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Julia Kathleen Pryde

Julia Kathleen Pryde
Julia Kathleen Pryde

As a dedicated environmentalist, it was a natural for Julia Kathleen Pryde of Middletown, N.J., to choose biological systems engineering for both her 2006 B.S. and for her master’s degree. It was also natural for her to care deeply for others, as she showed when she traveled to Ecuador and Peru last summer to conduct research on water purity to help create a more sustainable form of agriculture that would help the poor residents of the Andes.

Julia, who was born Sept. 7, 1983, participated in swimming for her high school, the local swim club, and the YMCA. She enjoyed soccer and softball. She had a great interest in music and was a volunteer at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.

Julia was a certified wildland firefighter who received her training while working with the Student Conservation Association. She conducted a restoration project with the Nature Conservancy of New Jersey in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey and performed home assessments and GPS data collection for fire evaluation at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. She was a member of one of the firefighting teams deployed to fight fires in Arizona in 2005.

She planned on pursuing a doctorate degree, becoming a professor, teaching in college, and conducting research with a focus on creating pure water and sustainable agriculture in the Andes and Africa.

Last year, she wrote a feasibility study urging Virginia Tech to compost leftovers from its dining halls, a plan friends are trying to get implemented.

Julie was also an officer of the Blacksburg organization, SEEDS–Seek Education, Explore, DiScover. She was an active supporter of those resisting mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia and an active member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

The endowed scholarship fund created in memory of Julia Kathleen Pryde for biological systems engineering students is a legacy that will honor her research and her passion for the environment. Donations may be made payable to the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc. and sent to Virginia Tech Foundation, University Development (0336), Blacksburg, VA 24061 or to donate online visit

Julia had twinkling eyes and always carried a smile that would burst forth into ready laughter. Her generous golden spirit will never be lost to anyone privileged to have been in her presence.

A warm and accepting person, she was open to a variety of people, ideas, circumstances, and challenges. She embraced these challenges, whether academic, social, ethical, physical, economic, or spiritual, all with enthusiasm. She placed herself on a path of new trials, always in pursuit of a better world and a better self.

Julia’s sister, Leah, a gifted equestrian, described her younger sister as a “natural” on horseback. She was a natural at many other things, including swimming, soccer, softball, guitar, sewing, jewelry making, mathematics, listening, problem solving, firefighting, volunteering, and intuitively relating to people from many walks of life. She was open, kind, generous, and brave.

Julia was a natural naturalist, too. She had a harmonious friendship with all living things and the habitats intended for them. She absorbed it all like a poet with a sense of passion and enchantment, while at the same time working to help sustain it with infinite wisdom and the logical clarity of the engineer she was. Her creativity delivered thought-provoking solutions that endeared Julia to many colleagues.

Julia was also a math wiz. She could grasp concepts of numbers and patterns that would baffle most.

Julia was a very distinct individual with and without dreadlocks, homemade jewelry, bellbottoms, glowing joy, with two loving brothers who liked to tease her, a big sister with whom she had so much talent in common and whom she admired greatly, a father whom she always turned to, and a mother whose beauty she boasted about when her Mom couldn’t hear. The grey hairs she generously gave her parents during her trying teens were soon replaced by swells of pride at the unique, delightful, insightful, generous, loving citizen their daughter had grown into.

She cared and thought about others much more than she paid attention to any personal concerns. She wanted to help change the world and was already on her way to creating positive changes for many people. Her giving to her causes and friends was infinite. In this world, her special brand of person is in great demand but, sadly, scarce supply.

We can honor Julia by being ourselves and by appreciating and respecting the beauty in us and all around us and by continuing her stewardship of our remarkable planet.

Middleton, New Jersey

Masters Student,
Biological Systems Engineering
Student since Fall 2001

Posthumous degree(s):
Master of Science,
Biological Systems Engineering

Julia Kathleen Pryde stone at April 16 Memorial

Julia Kathleen Pryde stone at April 16 Memorial