Program speakers for Pamplin's Salute to Veterans Day (from left to right) Ron Poff, Drew Jackson, Samuel Kennedy, Sean Collins, Ellie Thurneysen, Doug Anderson, Janice Branch Hall, Archie Hill, and Sydney Hess. Photo by A’me Dalton for Virginia Tech.

The Pamplin College of Business held its third annual “Salute to Veterans Day: The Embodiment of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve)” on Thursday, November 9.

The program was kicked off by cadets Ellie Thurneysen ’24, Drew Jackson ’24, and Archie Hill ’26, who served as emcees for the celebration. Saonee Sarker, Richard E. Sorensen Dean of Pamplin College of Business, offered opening remarks to all faculty, staff, students, friends, and families, referencing the importance of Veterans Day, and thanking all those who served.

Naval veteran Samuel Kennedy, president of Veterans@VT and a senior majoring in Business Information Technology, shared his experience transitioning from military to civilian and student life.

“As a student veteran, we are met with the unique and difficult challenge of relearning how to learn,” said Kennedy. “Many of us have not been in school for many years. We are used to the rigor and structure of military life, but unused to having homework and class projects as a normal part of our day. Making that transition back to an academic setting is tough. Many, including myself, find themselves seeking tutors just to relearn the basics. Some of us may also suffer from service-related disabilities that impact our ability to learn and require us to develop new coping strategies or adopt new accommodations.

He continued, “By understanding these challenges student veterans face, and by offering tools and resources specifically geared towards this community, the Virginia Tech community can help improve the academic and overall experience for veterans and ease their transition back to academic life.”

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Leading the attendees in a moment of silence was Sydney Hess ’23. Hess shared her connection to Veterans Day, as her father is a retired Marine pilot with over 17 years of service, and spoke of the importance of military families and friends serving as ‘hidden heroes.’

The keynote speaker was Ron Poff, assistant department head for the Management Department and interim director for the Business Leadership Center. Poff is a veteran, serving in the United States Navy Reserves for 10 years. He achieved the rank of E-6, Petty Officer First Class, and was recalled to active duty in 1990 in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In addition to his various departmental and college-level service roles, Poff has continued to serve Virginia Tech in countless capacities and has been the recipient of multiple awards such as the Ut Prosim Award, Excellence in Teaching, Favorite Faculty, and the Distinguished Marketing and Sales Award.

Keynote speaker Ron Poff shared his personal experiences as well as the names of the cadets and veterans listed on the Ut Prosim Pylons to attendees in person and via Zoom at Pamplin's Salute to Veterans Day. Photo by A’me Dalton for Virginia Tech.

Sean Collins, Navy veteran and the managing director of the Startup Hokies program portfolio at the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs, shared his personal experience. In 2004, Collins was deployed in Japan with VP-8, a Navy Maritime Patrol squadron, when a magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami event. With waves measuring up to 100 feet high and traveling more than 500 miles per hour throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans, nations were devastated. Collin's squadron, being already deployed in the Pacific, was able to respond immediately, offering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Aircraft from Collin’s squadron were among the very first eyes from the sky to survey the damage.

“This Veterans Day feels more poignant than others given the many conflicts in the world today,” said Collins. “To have served in a small role in the rescue and recovery efforts, halfway across the world, is one of the proudest moments of my time in uniform. There are many definitions of ‘service.’ I like to think of service as actions that create lasting positive impact. In this capacity, focusing on creating lasting positive impact, we all serve. Especially on this Veterans Day, thank you to our men and women in uniform and their families. Your service to our country, and others around the world, will not be forgotten.”

Pamplin College of Business Dean Saonee Sarker provided opening remarks at Pamplin's Salute to Veterans Day. Photo by A’me Dalton for Virginia Tech.

Other Pamplin veterans also gave remarks during the ceremony, including Dawn McEvoy, a Navy veteran, and Doug Anderson, an Air Force veteran. The program concluded with a special tribute video that honored esteemed veterans and active-duty persons who, despite the risk and sacrifice, have served and defended our country. Closing remarks were offered by Janice Branch Hall, the associate dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Continuing the tradition of previous Veterans Day celebrations, a personalized commemorative “challenge coin” was designed and offered to all in-person and virtual attendees. Proceeds from Operation Hat Trick, a University Bookstore pop-up-shop of Virginia Tech-branded military appreciation apparel, supported Virginia Tech veteran-student scholarships and related initiatives as well as veterans and wounded service members of the Richmond Fisher House. Additionally, personal items were collected to donate to the Homeless Veterans Programs, a segment of Voluntary Services at the Salem, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

Written by A’me Dalton

Attendees listen to the stories of Pamplin veterans at the Salute to Veterans Day. Photo by A’me Dalton for Virginia Tech.