Each year, the Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life Alumni Aspire! Award goes to a Virginia Tech alumnus who represents our hopes for all our students – that they live lives of curiosity, integrity, innovation, leadership, success, fulfillment, and that they continue to embody the university’s motto, Ut Prosim, as a way of life.
Today’s recipient is a great friend to Virginia Tech’s students, to Student Affairs, and to the university. On behalf of Student Affairs, it is my honor to present the 2021 Alumni Aspire! Award for EMBRACE UT PROSIM AS A WAY OF LIFE to Kimberly Davis-Riffe.
Alumna Kimberly Davis-Riffe (Class of '91) wants to be a part of creating an inclusive environment at Virginia Tech. In 2019, she decided to do something that no one else had done before: she created an endowment to support the LGBTQ+ community.
“I want to contribute to creating a haven for LGBTQ+ Hokies who may be struggling with finding a sense of belonging,” said Kimberly. The gift is also intended to create educational opportunities for all Virginia Tech students to learn about the LGBTQ+ community as well as support mental health initiatives.
Kimberly can relate to the search for belonging in college. It wasn’t until her junior year when she was elected treasurer of the Student Government Association that she felt she had found her place. "I took the job seriously,” said Kimberly. “I felt valued and respected.”
The role connected to her accounting major, but her road to choosing that major wasn't clear cut. At one point, when she was getting a D in intermediate accounting, her professor sent a letter to her parents advising that she choose another path. When her parents told her about that letter, her 'I’ll show you' attitude kicked in! Soon she brought the D up to an A. Kimberly later went on to pass all four parts of the Certified Public Accountant exam on her first try -- less than 1% do that.
Kimberly happened to run into that professor a few years ago and had the opportunity to tell him the effect he had on her life. “I thanked him,” she said. “I told him that his letter saved me.”
She now works at one of the top accounting firms in the world, KPMG, as a senior partner for Financial Services Risk Assurance Advisory. Her connection to VT remains strong: Kimberly currently serves on Pamplin’s Accounting and Information Systems Board, the Student Affairs Alumni Advisory Board, and VT Engage's I WILL Council.
Kimberly’s path to supporting Student Affairs was also shaped both by two important family members: her uncle, John Grado, and son, Davis.
Growing up, Uncle John, a fellow Hokie, served as a mentor to Kimberly about the importance of philanthropy. Her son, Davis, inspired her interest in the LGBTQ+ community because of his progressive and accepting views.
Davis inspired her to consider how she could advocate for marginalized students at Virginia Tech. The endowment Kimberly created is named after him: the Davis Endowment for Student Advocacy.
Kimberly, we are so proud of you and thankful to you for modeling what it means to serve others with courage and empathy. Student Affairs is honored to present you with the Alumni Aspire! Award for EMBRACING UT PROSIM AS A WAY OF LIFE.