There are many famous quotes about that almost mystical connection between food and community:
- American chef James Beard said, "Food is our common ground, a universal experience."
- Writer George Bernard Shaw opined, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food."
- And tenor Luciano Pavarotti said, "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."
With characteristic candor, Rial Tombes puts it more succinctly. When asked what her passion is, she replied, "Playing in the dirt and then cooking a delicious meal for friends and family." Her commitment to bringing her community access to healthy foods, to sustainability, and to raising awareness of food issues on campus, take civic engagement to a new level.
Tombes is a senior majoring in environmental policy and planning, with a minor in civic agriculture and food systems. She is a visionary thinker who is well respected by her peers, faculty and community. As a sophomore, Tombes started the On Campus Farmers Market, a project to connect students with local vendors and the Blacksburg Farmers Market. She organizes community meals with local faith-based organizations, promoting access to healthy food, and creating opportunities for dialogue between faculty, students, and community members. She is active in the Sustainable Food Corps, the Environmental Coalition, and is a student liaison for Virginia Tech's award-winning dining services and the Kentland Farms dining services garden. She devoted her spring breaks to service through Heifer International. And she worked to establish the 15-acre Hale YMCA Community Garden, which provides space for organic gardening, exploration of environmentally-based community projects, and environmental education through shared work, shared conversation, and shared learning.
Tombes' advice is simple. "Be confident in yourself first," she said. "You can accomplish anything."
This has been a busy year for Tombes, and one that represents the capstone to her long record of service. She organized Food Day at Virginia Tech last fall. And this spring she spearheaded the first ever Student Foodshed Summit. Both of these events enhanced the visibility of local food efforts and the role that students at Virginia Tech can play in supporting local, healthy food systems.
Her nominator wrote, "Rial's creative leadership ability and unassuming persona have resulted in a ripple effect with students when it comes to cultivating civic engagement around community food systems. Rial is a unique and multidimensional individual who challenges all of us to live more responsibly and with integrity. When Rial graduates this May, her volunteerism legacy will inspire others to serve."
For her dedication to the well-being of her peers, her campus, and her community; for her focus and energy; and for the strong work ethic that drives her to get the job done, the Aspire! Award for Ut Prosim is presented to Rial Tombes.
April 22, 2016 Recipients
- Samantha Hall - Ut Prosim
- Charelle Berry - Civility
- Audrey Semel - Courageous Leadership
- Jess King - Curiosity
- Mike Schoka - Self-Understanding and Integrity
- Frances Keene – Ut Prosim
- John Graham – Ut Prosim
Susan Anderson – Courageous
February 19, 2016 Recipients
Javier González-Rocha – Self-Understanding and Integrity
Obaid Rehman – Civility
Claire Kelling – Courageous
Meghan McLoughlin – Ut Prosim
Erica Nagotko – Curiosity
Anthony Purcell – Civility
Glady Sartin– Self-Understanding
October 2, 2015 Recipients
Walter Gonsiewski – Self-Understanding
Seyi Olusina – Civility
Skyler Mueller – Courageous
Anastasia Matusiewicz – Ut Prosim
Natasha Laramie – Curiosity
Vera Kidd – Curiosity
Residence Life Resource Officer John Tarter – Ut Prosim
Robby Moser – Ut Prosim
March, 2015 Recipients
Juan de la Rosa Diaz – Courageous
Jamaica Sykes – Curiosity
Luke Birch –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jake Voorhees – Ut Prosim
Turki Saad Al-Zahrani – Civility
Captain Jim Snyder – Courageous Leadership
February, 2015 Recipients
Catherine Goggins – Courageous
Allison Laclede – Curiosity
Samuel Aguilar Chavez –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Larissa Perara – Ut Prosim
Lauren Cashman – Civility
Jay Read – Civility
Scott Busiel – Self–understanding and Integrity
Robin Boucher – Curiosity
Tricia Smith – Ut Prosim