The son of Lebanese immigrants who participated in Talent Search and Upward Bound programs at Virginia Tech – then went on to earn a doctorate and start a successful physical therapy business – will speak during Virginia Tech’s celebration of National TRIO Day.

Ron Masri, a graduate of Giles High School, attended Upward Bound/Talent Search programs in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was a child when his parents came to the United States, victims of the civil war in Lebanon that began in the mid-1970s and lasted for years.

“We had only the shirts on our backs,” he remembers. “The only pictures we had were what my mom could stuff into her purse.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from the University of Virginia (UVA), returning to Virginia Tech in the summers to work as a residential tutor and counselor. He earned a master’s degree in physical therapy from Old Dominion University in 1998 and a doctorate in the same subject from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008.  

Last year he founded Total Motion Physical Therapy in Christiansburg.

Before Masri graduated from high school, a guidance counselor once discouraged him from “applying to big schools like UVA or Virginia Tech.” But then Thomas Wilson came along. Wilson, now director of Talent Search and Upward Bound at Virginia Tech, was Masri’s counselor. “He saw something in me that others didn’t,” Masri says.

This year’s National TRIO Day is Feb. 26. The celebration will take place on the Virginia Tech campus, in Room 300 at Whittemore Hall at 1 p.m. The public is invited. (Also speaking: Mike Henry, director of student support services at Southwest Virginia Community College and a past president of the Mid-Eastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel.) Parking is available in Perry Street Lot 1, 3, 4 and 6 near Prices Fork Road. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.

“One of the reasons for celebrating National TRIO Day is to remind students of the opportunities that the programs present to them,” Wilson says. “It is also to give recognition to students and graduates for their accomplishments.” 

All of Masri’s siblings also participated in the Virginia Tech Talent Search and Upward Bound programs and all have received, at least, a bachelor’s degree.

“We are so proud of Ron and grateful for the way he stays involved as a volunteer and supporter of these programs that help promote college attendance,” Wilson says.

Masri recently received two awards:

  • Outstanding Clinic Instructor for Clinical Excellence Award from Shenandoah University for his work as a clinical preceptor; and
  • TRIO Achiever from both the Virginia Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel and the Mid-Eastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel.

Masri is active with the Virginia Physical Therapy Association, serving in a consulting role with the Virginia House of Delegates, as valley district director, and as membership chair.

National TRIO Day takes place around the country to promote a constellation of federal programs, including Upward Bound, that help economically challenged and first-generation students earn college degrees. Virginia Tech’s three TRIO programs are Upward Bound, Talent Search, and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program.

The Upward Bound and Talent Search programs target students from families with parents who did not earn four-year degrees or who have low incomes. If students show potential for college, they can receive tutoring and other support as early as middle school. The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program draws students from the same pool – those who are traditionally underrepresented in universities – but the program works with students currently enrolled at the university and encourages them to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees.

The TRIO programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, are part of Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech.

The Radford University Student Support Services – which is also a TRIO program – will participate with Virginia Tech in the celebration.