Scholarship recipient makes his mark at Virginia Tech


President Charles W. Steger and Brent Ashley hand out water bottles to students moving into their residence halls.

President Charles W. Steger and Brent Ashley hand out water bottles to students moving into their residence halls.

By Zeke Barlow

Brent Ashley made a promise to himself when he started his academic career at Virginia Tech: He’d never sit idly in his residence hall and let life pass him by.

Four years later he has lived up to that vow.

Not only is Ashley the Student Government Association president, but he has also been a member of the Relay for Life committee, vice president of the Block and Bridle Club, a member of the Alpha Zeta and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies, a founding member of the FarmHouse fraternity, and involved in about 10 other clubs. On top of all that, he’s also double majoring in dairy science and animal and poultry sciences and minoring in political science.

From a young age growing up on his family’s farm in Felton, Del., Ashley’s parents supported him and encouraged him to be the best he could be.

“I was always sure I was making them proud and myself proud,” said Ashley, a senior.

But he also recognizes one person he’s never even met with helping him be such a resounding success at Virginia Tech — Phyllis Cragle.

Cragle created the Ray Cragle Scholarship in memory of her late husband, who was head of the Department of Dairy Science from 1970 to 1978. Beyond requiring that students maintain good grades, another criterion for scholarship recipients is that they are actively engaged in extracurricular activities. Cragle has been pleased with all 32 students who have received scholarships, but Ashley holds a special place in her heart.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him if he was my own son,” said Cragle.

Cragle has received heartfelt thank-you letters from Ashley for each of the four years he received the scholarship, and she’s always amazed at how much he has accomplished at Virginia Tech.

“Each letter reminds me of how pleased my husband would be with Brent,” she said.

Ashley wanted to pay for his college education on his own and said the Ray Cragle Scholarship has gone a long way toward helping him realize his dreams. It is abundantly clear Ashley is a man who meets his goals.

These days, he has weekly meetings with Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger to talk about student affairs. He’s working with the Town of Blacksburg to establish a polling station on campus to make it easier for students to have their voices heard. And he’s studying for his LSAT exam with plans to attend law school next year.

Ashley knows that being active in campus life is a contingency for the Ray Cragle Scholarship and he’s glad that he got it by not letting life pass him by.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that I earned this scholarship,” he said.