Austin Michelle Cloyd
Major: International Studies/French (Honors Program)
Hometown: Charlotte, NC (birthplace) /
Bloomington, IN, Austin, TX and Champaign, IL (childhood)
High School: Centennial (Champaign, IL) / Blacksburg (Blacksburg, VA) - Class of 2006
Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.
Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues
Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).
Newspaper Remembrance Stories
Freshman Wanted to Help
Others by Working with U.N.
Austin Cloyd, a Virginia Tech freshman, hoped to foster peace in a troubled world by working for the United Nations.
“Austin’s parents, brother and extended family and friends want everyone to know that the world has lost a very special person,” said the Rev. Charlotte Smith, minister of music and worship at the Blacksburg Baptist Church.
Cloyd, 18, graduated from Blacksburg High School in 2006. She was a dean’s list student in the honors program at Tech.
She was double majoring in international studies and French with a minor in environmental policy.
She was an officer in the school’s International Relations Organization and a participant in the Model U.N. program.
An advocate for those in need, Cloyd spent four summers on missions with the Appalachian Service Project, where she helped to renovate homes. Her favorite task was roofing.
Cloyd and her mother, Renee Cloyd, were so inspired by the group’s work that they started a similar program in her former hometown of Champaign, Ill., calling it the Champaign Urban Service Project.
Cloyd loved working with children, assisting with vacation Bible school and child care at her church and in the community.
She taught swimming to preschoolers and served as a lifeguard in the Tech McComas Hall Student Recreation Sports Center, where she was recognized as an outstanding employee.
She grew up in Champaign, Ill., where her father, Bryan Cloyd, taught accounting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She excelled in volleyball and basketball and was active in the First United Methodist Church in Champaign.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cloyd’s influence is still being felt at Centennial High School in Champaign, where she and her mother coached a park district basketball team.
Martha Harter, who was Cloyd’s mentor during her church confirmation, said she loved giving people gifts, reading and traveling. She planned to study abroad.
“She was a very tall, striking young woman, and she was the kindest person. She was always sensitive and caring about other people,” Harter said. “There was not a mean bone in that girl’s body.”
Cloyd moved to Blacksburg in 2005 when her father took a position as a professor of accounting and information systems at Tech.
He was teaching in a building two classroom buildings away from Norris Hall when she was killed in Room 211 during French class.
“Austin was the most wonderful daughter in the world,” her father told the Chicago Tribune.
Her parents asked that memorial donations be sent to the Appalachian Service Project, a nonprofit Christian ministry in Johnson City, Tenn.
“Austin didn’t get to complete everything she wanted to do in life, but she put a lot into her almost 19 years,” Smith said. “Hopefully, her life and the lives of all those others who died will inspire other people to do good deeds.”
— John Cramer (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)
York Times Profile:
Austin Cloyd 19, a freshman and international studies major and university lifeguard, grew up in Champaign, Ill., where her father, C. Bryan Cloyd, taught accounting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ms. Cloyd excelled in volleyball and basketball and was active in the First United Methodist Church in Champaign, sometimes going on missions to Appalachia to help rehabilitate homes, said Terry Harter, senior pastor.
"She was outgoing, friendly, a warm kid with a good sense of humor, very caring," Mr. Harter said. "It's just horrible."
Ms. Cloyd's mother served as an administrative assistant and director of youth ministries at First United, Mr. Harter said, until the family moved to Blacksburg in 2005 when Mr. Cloyd took a position as professor of accounting and information systems at Virginia Tech.
Worked for years to
improve the world
Austin Cloyd was just a freshman, but her parents said she had learned her most important lesson years before.
Cloyd, one week shy of her 19th birthday when she was killed Monday, spent her summers working with the Appalachia Service Project, roofing the homes of poor people in Kentucky. She had spent time at a medical clinic in Piedras Negras, Mexico, helping doctors care for pregnant women.
"She learned that the impoverished do not have a voice," her mother, Renee Cloyd, said. "She wanted to help create justice in this world."
Cloyd's parents said their daughter had grown up concerned about the plight of others. Through her travels around the world on family vacations, a childhood in Austin and playing in basketball and volleyball leagues growing up, they said she was always exposed to diverse people.
Through that, she decided that she wanted to work for the United Nations. She took part in Model U.N. events at Georgetown University, Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania.
She didn't do any of that, her parents said, to build her résumé. "She wasn't the president of this or the president of that," said her father, Bryan Cloyd, an accounting professor at Virginia Tech.
She did it simply to try different things and to prepare for a career where she could make some change in the world. That, her parents hope, can be her legacy, and one they can help carry out.
"Maybe we've given up on that as adults because we've become jaded," her father said. "But we can take a fresh look at the world through their eyes and try to accomplish their dreams."
Washington Post Profile:
All day Monday, friends left messages looking for Austin Cloyd, an 18-year-old freshman from Blacksburg whose father is a professor at Virginia Tech. A Facebook page filled with notes from friends praying for her, and pleading for news.
"Austin . . . you are so loved and I just hope that you are going to be alright . . . " a friend wrote.
At 5:30 that night, the pastor from their former church back in Illinois spoke with Bryan and Renee Cloyd. They still hadn't heard from their daughter.
Friends began to hope she was in surgery -- maybe she was unconscious, maybe she was on a ventilator. Her former church started a prayer chain.
After midnight, a friend from high school posted a note on Facebook that her parents had gone to the hospital in Roanoke, but when they got there, she wasn't there.
Some 24 hours after the shooting, her parents finally got word, said their pastor, the Rev. Terry Harter. They were shown a photograph of one of the bodies.
Her family was unable to talk about it, but sent an e-mail about their daughter, a dean's list student in the honors program, that ended: "the world has lost a very special person."
As word spread, friends cried, and laughed, at their memories. They talked about how much Austin Cloyd loved to act, to sing, play volleyball, read, go shopping. She was always dressed just-so. A friend remembers a trip to Old Navy taking 90 minutes of careful analysis. Bailey Hampton, a 17-year-old friend from Illinois, said she was "high-maintenance, in a good way." Always put together.
She was striking, very tall, with pale skin and bright red, curly hair, a big smile. Chris Nicosia, a freshman, remembers turning around at the Justin Timberlake concert last month and seeing her there unexpectedly, dressed in red, completely dazzling him.
"She radiated," Martha Harter said.
She remembered birthdays and wrote thank-you notes. She loved little kids. She taught 4- and 5-year-olds to swim at Tech, laughing with Nicosia about funny things the kids did -- like drinking from the pool. She was a lifeguard, too, someone who would take on extra work without a complaint, said her swimming supervisor, Katherine Frasca.
She kept ties to Texas, where she and her parents and younger brother lived before Illinois, and to Illinois when they moved to Virginia in 2005.
She took mission trips to Appalachia, climbing on roofs to patch them, helping to install plumbing or shore up worn-out walls.
That's what Hampton will remember, she said: Cloyd sleeping on the ground on those weeklong volunteer trips, and laughing when they showered in the rain -- she made sure to shave her legs.
She loved international studies, and languages.
When Harter heard that some of the victims were in a language class, her heart stopped for a moment. It made her think of Cloyd.
In January, Austin Cloyd and her mother had hopped into a car one day and drove to Illinois to surprise old friends and catch up. They knocked on Harter's door one night, she said, and Austin was standing on the doorstep, grinning.
She had turned from a high-school student into a young lady, Harter said. She couldn't believe it. Harter burst out, "You're so beautiful! You're so grown up -- I can't take it!"
Her birthday is next week. Was next week.
-- Susan Kinzie, The Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:
As the daughter of a professor, Austin Michelle Cloyd, 18, moved from state to state following her father’s academic career. And each time she did, she never had trouble making new friends.
Described as bright and warm by those who knew her, Ms. Cloyd excelled in both academics and athletics, participating on her high-school basketball and volleyball teams, and working as a lifeguard for Virginia Tech, where her father became an accounting professor in 2005.
The Rev. Don Jackson, now lead pastor at Riverside United Methodist Church in Moline, Ill., knew Ms. Cloyd when they both lived in Champaign. He was the leader of the youth group she participated in, and his son, Jason was her close friend.
“She was just a very caring, very friendly young girl,” Reverend Jackson says. “Kids were just attracted to her.”
Ms. Cloyd went on mission trips to Appalachia, where she and friends from church helped poor families by fixing their homes, repairing roofs and broken pipes.
That work inspired her to do more to help others, Reverend Jackson says. She chose to major in international studies at Virginia Tech.
“She wanted to get involved in the United Nations to promote peace and justice,” Reverend Jackson says. “She was just a sweet girl.”
Virginia Tech Magazine
Austin Michelle Cloyd lived life boldly. She sought out new experiences and embraced those she felt passionate about. She was not afraid of failing because she knew that, even in failure, she would learn from the experience. And she lived her life with purpose—she knew what she wanted to accomplish and she knew how to get there.
Austin was born in Charlotte, N.C., the daughter of Bryan Cloyd, professor of accounting and information systems at Virginia Tech, and Renee Cloyd. Austin, an integral part of her family’s academic adventure, grew up in three university towns (Bloomington, Ind.; Austin, Texas; and Champaign, Ill.) before moving to Blacksburg just before her senior year in high school. She graduated with honors from Blacksburg High School in June 2006.
Austin traveled the world with her family and was interested in politics and international and environmental issues. Austin eagerly anticipated her college experiences, both academic and social. When she arrived at Virginia Tech, she quickly took advantage of every learning opportunity. She was a member of the Honors Program, an officer in Tech’s International Relations Organization, and an active participant in several model United Nations conferences. Austin was pursuing a double major in international studies and French.
A tall girl with flaming red hair and a bright smile, Austin played basketball throughout her middle and high school years. She worked four summers with Appalachia Service Project to help make homes in rural Appalachia warmer, safer, and drier. She loved children and was always eager to work with them as a babysitter, a day camp counselor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a group leader for the Champaign-Urbana Service Project, and a swimming instructor at Tech’s McComas Hall. She enjoyed reading, scuba diving, music, concerts, college basketball games, travel, and adventures with friends.
Austin had a brilliant mind, a compassionate heart, and an iron will. She was a child who knew love and knew how to love. Austin loved her brother, her parents, and her entire family. She wanted to help others and did so in ways both big and small. Austin’s favorite quote captures much of her outlook on life: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone does something, then together we can change the world.”
Memorial Scholarship / Donations to the Appalachia Service Project
Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Austin Michelle Cloyd Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in her memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.
Additionally, Austin's parents have requested that memorial gifts in celebration of her life be made to Appalachia Service Project, a nonprofit Christian ministry located in Johnson City, Tennessee which provides vital housing services to low-income families living in Central Appalachia.