Alumni Shorts

Getting personal with the chef

Kristen Yorgey DayKristen Yorgey Day '99

When Kristen Yorgey Day (biochemistry '99), a cancer researcher in Northern Virginia, lost her position to corporate cuts, she didn't panic. Long-frustrated by her commute and the area's notorious traffic jams, she saw the layoff as an opportunity to pursue her "one true passion"--cooking.

In January 2003, Day established Meals by Day, a personal chef service that features some 70 entrées, traditional and exotic alike. Whipping up such dishes as saffron chicken with dates, Mediterranean beef stew, East Asian pork strips, mustard-maple salmon, and vegetarian West African soup, Day presently has a dozen clients in Loudoun and Fairfax counties and offers some pretty sweet deals, among them a romantic dinner for two and a murder-mystery dinner.

"Going into someone's home and preparing dinner is a very personal thing," admits Day, a certified professional food manager. "I become an extended family member to a lot of my clients. I learn about their jobs, pets, kids, even blind dates. As a result, I limit the number of clients I accept so that my attention to detail and quality is not affected."

This smaller client base also allows Day to offer various meal plans, each tailored to fit different needs. And because her service fee--which covers menu-planning, grocery shopping, food preparation, packaging, and cleanup--is set upfront, clients ultimately control the total charge by selecting their menus and thus determining the cost of their groceries.

Besides an "office day" on Mondays, during which she outlines the week's menus, Day packs up her equipment and hits the store by 7:30 every morning. After shopping, she typically spends the next five to seven hours preparing, cooking, packaging, and freezing from four to 10 meals, depending on the client.

The detailed planning, careful shopping, and hours in the kitchen have paid off for the former research scientist. Meals by Day was named the 2005 Outstanding Small Office/Home Office by the Herndon/Dulles Chamber of Commerce, nominated for the 2004 Best Home Based Business in Loudoun County, and received the 2005 Town of Leesburg Business Appreciation Award. Day was also named the July 2005 Pacesetter by the Personal Chefs Network, as well as head chef of its Virginia chapter.

"My goal is to keep this business small and personable," says Day, who takes "recreational" cooking classes at L’Academie de Cuisine. "I love what I do and I don't want this business to grow to the point that it isn't fun anymore."

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Alumnus receives Woodrow Wilson Award

At a September ceremony in Portland, Ore., businessman and philanthropist Robert B. Pamplin Jr. (Class of 1964) received the 2005 Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Recognizing political and business leaders who exemplify the center's mission of nonpartisan dialogue toward the unification of politics, business, and education, the award is conferred on "executives who, by their examples and their business practices, have shown a deep concern for the common good beyond the bottom line. Recipients recognize the role they can play in improving society in general, while at the same time advancing the long-term interests of their firms, employees, and shareholders."

Robert B. Pamplin Jr.Robert B. Pamplin Jr. '64

Pamplin Jr. is the chairman, president, and CEO of Portland's R.B. Pamplin Corporation, a family-owned company with annual sales of nearly $700 million. He and his father, Robert B. Pamplin (business administration '33), are the namesakes of Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, which has received more than $22 million in gifts and pledges from the family.

A minister and the author of 13 books, two of which were Book-of-the-Month selections, Pamplin Jr. has eight degrees, including two doctorates.

He is the founder and owner of the Portland Tribune newspaper and Columbia Empire Farms and has served on presidential and state commissions and as chairman of the board of trustees for three colleges.

The recipient of numerous honorary degrees and national awards for his philanthropy and business leadership, Pamplin has also been awarded the Distinguished Leadership Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, the National Caring Award from the Caring Institute, the Herman W. Lay Memorial Award for outstanding entrepreneur of the year, and America's Outstanding Individual Philanthropist from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

In recognition of his commitment to bettering the world through philanthropy and integrity in business ethics, Pamplin Jr. received the Wilson Award along with former Oregon Gov. Mark Hatfield, the first time Oregonians have been selected for the honor. Among the previous honorees are America OnLine co-founder Steve Case and AOL Time Warner's Ted Turner.

New Mrs. America sitting pretty

Andrea Ballengee PreussAndrea Ballengee Preuss '95 and family

The Hokie Nation got a whole lot more glamorous in September when Andrea Ballengee Preuss (political science '95) was crowned the new Mrs. America. She swept the competition in interview, swimsuit, and eveningwear events.

Preuss, who also holds an MBA from Pepperdine University, currently works as a district sales leader for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. She says she entered the pageant because of her mother-in-law, who succumbed to cancer three years ago. Preuss says the act of nursing her mother-in-law through her last days was a life-changing experience and that it taught her that "You only have one life to live, and you have to use it to the fullest."

For Preuss, the experience has led her to work on cancer fundraising efforts and enter pageants so that she can serve as an advocate and role model. She says that she is honored to represent America's married women and show them that they can achieve success in their families and careers--and still be a little glamorous, too.

The new Mrs. America will also be involved with the National Anthem Project, which aims to teach Americans the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" and to support music education in public schools. Preuss, a classically trained ballet dancer, is thrilled to use her role to support the arts and to help renew America’s patriotism.

Overall, Preuss attributes her success to her ability to balance the many aspects of her life. As a wife, mother, and businesswoman, she says it is vital to remember what is important. For Preuss, that is her family: her husband, Bill; and her children, Savannah Belle, 6, and Wil, 4. They are her biggest cheerleaders, she says, and they keep her grounded.

With such a busy lifestyle, Preuss appreciates the lessons she learned at Virginia Tech. She says, "When I look back to college, I realize how much I learned from life experiences. It really teaches you how to survive in life, finding your way in a big school like Virginia Tech. You learn how to balance priorities."

With all the balancing Preuss is doing today, she may as well be a tightrope walker.

Hokie to the rescue

Lt. Jay Armstrong Lt. Jay Armstrong '94

In late August, New Orleans-based Coast Guard pilot Lt. Jay Armstrong (industrial and systems engineering '94) was busy preparing for the birth of his first child. Then came Hurricane Katrina. As the massive storm approached his home, Armstrong helped his wife Melissa--eight months pregnant at the time--evacuate to Pensacola before heading into action in the storm-ravaged area with his Coast Guard unit to begin the process of rescuing thousands of victims.

Armstrong, who had always wanted to be a pilot, entered the Coast Guard in 1988 and met Melissa while attending flight school in Pensacola. He says that his engineering classes at Virginia Tech prepared him for the technical elements of flight school and adds that his time in Blacksburg was well spent since his education "established a foundation to learn in lots of different arenas and the social aspect prepared me to work well with others." Armstrong also appreciated the discipline and personal responsibility he gained in college. "You really have to grow up at a school like Virginia Tech."

That discipline served him well during the post-hurricane rescue efforts. Armstrong flew a helicopter for six to eight hours every night for a week. His job was to find people on rooftops; with their night-vision goggles, his crew could easily pick out even tiny flashes of light. The helicopters landed on school or hospital roofs when they could; otherwise, swimmers were deployed to help people into the baskets that would lift them to safety. Sometimes, the rescuers had to break through the roofs and pull people from attics, one by one. Armstrong sums up the experience as "surreal."

Armstrong's Coast Guard unit rescued 6,500 people and helped save and relocate 20,000-30,000 more from the New Orleans area; he was personally involved in 100 rescues. His unit is now focusing on the rebuilding and cleanup efforts in New Orleans. With new navigation, marine safety, and environmental protection issues to be dealt with after the hurricane, Armstrong will be busy. He also has an entirely new role to fill: being the proud father to his daughter, Caroline.