Donna L. Taylor of Christiansburg, Va., financial aid processing manager in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid, died May 23. 

Taylor worked for 27 years in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid. Her colleagues, both at Virginia Tech and across Virginia, knew Taylor as someone that had a true passion for the financial aid profession. They described her as “dependable, professional, eager to help, reliable, hard working, knowledgeable, genuine, compassionate, kindhearted, encouraging,” and as a “training enthusiast and mentor, with a good sense of humor, and contagious smile.” In her eulogy, she was described as having a sense of “recklessness” where the definition was “to love people for who they are and just love life however best she could.”  

Taylor was an intricate part of the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid. 

“When discussions and decisions were happening, Donna’s contributions were consistently based on what was best for the student, even if it meant more work for the office staff,” Carrie Miller, associate director for program management and compliance in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid, said. A colleague who reported to Taylor for many years said she can still hear her telling her to “slow down and take the time to do it right.”

Students also recognized Taylor’s dedication. 

“I met Donna when I worked at the financial aid office when I was a student at Virginia Tech,” John McKnight, an industrial and systems engineering alumnus of the Class of 1991, said. “Donna was a great source of advice and wisdom for me. When I encountered challenges she was always willing to listen and provide ideas. I saw her provide the same help to everyone who came into her office, whether it was a coworker or a student and their family trying to make things work financially. She smiled, laughed and kept things light. Keeping things positive especially when presented with challenges was a critical life lesson I learned from Donna.”

People often joked with Taylor that she missed her calling in life to be a teacher because she was so good at making the complex world of financial aid understandable. She would respond with a smile saying she had the best of both worlds. Taylor was often asked for by name from local high schools and other various organizations around Virginia to conduct presentations on various aspects of financial aid. Families and colleagues where put at ease around her and asked questions that they may not have asked someone else.

In addition to the work Taylor did at Virginia Tech, she was active in the Virginia Association for Financial Aid Administrators. She served on the association’s board from 2005 to 2012. During this time, she served in various capacities including training chair, secondary school relations chair, state relations chair, conference chair, and representative at large. 

Prior to 2005, she was active on many committees in the association. She was often sought after to conduct training sessions at conferences and workshops around the state. In May 2013, the association awarded Taylor the second highest honor it can bestow on one if its members, the VASFAA Award of Excellence.

Beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia, Taylor was also active in the Southern Association for Financial Aid Administrators. She served for two years as the association’s new aid officer trainer and was often asked to come back to be an alternate trainer when another colleague was unable to attend the workshop. In addition, she was a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops the association held.

Taylor’s funeral service was held on May 26, at Belmont Christian Church, where she was a lifelong member. Interment followed in Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Christiansburg, Va.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the American Cancer Society, 2840 Electric Road, Suite 106-A, Roanoke, VA 24018.

Condolences may be left on the Horne Funeral Service website.

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