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The Queen family reflects on what it means to be Hokies

The Queen family
Tim and Kate Queen

As members of the Virginia Tech Parent Council, the Kate and Tim Queen took an active role in their son Charlie’s education. As Charlie prepares for graduation with a degree in Architecture, Kate and Tim reflect on his experience at Virginia Tech, their involvement as Hokie parents, and the insight they gained into the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). They established the Timothy A. and Katherine M. Queen Family Endowment for New Student and Family Programs in Charlie’s honor to ensure access and success for all students and make the life-changing opportunities Charlie had available to more Hokies.

We recently had a chance to talk to the Queens about their thoughts as Charlie’s graduation approaches.

Q: You paid Virginia Tech the ultimate compliment by choosing to send your son Charlie here. How did you make that decision? What factors did you consider as you were looking at schools?

Kate: The decision to go to VT was 100 percent Charlie’s. He knew at a fairly young age that he wanted to be an architect. His favorite childhood toys always had Lego in the name. During high school, Charlie went to several architectural camps at colleges on the east coast, including Inside Architecture + Design at VT. It was during our ride home from the VT camp that Charlie told me he was certain he wanted to study architecture and certain that the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at VT was where he wanted to study. I was just happy that he was so sure about his decision. Charlie researched about a dozen different architecture programs: rankings, student satisfaction, program reputation, graduates’ employability, competitiveness, acceptance rates, and most importantly, why Tech was the perfect place for him. The more I listened, I realized I knew very little about VA Tech. Admittedly, I am not a Virginia native and my husband attended UVa for undergrad and med school. My knowledge of Virginia Tech was limited to its school colors, oddly shaped turkey mascot, and a very keen awareness that if UVa had a game and the opponents wore orange and maroon, anyone watching the game better be rooting for Mr. Jefferson’s team. Having grown up in a ’Hoos house, Charlie asked me to wait before sharing his decision with Tim until after he sent in his application because he didn’t know if his dad could take the news. For the record, Tim is extremely proud of our Hokie son and how much he has grown over the last five years.

Tim: Charlie made the decision, but we supported his choice. The architecture program at VT was ranked in the top five in the nation, and he loved it there. Of course, academics is the most important factor, but quality of life and student satisfaction are also very important.

Q: Charlie is on the brink of graduation. What are your thoughts and feelings about the education and experience he has gotten at Virginia Tech?

Kate: I can’t believe it’s been almost five years since we dropped Charlie at his first-year residence hall. He has had some tremendous opportunities to participate in special projects in Blacksburg; Arlington, Virginia; Riva San Vitale, Switzerland; and Orlando, Florida. VT has provided more than a fabulous education from one of the top programs in the country. It is at Virginia Tech that Charlie has also been able to meet, work, and become friends with students and professors from all over the world. I’m sure he will continue some of these relationships long after graduation. He has had tremendous opportunities to travel and develop a better understanding of different cultures through the study of their architecture, history, food, art, religions, and people. I’m a little jealous of the opportunities and adventures he’s experienced during his time in Blacksburg and abroad.

Architecture isn't my field, but from what I can tell, Charlie has received an excellent education. He feels like he has the knowledge and the skills he needs to begin his career in architecture with a respected firm. I know that VT architecture graduates are well-regarded in the marketplace.

Q: How did he find his “place” at Virginia Tech?

Kate: I think Charlie found his that his place was whenever he was in working with his professors and classmates in studio, regardless of whether he was in Blacksburg, Riva, or the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC). Charlie enjoyed studying at each campus, each with it’s own unique “personality” and different opportunities for learning and living. Even though he was living in a different city or country, he was able to find his place and feel at home because the architecture program, regardless of location, was structured in the same studio format – three to four hours every day in studio for instruction time with professors and time for students to work on their projects, independently or collaboratively. Regardless of location, I think Charlie found his place was with the professors and friends he came to know.

Tim: Charlie likes associating with a smaller group of people, so at first, I thought VT might be too big. However, the size of the architecture department was perfect for him. It allows the students to form strong friendships and collaborative relationships. Even though the architecture students don't live together, they spend so much time together, it's as though they have their own residential college. Yet they can still enjoy the university at large, when they desire.

Q: What was the highlight of his college experiences?

Kate: In Riva, he had the opportunity to live in a 300-year-old home in Switzerland and travel all over Europe to visit historically significant architecture and museums and enjoy some incredible cuisine. At the WAAC, he lived in a great location in Northern Virginia. At the program’s end, he stayed for the summer to work for his professor in his private firm. The practical experience gave him the chance to learn almost every aspect of working in a smaller practice. Because of his experience, he has made some decisions about what type of practice he might like after graduation. Charlie also worked with a team of students and professors from VT on the FutureHAUS building concept. The project concluded with a road trip to Orlando where the team presented the features and benefits of the home at a national homebuilders’ trade show.

Tim: Demonstrating the FutureHAUS project to thousands of conventioneers was an exciting and valuable experience. The whole family took a trip to Orlando to see the project. Charlie really enjoyed his semester abroad in Switzerland and his semester in Alexandria. Since architecture is a five-year program, it's nice to spend some time outside of Blacksburg. It also allowed him to mature. After spending his entire life in his parents' house, and then in a small college town, these opportunities allowed him to experience the world on his own. Whenever we travel on family vacations, Charlie is always drawing or sketching things he sees and making mental notes for future ideas.

Q: Are you different people because of the experiences your family has had at VT?

Kate: I’ve been a bit nostaligic lately, thinking about how fast five years can pass and how much Charlie has changed and grown as a person during his college years. But then I realized we are all different people now because our son decided VT was his first choice. I did not attend Virginia Tech and was not born in Virginia, but I feel like our whole family, and the families of every Tech student, are members of the Hokie Nation. The motto Ut Prosim is not just a catchphrase etched in stone or printed on letterhead. Ut Prosim is a living doctrine. Between Hokies and from Hokies to anyone in need, Ut Prosim is transformative for those who serve and those who are served. My Wahoo husband had a theory that something was added to the water in Blacksburg because there was no way that many happy, helpful, positive people just happened to live in the same place at the same time. Then we both realized it wasn’t just the Hokies in Blacksburg who were happy, positive, and helpful. It was Hokies all over the world.

Tim: I'm absolutely a different person after having a son attend VT. I attended UVa for both my undergraduate and medical school degrees. After being a double Wahoo, it took a little adjusting to have a son who was a Hokie. That was by choice, by the way. Charlie was accepted to UVa, but chose VT. However, it didn't take long to realize that Virginia Tech is the most welcoming place on Earth. I've only experienced the most sincere friendliness at VT.

Q: You are engaged with and support Virginia Tech. The Queen family endowment has made so many opportunities available to students. How did the idea for this gift come about?

Kate: Virginia Tech has had a huge, positive impact on Charlie, academically, socially, and culturally, and he will remember these experiences for the rest of his life. As parents, we are so thankful that Charlie and many of his classmates were able to participate in so many unique educational and service opportunities. When talking in Parent Council about the service trips, I was surprised to learn that many students are unable to participate in service projects if there is a fee. During this discussion, I was reminded of my own experiences while attending college -- and suddenly, a light bulb lit up. I received some small scholarships and grants, had student loans, and worked full-time to pay my tuition. I missed opportunities to go to free concerts or lectures because they conflicted with my work schedule. Other programs fit well with my schedule but I could not afford the registration fees. For many students, then and now, adding these experiences to their academic plan is not always possible. I didn’t know what was involved or how it would work, but I thought that if we could cover the fees for even one student a year, that would be a step in the right direction.

Tim: We wanted to contribute to our son's educational and social experience as much as possible. VT has done a lot for Charlie and his classmates. This allows us to give back to the community that has given him such a great education and has provided him with such a welcoming social environment.

Q: As members of the Virginia Tech Parent Council, you have helped shape the Virginia Tech experience for all students. Why did your join the Parent Council? Why is it important for parents to be involved in their children’s college experiences?

Kate: We initially joined the Parent Council because we were interested in learning about the university and how plans for the future may impact the current students or programs. I also liked that the university actually invited input and ideas from the parents. Because neither Tim nor I went to Virginia Tech, we also thought it might be a nice way to meet other Hokie families from our area with kids around the same age as Charlie. The more I learned about Tech, the more I realized that many non-Hokies, (myself included) know very little about how special this university is. I wanted to become more active, or as active as possible, to help change that, even if only a little. The more we learned, the more involved I wanted to become.

Being a member of the Parents’ Committee was a great way for parents like us (non-alum Hokies) to get to know about resources, programs, and opportunities available to students and their families. Parent input was considered when making much-needed changes to the way families can pay tuition and fees. We were able to attend tailgate parties, football games, or special events with other members and their students. I have truly enjoyed getting to know other members and meeting their students. There were also some social events that were held in the Tidewater area which were a great way to get to know the local Hokie families. It’s also been a privilege to get to know members of Student Affairs and I think of each of them as part of our own family. There were many times during these last five years I have been overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and genuine interest shown, not only to my student and family, but to all Hokies by wonderful leaders and staff working in Student Affairs.

Tim: Joining the Parent Council was a great decision. We've been involved since Charlie's freshman year. It really gives parents good insight on how the university is developing and how those changes impact the students, including their own student. The opinions of parents are very much appreciated at Virginia Tech. It's not just a "give us your money, and we'll give you a presentation" type of council.

Q: Do you feel you are a part of the Hokie Nation? What does it mean to you?

Kate: If we had not joined the Parent Council, especially as non-alumni, I might still believe that a Hokie is an oddly-shaped turkey, and Tim might still be convinced they’re putting something in the water in Blacksburg because the folks there are way too happy. If we had passed up the opportunity, we might not have learned about the great things happening at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and all over the world. We would not have had so many opportunities to offer our opinions or suggestions for different ways to improve our student’s experience while attending VT. We might possibly have missed out on meeting some truly wonderful people that we now think of as family. It is because of friendships made through the Parent Council that I was able to experience the transformative impact of the words Ut Prosim. I will always be thankful for the education and opportunities that our son received while at Virginia Tech. And I will always be thankful that Tim and I joined the Parent Council.

Tim: Yes, we're a part of the Hokie Nation. I never thought I'd say that before Charlie went to VT. Don't get me wrong. I still love UVa. I'm still going to root for the 'Hoos everytime, but I will root for the Hokies when they play anyone but UVa. Virginia Tech is a fantastic university with strong academics and an absolutely unmatched and nurturing social network. The Commonwealth of Virginia is blessed to have so many schools with extraordinary academic reputations. I'm proud to have sons at two of those universities, and I will continue to support both of them.

Tim Queen is an ear, nose and throat surgeon and allergist in private practice in Newport News, Virginia. Kate is a financial administrator. The Queens have been married for more than 25 years. In addition to Charlie, they have Ethan, who is in his third year at the University of Virginia, and Eliza, who will be attending the Savannah College of Art and Design next year. They also have three adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Written by Sandy Broughton.