Students, staff, faculty, university administration, and former Aspire! Award recipients gathered in April to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Aspire! Awards. The milestone comes as Virginia Tech marks 150 years since its founding in 1872.

In his opening remarks at the event, President Tim Sands spoke about Virginia Tech’s culture of service — the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) difference that elevates a Virginia Tech education.

“When our motto, Ut Prosim, was adopted in 1896, it was generally understood as a call to serve our country,” Sands said. “In the 126 years since its adoption, the meaning of our motto has grown and been taken to heart and expressed in many different ways by Hokies of every generation. Ut Prosim is a personal commitment that takes shape as we find our strengths and talents and discover our passions. Our Aspirations for Student Learning encourage that personal exploration and growth.

“The Aspirations for Student Learning, our Principles of Community, and our Beyond Boundaries vision are part of roadmap to discover the value of a Virginia Tech education," Sands said. "As we consider our place in Virginia Tech’s history, I encourage you to re-invest in these goals and ideals and the enduring pledge to empower our students to make a difference.”

Sands’ remarks preceded a panel discussion by former Aspire! Award recipients, who expressed how the recognition affected their lives, their choices, and the lives of others around them.

Student Affairs established the Aspire! Awards in 2011 as a way to honor and celebrate the Virginia Tech students who embody the Aspirations for Student Learning. In 2013, the awards were expanded to include university employees who make outstanding contributions to student learning by living and teaching the aspirations in their work. In 2015, the Aspire! Awards were again broadened to include Virginia Tech alumni with the Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life Alumni Aspire! Award.

Each year in April, the alumni Aspire! Award goes to a Virginia Tech graduate who represents the hope that all students live lives of curiosity, integrity, innovation, leadership, success, and fulfillment, and that they continue to embody Ut Prosim as a way of life.

The 2022 alumni Aspire! Award went to Mary McClelland ’94 who earned a degree in industrial systems and engineering. She is a member of the Student Affairs Alumni Advisory Board, chair-elect of the board's campaign committee, and was a driving force behind the very successful Student Affairs’ 2022 Giving Day.

Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok presents the Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life Alumni Aspire! Award to Mary McClelland.

Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok presents the Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life Alumni Aspire! Award to Mary McClelland.
Mary McClelland (at right), who graduated in 1994 with a degree in industrial systems and engineering, received the Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life Alumni Aspire! Award. Photo by Mary Desmond for Virginia Tech.

Recognizing the continued need for endowed scholarships to benefit students at Virginia Tech, McClelland and her husband, Bob, also a Virginia Tech alumnus, set up an endowed scholarship fund in 2014. The Robert and Mary McClelland Aspire! Ut Prosim Scholarship is given annually to an undergraduate student who is an Ut Prosim Aspire! Award recipient. The scholarship is designated for students who enrich their lives through service to others and takes into account demonstrated financial need. The recipient of the 2022 Robert and Mary McClelland Aspire! Ut Prosim Scholarship is Charity Hall, who was recognized with the Ut Prosim Aspire! Award earlier this spring.

In presenting the award to McClelland, Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok said, “Mary, we are so proud of you and thankful to you for showing what it means to serve others with courage and empathy. Having you as a role model helps students imagine their possibilities for awareness, action, fulfilment, and personal growth. Thank you, Mary. You have taken your Virginia Tech experience and created a positive legacy, which students will benefit from now and in the future. We are so grateful for your friendship, hard work, and the many ways you show your support for students and Student Affairs.”  

The Ut Prosim Aspire! Award for faculty and staff went to Shushok, who will leave Virginia Tech this summer to become Roanoke College’s 12th president. A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2009, Shushok is a highly regarded national leader in higher education.

In 2018, Shushok wrote, “When a single student finds a calling, becomes compelled by the cause of justice, learns to care for humanity, discovers a talent, hones a skill, or finds the courage to speak up for a value, the world stretches … I cannot think of a better way to spend a life.”

In presenting the award, Dean of Students Byron Hughes said, “An outstanding colleague and a warm and generous person, Frank is a true champion of learning, both in and outside of the classroom. He is committed to providing our students with the best possible education, and to making the Virginia Tech experience stronger and better.”

“Intentionally embracing Ut Prosim as a way of life does not happen in a moment, but instead through hundreds of daily decisions over years of living,” said Shushok. “Ut Prosim compels us to model love — in whatever shape it is most needed at any given time. This is so easily said, but so hard to do. Virginia Tech prepares us to go out beyond our comfort — with courage — to serve. At any given moment, our lives are begging us to evaluate where our service might next be needed. When we say yes to use our lives to serve, that’s Ut Prosim.

Aspire! Award recipients, April 29, 2022

Aspire! Award recipients, April 29, 2022, against a sesquicentennial backdrop
The Aspire! Award recipients honored in April. Photo by Mary Desmond for Virginia Tech.

Student award recipients at the 10th anniversary Aspire! Awards celebration are:

  • Commit to Unwavering Curiosity: Brendan Santschi.
  • Pursue Self-Understanding and Integrity: Amanda Leckner.
  • Practice Civility: Maya Mahdi.
  • Prepare for a Life of Courageous Leadership: Eleanor Verburg.
  • Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life, Student Award: Gabby Taylor.

Their stories and photos are shared on the Aspire! Awards website and on Student Affairs’ social media platforms.

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