‘Hokie spirit’ celebrated with scholarship
March 11, 2020
“We want to give students the same opportunity that our parents gave us—the opportunity to become part of the fabric of Virginia Tech.”
That is how Robin Russell, department head for Business Information Technology, explained the reasoning behind the establishment of the John W. Snead Sr. and Margaret F. Snead Memorial Scholarship Fund. Spearheaded by John Snead Jr., and joined by sisters Russell, Margie Munnelly, and Janine Hiller, they created the scholarship in memory of their parents who, according to Snead Jr., “were infused with the ‘Hokie spirit’ throughout their lifetime.”
“After our parents passed away, we thought that this would be a good way to honor their memory,” said Russell. “So much of their life centered around Virginia Tech.”
The elder Snead, or Jack, as he was known, was born in 1924 in the small community of McKenney, located in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. Receiving a scholarship to play basketball, Jack left to attend Virginia Tech in the fall of 1941. While focusing on his responsibilities as both a student and athlete, Jack lived with and worked for the family that maintained Virginia Tech’s farm, drawing upon his experience working on his family’s farm growing up. Unfortunately, just a few short months into his first semester in Blacksburg, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States—along with Jack and his fellow members of the Corps of Cadets—was pulled into World War II.
“Our father celebrated his 18th birthday overseas,” said Russell. “He never really talked about World War II. We didn’t even know that his unit was part of the initial surge at Normandy until his funeral.”
Margaret “Margie” Snead, née Foote, began life as a Hokie in 1946 when, at the age of 16, she enrolled at Virginia Tech. At the time, she was one of only 50 female students at the university, all of whom lived in Hillcrest Hall. Two years into her education, however, Margie was forced to leave school when her father took ill. “When our mother left school, she pretended, for her father’s sake, that college wasn’t for her,” explained Russell. “In reality, it was very hard for her to leave.”
Jack eventually returned to Blacksburg, but his basketball scholarship was long gone. Instead, he attended school under the G.I. Bill, a program that provided educational assistance to returning World War II veterans. Jack graduated with his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1950, the same year he and Margie married. Soon after, Jack began what would become a 35-year career with the New Holland Machine Company.
“Our parents moved a lot for our father’s job,” said Snead Jr. “Wherever we would go—South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania—our parents would start an alumni association or a Hokie Club.”
The couple’s hospitality was not limited to Virginia Tech alumni. “My parents would find out who was attending Virginia Tech that lived in our area and invite them over to our house for dinner,” explained Russell.
Although she would never return to Virginia Tech as a student, Margie’s “Hokie spirit” was resolute. She and Jack ultimately raised four children, all of whom would go on to graduate from Virginia Tech. “No matter where we moved, we always came back to Blacksburg,” Russell said.
Despite Jack and Margie’s unbridled passion, it wasn’t a guarantee that each of their children would attend Virginia Tech. One daughter, Munnelly, was so resistant to following in her parent’s footsteps that she refused to visit the campus for a tour. Her parents were able to convince her to come to Blacksburg for a football game. As the family walked to the stadium, Jack and Margie would stop every few minutes to speak with old friends, faculty members, even the university president. “By the end of the trip,” Snead Jr. explained, “she was convinced to attend Virginia Tech because, as she said, ‘it just felt like home.’”
For Jack and Margie, this was home. For their four children and many grandchildren, it became home. For both Russell and Hiller—R.E. Sorensen Professor in Finance—it became the foundation of their careers. That is why it was important to establish the scholarship. They wanted to share the Virginia Tech experience with everyone, including those who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
“Our father wouldn’t have been able to attend Virginia Tech without financial assistance, and our mother had to leave school because she didn’t have enough money,” explained Russell. “We want to provide aid to those that need it. We want to help enable students to experience this great university that would otherwise be unable to.”
Russell added that they also hope the scholarship inspires others to give back to university. “We also want to encourage those that can, to please do the same,” Snead Jr. said. “For those who can’t fund an entire scholarship, but still wish to help students in need, there are funds out there that you can give to.”
“Virginia Tech has been a part of our family—and our family has been a part of Virginia Tech—since the 1940s,” said Snead Jr. “We want that relationship to continue.”
The John W. Snead Sr. and Margaret F. Snead Memorial Scholarship supports an undergraduate scholarship within the Pamplin College of Business and is awarded based upon academic achievement and demonstrated financial need. For more information on this scholarship and other scholarships, please visit https://vt.academicworks.com/opportunities.
To make a gift to the John W. Snead Sr. and Margaret F. Snead Memorial Scholarship or any other scholarship or program, please visit give.vt.edu.
— Written by Jeremy Norman