The lingering effects of the recession left Victoria Vest’s dad without a job after working at the same company for twenty-eight years.
After a year without work, a once squeezed budget became non-existent, as Victoria tried to piece together her family’s unraveling finances, and decide if she could continue her mechanical engineering studies as an out-of-state student at the University of Tennessee.
As a sophomore, Victoria had already seen her fair share of loan paperwork. Her brother, Shane, a finance major, is determined to finish his senior year at UT, even if that means taking out more loans and working nights delivering pizzas like his father, Richard, once did as a UT business administration student.
Relying on his savvy business and restaurant management skills, Richard created his own career opportunity and opened a Pizza Hut in the Charlotte area. During the summer and on any breaks in between, Victoria and Shane travel back home to help their dad manage the restaurant, “but it is still a financial struggle to figure out our college expenses because any profits from the business goes back into sustaining the business,” explains Victoria.
“Without the Don Tinsley Engineering Scholarship there is a real possibility that I would not be at UT this year,” says Victoria, who considers herself lucky to be one of the firsts to benefit from Don Tinsley’s generous bequest to establish scholarships for students studying architecture, mechanical, or civil engineering—career paths that influenced the success of Tinsley’s commercial roofing business in Knoxville.
A World War II veteran, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot and retired from the Tennessee Air National Guard, Tinsley received his business degree from UT in 1942. He spent five decades leaving his mark on hundreds of buildings, including many on the UT campus.
“He’s gone, but his legacy lives on in me, and another student, and another student, and for generations to come,” says Victoria. “The scholarship goes a long way to make my education doable for me and my family. Without this scholarship I would definitely have to work. I am so grateful to be able to devote the majority of my time to my studies, and not worrying about how to earn money to pay for my education.
“It amazes me how alums care so deeply about the dreams of students they have never met.”
As a young girl, growing up in Lenoir City, Tennessee, Victoria dreamed of becoming a pilot. Fascinated by the precision of planes, Victoria is minoring in aerospace engineering, while sticking to what “I am good at math,” she says. “When I started taking calculus in high school I began seeing the endless practical applications and problem-solving potential. Engineering combines the best of both these worlds.”
Continuing the UT tradition of his parents, Ryan DeLozier, as a Maryville High School student, made UT a part of his world after attending a mechanical engineering orientation at the university.
“I saw the engineering buildings; the classes that were offered to freshman; the amazing faculty—that day solidified my career path, and I have never looked back” even after receiving a disappointing letter over the summer “telling me I was not going to be receiving any scholarship assistance.”
But then another letter came “and I not only was going to be receiving a scholarship, but it was going to be for twice as much as the previous scholarship I had received,” he says. “I don’t have to worry about working because the scholarship helps me with my living expenses.”
Gaining real-world experience, Ryan has taken part in the Engineering Professional Practice program by enhancing his classroom studies with an internship at BSH Home Appliances in Jacksboro, Tennessee.
Graduating in May, Ryan, who worked as a restaurant server to make ends meet during his sophomore and junior year, says, “It’s hard to put into words the impact of Mr. Tinsley’s gift—it’s more than money, it’s my future.”
Victoria says, “My future seemed uncertain for a moment, but Mr. Tinsley’s foresight and generosity is helping pave the way for me, and I hope one day that I can pave the way for someone else.”