit the Princeton Review’s website.


Governor McDonnell Appoints Four to Radford University Board of Visitors

Governor Bob McDonnell has announced the appointment of three new members to the Radford University Board of Visitors and reappointed one current member.

Stephan Q. Cassaday ’76, of Great Falls, is president and CEO of Cassaday and Company, Inc., an investment advisory and financial planning firm. Prior to founding his own firm, he held senior management positions with E. F. Hutton and Co., Inc., PaineWebber, Inc. and Prudential Securities, Inc. Cassaday previously served as a member of the RU Board of Visitors from 2000 to 2004, and is a former vice rector. He is a member of the Radford University College of Business and Economics Advisory Council, and he has endowed a scholarship at the university to help students who demonstrate financial need. He received the Outstanding Service Award from the Radford University Alumni Association in 1999.

Milton C. Johns, of Gainesville, is a partner in the law firm of Day and Johns, PLLC. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1986 and his master’s degree in 1989 from George Washington University. In 1997, he received his law degree from the George Mason University School of Law. He serves as Chairman at Large for the Prince William County School Board, the second largest school system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He has a daughter who is a rising junior at Radford University.

Wendy Tepper, of Forest, is a trustee and member of the Board of Directors of Delta Star, Inc., a Lynchburg-based manufacturer of power transformers and substations with a worldwide customer base. Tepper has extensive experience in public and private sector administration, and formerly served as a District Representative for Illinois Congressman Philip M. Crane, as President of Beau-Geste, International, and as an executive with the Regional Transportation Authority in Chicago.

Linda Whitley-Taylor ’86, of Virginia Beach, is the executive vice president of associate services of AMERIGROUP Corporation. This is Whitley-Taylor’s second consecutive term on the RU Board of Visitors. Prior to her position at the AMERIGROUP Corporation, she was the senior vice president of human resources operations at Genworth Financial/GE Financial in Richmond. Whitley-Taylor currently serves on the President’s Advisory Council and the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors, where she chairs the Nominating and Governance Committee. She also serves on the board of the Genworth Foundation


Scottish Rite Foundation Donates $33,000 to
Radford University for RiteCare® Clinic

While Allison McGowan of Christiansburg waited patiently to receive her poodle balloon, her mother Pam stood nearby taking in all the excitement on the lawn of Radford University’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services. Mrs. McGowan knows that what is taking place has had a significant impact on her daughter and their entire family.

Allison was among 18 children participating in the “Friendly Faces, Far Away Places” Autism Camp, part of the annual Radford University Summer RiteCare® Clinic, sponsored by the Scottish Rite Foundation. During a special ceremony that followed in the university’s Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts, Scottish Rite Masons’ Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Virginia James Cole presented Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle with $33,000 to help sustain a program that has improved the lives of thousands.

This is the 16th year the Scottish Rite Freemasonry and the university have partnered to host the RU Summer RiteCare Clinic® and the 20th year that the two entities have worked together with the university to enhance children’s language and literacy skills. To date, the Scottish Rite Foundation has donated more than $700,000 to RU’s clinic. The Scottish Rite is a philanthropic organization with a key objective of being an active financial supporter for autistic children, their families and faculty and students who work with them. Because of the foundation’s generosity, the clinic and camp are provided at no charge.

“You are walking hand-in-hand with us, helping to educate, and helping to ‘give back,’” President Penelope W. Kyle told the Scottish Rite members and families gathered for the event. “It is great to see all that is taking place and to know you are delivering educational opportunities for these children and for our students. You are our partners.”

The clinical program is founded upon family-centered intervention. Parents engage in workshops and learn to participate in therapy sessions with their children so they can facilitate their language development long after camp ends.

The RU Summer RiteCare® Language and Research Clinic is a partnership comprised of the RU Communication Sciences and Disorders Department and music therapy faculty members and students.
The camp-style activities included six stations with activities to demonstrate a sample of therapy activities. Children participated in experiential learning events that assist in speech, reading and social interaction skills and also took part in drumming, dancing, lessons in nature, craft sessions, and more. In addition to the check presentation and Cole’s reading, highlights of the special ceremony included a performance by the children featuring dancing, singing and drumming.


Radford University FAMIS Outreach Project
Lends a Helping Hand to Uninsured Kids

As health care and prescription costs continue to skyrocket, struggling families can often see half their paycheck spent on insurance. Others are left out in the cold, priced out of coverage altogether. The alarming epidemic has the healthcare advocates at Radford University’s FAMIS Outreach Project seeking a better solution for those children in need.

Funded by the Virginia Health Care Foundation, via the umbrella federal Child Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), Radford University’s FAMIS (Family Access to Medical Insurance Security) Outreach Project has been instrumental in increasing the number of eligible children enrolled in the commonwealth’s program. Created in 1997, Virginia’s FAMIS program provides free and low cost comprehensive health coverage for eligible uninsured children under the age of 19.

One of the biggest misconceptions the public tends to have about the FAMIS program is children are only eligible if the parents are unemployed. But nothing could be further from the truth, according to FAMIS Outreach Project Coordinator Rhonda Seltz.

“It breaks my heart when I’ll be talking to a family where mom’s unemployed, dad makes $19,000 a year, and they’re paying about $700 a month for health insurance, and never even knew their kids were eligible,” she said. “They just assume that, ‘well, I’m working so I guess I have to pay for health coverage.’”

To determine a child’s eligibility for either Children’s Medicaid or the FAMIS program, parents can apply at their local office of the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Richmond FAMIS Central Processing Unit, or online at However, Seltz recommends that Roanoke and New River Valley residents interested in learning more about their options apply directly with the RU FAMIS Outreach Project at 1-866-902-6747.

“The reason we want them to apply with us is because we want to make sure that they get through the process,” she said. “We want to make sure that we take the time to educate them and be there to advocate for them if they have any problems.”


Radford University’s Summer Bridge Provides Academic
Enrichment for High School Girls

A group of eager-to-learn high school girls sat in a large Radford University classroom last week meticulously analyzing groups of bones – some human and some animal.
The group collected the bones, as well as a handful of items that included a dog collar, toothbrushes and a toy dinosaur, a day earlier from three shallow make-shift graves at Selu Conservancy as part of a mock crime scene set up by RU Forensic Science Institute co-directors Cliff and Donna Boyd.

“We can learn a lot from these bones,” said Alexis Williams, a rising high school senior from Buchanan, as she matched bones to those listed on her worksheet. “We can learn age and height of a person when they died and what stage of growth they were in when they died.”

Williams, along with nearly 40 other high school girls, was a participant last week in the Summer Bridge program, hosted by RU’s College of Science and Technology, for rising sophomore, junior and senior high school girls from across Virginia and Maryland.

Many of the girls attended Summer Bridge with the assistance of scholarships provided by corporate sponsors Dominion Resources, Follett, Novozymes Biologicals and Project Discovery of Virginia.

The program, which began in 2006, underscores the College of Science of Technology’s commitment to educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The goal of the week-long residential program was to introduce female high school students to future educational and professional opportunities available to them in mathematics, science and information technology fields.

In addition to solving crimes using the latest archaeological and biotechnology techniques, the girls delved into the super cool world of code breaking, learned how to protect sensitive computer systems from cyber attackers and explored environmental science using technologically advanced GPS systems and field research to analyze the health of rivers.


Elvir Berbic: From Refugee to a Masterís Degree

In May of this year, Elvir Berbic earned his M.S. in corporate and professional communication, following the successful completion of his B.S. in communication in 2008 and his recognition as one of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences’ Dean’s Scholars. Not bad for a Bosnian refugee who could barely even speak the English language upon entering Roanoke’s Woodrow Wilson Middle School 15 years ago.

When communism fell across the Soviet Union and Eastern European bloc nations 20 years ago, the former Yugoslavia was thrust into turmoil, with its six provinces all declaring their immediate independence. The nationalistic fallout resulted in a full-scale civil war throughout the region, with Berbic and his family stuck right in the thick of it in their homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Fearing for their lives, Berbic’s family landed in a Croatian refugee camp, before fleeing to the United States in search of a new, more promising life.

“My family and I moved to the states under a status of a refugee,” said Berbic, crediting the immigration center in Roanoke for helping them acclimate into the American lifestyle.

His family and country’s pain however has played a pivotal part in shaping the man Berbic has become today.

“I always refer to my experiences in the camp and how far I came and what I’ve accomplished so far,” he said. “I remember how we lived, the food we ate and how we survived from day to day. The struggle of my parents to keep my younger brother and me healthy, happy and disciplined truly paid off.”

According to Berbic, his brother’s medical school education and his master’s degree from Radford University is proof of how far his family has come. Berbic initially chose Radford for its esteemed communication program. However, it was the university’s small classroom atmosphere and comfortable student-to-instructor ratio which proved to be a big selling point.

“It is very important that I was able to connect with my instructors and classmates,” said Berbic. “I knew everyone by name, and I think that is a necessity—especially in a communication department—to interact and form relationships that last a lifetime.”

This summer, Berbic will be headed back to Bosnia and Croatia for a visit, the fifth since his arrival in America.

“I’m going to visit the town where I was a refugee. I still have family there,” he said. “Things have changed in Bosnia – life is harsh, economy unstable and people are struggling to earn money and keep jobs. The war that killed many is not forgotten.”