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Gift helps Virginia Tech students afford college and pursue construction careers

January 6, 2016

Sophomore Erin Mizak, alumnus Dave Jester, and junior Sasha Azel
Sophomore Erin Mizak, alumnus Dave Jester, and junior Sasha Azel

BLACKSBURG— Virginia Tech junior Sasha Azel wants to oversee the construction of major infrastructure projects, including highways and airports.

Virginia Tech sophomore Erin Mizak plans to work for a large general contractor, playing a role in the construction of multimillion-dollar buildings.

Not only do they have in common a desire to excel in the construction field, their aspirations to do so are being helped by a scholarship fund in the Myers-Lawson School of Constructioncreated by fellow Hokies Dave and Micky Jester.

Dave Jester, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1970 from thePamplin College of Business, is president of Marlyn Development Corp., which develops and builds multifamily housing. Micky Jester, who earned a bachelor’s in elementary education, is a retired school teacher. Along with funding the scholarships Azel and Mizak received, the Jesters have also provided unrestricted support to the school of construction.

“I’ve enjoyed some success,” Dave Jester said. “I think being able to give back to the university to the extent it actually helps students achieve their dreams has been very rewarding. … I had a mentor early on, and he told me if you have some success you need to give back; it’s very important.”

Jester has not only supported his alma mater financially, but also with his time and expertise. In September, at his company’s Virginia Beach headquarters, Jester hosted Azel and Mizak and discussed careers and education.

He said the experience was a meaningful one.

“I was able see the fruits of that donation,” he said. “Seeing the two ladies that actually received those dollars and what I felt their potential was made me know I made a really good decision in giving back to VT. My alma mater is turning our youth into exceptionally educated individuals who will really make a difference.”

The visit also left an impression on Azel and Mizak, and is an experience they won’t soon forget.

“We were able to see his office and talk with him about his history and how he got to where he is today,” Azel said. “Seeing the person behind my scholarship inspired me. I want to make him proud.”

A native of Lovell, Maine, Azel said being at Virginia Tech has helped her secure hands-on experiences, including a summer internship with Branch Highways Inc. For her internship, she worked on a construction site, tracking budgets and assisting the project foreman in the field.

“It was definitely very integrated in what I would be doing for an actual job,” Azel said. “It wasn’t busy work; it was actual work.”

Mizak, who is from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, also got firsthand experience interning over the summer. She worked for Holder Construction, helping with pre-construction estimates and bidding.

“I feel like I’m actually ahead of the curve right now,” Mizak said.

Both Azel and Mizak said the scholarship Jester created helped make school affordable for them as out-of-state students.

“It’s been such a blessing,” Mizak said of both her scholarship and the opportunity to meet the man who endowed it.

“I loved visiting him,” she added. “It was such a great opportunity.” 

Written by Annie McCallum

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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