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Generations of Virginia Tech alumni pass on the Hokie Spirit

January 9, 2017

Ashley and Lisa Burris pose for a picture at the Virginia Tech Inn.
Ashley Burris, a first year student, welcomes her mom, Lisa, a 1991 communication graduate, back to Blacksburg after Ashley's first semester at Virginia Tech.

In many Hokie families, the Hokie Spirit is passed down from one generation to another.

And when those new generations embrace that spirit and become Hokies themselves, it evokes an almost overwhelming sense of pride.

Recently, after finishing her first semester Virginia Tech,  Ashley Burris, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was welcomed home by two generations of Hokies who went before her.

In the college selection process, Ashley, a first-year student studying human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, never wavered from her dream school in pursuit of a career in medicine. Virginia Tech was an easy choice — both parents are alumni, as well as her grandfather.

“When I began looking at schools, there really was nowhere else I wanted to go but Virginia Tech,” Ashley said. “My whole life I felt I was a Hokie, but I will never forget the day just before Christmas last year when it became official. After celebrating with my parents and sister, my first call was to my grandfather, who was just as excited as me.”     

Lisa Burris, Ashley’s mother and a 1991 communication graduate, still remembers the first time she visited Blacksburg.

“My parents and I entered the campus off Prices Fork Road by the golf course, and, as we drove by the Duck Pond and toward the center of campus, I had this overwhelming feeling come over me,” said Lisa. “This was home! I never looked back and only applied to Virginia Tech, just like my daughter. When you find your school, you just know it.”

Lisa shared her Hokie spirit while a student as a Hokie Ambassador and with the New Virginians. Virginia Tech’s former musical ambassadors performed across the U.S., including a command performance at the White House her junior year. 

Lisa and her husband, Dean, met at an intramural basketball game in War Memorial Gym while they were students. Dean, a 1989 liberal arts and sciences graduate, was a member of the Corps of Cadets and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.  Lisa and Dean are former alumni chapter board members.

Lisa’s father, O. Wayne Hanks, was a 1963 graduate from the Pamplin School of Business. While at Virginia Tech, he was a stand-out first baseman on the baseball team. A retired executive from BB&T Corporation, Hanks is a former alumni chapter officer and a member of the Hokie Club. He resides with his wife, Betty, in Winterville, North Carolina.

Hanks is also a member of the Monogram Club, a membership organization that honors and engages former and current letter winners to celebrate the traditions and promote the value of the Virginia Tech student-athlete experience.

In Virginia Beach, Dean and Lisa live with their younger daughter Allison. Lisa is an independent marketing and corporate communications consultant, working primarily in health care. Dean is a senior account specialist with Allergan Inc. Following graduation and his commissioning, Dean served as an officer in the United States Navy.

Dean and Lisa Burris are members of the Division of Student Affairs’ Parent Committee. The Parent Committee is comprised of a diverse group of energetic and engaged parent volunteers who provide recommendations and assistance to the Division of Student Affairs.

Parent Committee members help the division by studying issues, offering assistance, and acting as liaisons between students, families, and the university. In addition, committee members take a leadership role in building awareness of the division with other parents.

“Families like Lisa and Dean Burris are the silent heroes of Student Affairs,” said Penny Helms White, chief advancement officer and director of family and alumni relations in the Division of Student Affairs. “It’s no secret that a family’s support of their student greatly benefits the student. But, when families go above and beyond to support Student Affairs as a whole, the services and initiatives we provide to all Virginia Tech students multiply. Their gifts and their commitment to the university are invaluable.”

Lisa credits alumni loyalty to the work of the Division of Student Affairs.

“Historically, alumni at Virginia Tech have a spirit and love for their alma mater that outshines most schools,” said Lisa. “When you ask why, consistently an alumnus speaks about their overall experience, which, in large part, is attributable to the Division of Student Affairs. From life in a residence hall sharing small living spaces, getting involved in student run programs, and navigating how to deal with disappointment, to personal accountability and time management, it all shapes the person a student becomes and the mark they will make on their community.”

For more information about the Parent Committee, contact Penny Helms White at phwhite@vt.edu or 540-231-3284. More information is available on the Parent Committee website.

Written by Holly Paulette

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