As Virginia Tech alumni, Pam and Jay Winkeler, of Centreville, Virginia, were delighted when two of their triplet daughters decided to go to their alma mater.

Those daughters, Amber and Ashley, both juniors and both majoring in human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, are active leaders on campus, welcoming new students to the Hokie Nation. They say they owe their accomplishments to their parents.

“The positions we have held, and the positions we will continue to hold would not be possible without the support and guidance of our parents,” Ashley said. “They constantly have pushed us to try new things, and excel not only in the classroom, but also in life. These leadership positions have made us better personally, professionally, and academically, and it is a direct result of our parents. For this, all I can say to them is thank you.”

On Saturday, Amber and Ashely got to do more than say thank you. Before a cheering crowd of thousands at Virginia Tech’s spring game, the Winkelers were recognized as Virginia Tech’s 2017 Family of the Year.

Ashley has served as an executive member of Relay For Life and as an orientation leader for New Student Programs. She will be a first-year-student orientation coordinator this summer. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi fraternity for women.

Amber has also worked with New Student Programs as a Hokie Camp executive member. She will be serving as a Hokie Camp student director this summer. Like her sister, she is a member of Pi Beta Phi and serves in leadership roles for the organization.

Jay and Pam are supportive of their daughters’ co-curricular pursuits.

“All of these experiences, over and above the classroom, have helped them grow into the strong, independent and confident young women that they are,” Jay said. “They have learned that hard work, dedication, and desire can take them a long and make their dreams and goals a reality. They have also learned how to compete for these opportunities against a truly talented student population.”

Pam added, “Their Virginia Tech involvement has helped them grow as leaders, learn to deal with many types of people, and helped them learn to manage their time.”

The Winkelers’ Virginia Tech story has deep roots. Jay graduated from Virginia Tech in 1985 with a B.S. in statistics and went on to earn a masters of engineering administration in industrial engineering and operations research in 1988.

He is vice president of enforcement and public safety solutions at Leidos Inc. Through his job, he mentors engineering student design teams; guest lectures in management, engineering, and computer science classes; and serves on the industry advisory board for the Department of Business Information Technology in the Pamplin College of Business

Pam graduated from Virginia Tech in 1987 with a B.S. in accounting and is director of office administration for the Centreville United Methodist Church.

Pam and Jay met at Virginia Tech, got engaged at the Duck Pond, and have been married for 28 years. In addition to Ashley and Amber, they have daughter named Alli who is a junior at James Madison University. Their son Joe graduated from Virginia Military Institue in 2016 and is a police officer for the city of Alexandria, Virginia. 

Pam and Jay are huge supporters of Tech athletics and are Golden Hokies in the Hokie Club. “We will always be lifelong fans of Virginia Tech,” Pam said. “We love supporting the school and teams and enjoy going back to such a beautiful campus. We also know that a Virginia Tech degree will open many doors.”

Jay also credits the university with providing life-changing opportunities.

“Getting to meet, know, and live with people from different places, different backgrounds, and different viewpoints gave me a new perspective in life,” he said. “The experiences I had at Tech and the way Tech taught me how to learn have been the foundation of my professional success. I owe everything to my parents for giving me the opportunity to attend Virginia Tech through their sacrifices. I firmly believe I would not be where I am today without the Virginia Tech experience.”

It is a perspective that has been passed on from one Hokie generation to the next.

“I am different because of the experience I had at Virginia Tech,” said Ashley. “I am more aware of the impact I can make in a community and on the world. I love serving others and through New Student Programs and Relay For Life, I have been able to do so.”

Amber said, “I don't think I am a different person because of my experiences at Virginia Tech, I think I am just a better version of myself.” She went on to say, “The guidance my parents have provided me in making life decisions, the unwavering support in all I do, and their desire to learn about my experiences has been critical to my college experience. I couldn't imagine not having my parents involved in what I do.”

The Virginia Tech Family of the Year award is presented annually by the Division of Student Affairs to acknowledge the people who are so important to students — as mentors, collaborators, friends, advocates, and guides. The award honors a parent, family member, or family of a current Virginia Tech student who has made a significant impact on the student’s college success. Presentation of the award coincides with the annual Spring Family Weekend.

Written by Sandy Broughton