Virginia Tech Magazine
Alumni Shorts
Winter 2010
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Big rewards for small-town coach

Colonial Beach High School's state basketball championship in March 2009 wasn't exactly a replay of "Hoosiers," but it was a new experience for the tiny Potomac River community of Colonial Beach, Va., and the school, which, at 185 students, is the fifth smallest in the commonwealth.

For Steve Swope (physical education '78), the seesaw 77-75 win was the culmination of a 30-year high school coaching career and validation of a program he started in the early 1980s. "If you persevere, something good can happen," Swope says.

The championship was especially satisfying for Swope because one of the players was his youngest son, Kevin. "I have three sons, and I got to coach all of them," Swope says.

Steve Swope '78 (right) with his three sons: Joey, Tyler, and Kevin
Steve Swope '78 (right) with his three sons: Joey, Tyler, and Kevin
Although this was the first state championship for one of Swope's teams, he's no stranger to collecting trophies. His basketball teams have won more than 500 games over the years, and his baseball teams have notched 460 victories.

The genesis of Swope's successful basketball program came in the early 1980s when he started a winter youth league. Maybe not a particularly novel idea, but this league traditionally includes just about every kid in town, from the player who can barely dribble to the varsity star. Last year's Group A state player, T.T. Carey, started in the league when he was five. "We grow our own," Swope says.

Swope is a Colonial Beach native who came to Virginia Tech because it was a good school and because he was taken with it when he visited. After graduation he returned home to teach elementary physical education, but he remains a Hokie at heart. He attends all Virginia Tech home football games and some away games, and two of his sons attended Tech. "Once a Hokie, always a Hokie," he says.

Following the state championship, Colonial Beach celebrated in true small-town style. A huge caravan returned from Richmond to a police escort and people cheering in the streets. "I bet you we celebrated better than any other school in the state," Swope says. "I was happy to see the town enjoy something like that."

Finding a balance
Morgan Cain Grim '09
Tanya Moore Cummings '94 with daughters Kennon (left) and Blakely

When Tanya Moore Cummings (English '94) decided after her first child was born that she could not strike the right balance between motherhood and working at a large corporation, she quit her job.

But she never quit dreaming that she would eventually balance a successful career and a fulfilling family life.

"The day I quit corporate America I started writing my business plan," Cummings says. "I just needed to work a lot less, and I couldn't figure out how to do that."

A few years later, in September 2007, Cummings partnered with former business associate Whitney Forstner in Richmond, Va., to found Momentum Resources, a company that matches professionals who want to work part-time or flexible hours with companies that want the same thing. "We match really smart people with really smart jobs," Cummings says.

While many of the firm's clients are mothers, some are men. Most have 10 to 15 years of work experience and are on the fast track but have decided that they want to work 10 hours less. The companies reap benefits because "they're finding talent they wouldn't otherwise find or be able to afford," Cummings says.

Cummings' path to this point wasn't traditional. From a family of U.Va. fans, she attended Virginia Tech to "do something different." She graduated early--a move she says she regrets--and then "accidentally" landed a teaching job at Heritage High School in Lynchburg, Va. From there she worked for a nonprofit and then a Fortune 200 company.

Momentum (spelled mom-entum in the company's Web address) also has a Washington, D.C., office, and Cummings and Forstner have opened a second business, The Workbox, which leases office space to self-employed Richmonders.

As for that work/family life balance, Cummings acknowledges that she works a fair number of hours, but the key is that, for the most part, she decides when to work and when to be with her family. She also enjoys being the matchmaker between employer and employee. "It's an exciting thing," she says.

Senior-citizen alumnus keeps in step on Caldwell March
J. Morris Brown '62 (right) with Band Company members
J. Morris Brown '62 (right) with Band Company members

J. Morris Brown (mechanical engineering '62) called his 13-mile hike with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets "great," but even though he completed the Oct. 17 Caldwell March, he was disappointed that he couldn't tackle an additional 13 miles so he could have both the fall and spring marches under his belt--all in one day.

Brown strained a muscle and had to rely on his son, J. Kevin Brown of Fort Mill, S.C., to finish the entire 26 miles, although he took a different route than the corps takes.

Long hikes are nothing new to Brown, a 69-year-old nuclear engineer and retired vice president for operations for USEC Inc., a uranium-enrichment company.

In May, he and his wife, Phyllis, 68, walked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in a single day--a distance of 24 miles and an altitude change of one mile. And as recently as September, the couple put in a 17-mile round-trip visit--again in one day--to Keet Seel, Pueblo Indian ruins inhabited around 700 years ago.

Brown, who was a cornet player in the Highty-Tighties, is also a prolific mountain climber who has reached the tops of Mt. Kilimanjaro (at age 60), at 19,340 feet, the highest mountain in Africa; Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's tallest peak; Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states; Mt. Ranier, Washington's tallest mountain; and Humphreys Peak, Arizona's highest mountain; among others.

The Caldwell March was a special highlight for him. The Payson, Ariz., resident says that he enjoyed telling some of Band Company's first-year cadets on the march that he had been a freshman 51 years ago. "I was really impressed with the job Gen. [Jerry] Allen and his staff are doing with the corps," he adds.

If Brown can get the nod from Allen, commandant of cadets, he hopes to talk to the same first-year students on the spring Caldwell March--by then he will be 70 years old. After that, he notes, he will know both routes so he can walk the entire 26 miles in one day--as originally planned. Even if he stops now, he will be the oldest alumnus to complete the march.

Editor's note: Brown is a brother of Clara B. Cox (M.A. English '84), interim editor, who has also hiked the Caldwell March--twice.

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