Emily Jane Hilscher

Age: 19

Class: Freshman

Major: Animal and Poultry Sciences

Hometown: Woodville, VA

High School: Rappahanock County High (Warsaw, VA) - Class of 2006

Died in West Ambler Johnson Hall (student dorm) along with Resident Advisor Ryan Clark.


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Newspaper Remembrance Stories

"Everyone Here Just Loved Her"
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Emily Jane Hilscher is believed to have been the first person killed in the massacre. She lived on the first floor of the coed Ambler Johnston dormitory and next door to resident advisor Ryan Clark, who was also slain Monday.

Hilscher was a keen horseback rider. Trainer Moody Aylor recalled that she began riding at age 9 on her bay pony, Sude, at Old Mill Stables in Woodville.

She quickly began fox hunting with the Warrenton Hunt Club. She also rode her pony in the Gold Cup Races in Plains, Va.

A lithe girl — roughly 110 pounds and 5-foot-6 — Aylor said he tapped Hilscher to “breeze” or exercise his Thoroughbred race horses.

She also rode Hunter/Jumpers over fences and began showing her next mount, a Thoroughbred gelding named Slow Jack.

“She was a beautiful, grown-up person,” Aylor said. “She was the most mature person I’ve ever knew at that age.”

He regarded her as one of his daughters and called her several times at Tech to see how she was faring.

Aylor said Hilscher had qualified for the “B” equestrian team at Tech.

“Making the B team was really good for her first year,” he said. “She was a nice, sweet and wonderful person. Everybody here just loved her.”

A friend, Will Nachless, also 19, told The Associated Press that Hilscher “was always very friendly. Before I even knew her, I thought she was very outgoing, friendly and helpful, and she was great in chemistry.”

John McCarthy, administrator of 7,000-population Rappahannock County, and a family friend of Hilscher’s, described her as an animal lover. He said she worked in a veterinarian’s office and cared passionately about animals.

“She was a wonderful kid — warm, sensitive, outgoing and happy,” McCarthy said.

He said her family was declining interviews. She has a younger sister, Erica, who attends Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

Rappahannock County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Chappell said grief counseling was offered Tuesday at the school. Hilscher graduated in 2006.

“We extend our thoughts, prayers, and sincere condolences to the family of 2006 RCHS graduate Emily Hilscher, her many friends and her teachers as we all mourn the loss of this bright, talented young lady,” he wrote in an e-mail. “No words can completely express our collective community sorrow upon the untimely, tragic passing of this child.”

— Pam Podger Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman studying veterinary science, lived next door to Ryan Clark in Ambler Johnston Hall and was among the first killed in the rampage at Virginia Tech.

Ms. Hilscher was from Woodville, Va. Friends say she dreamed of becoming a horse veterinarian. One picture of her posted in an online tribute shows her jumping over fences on the back of a horse; another shows her standing in a stable beside a horse, a wide smile on her face.

Back home in her rural, tightly knit community of about 7,000 people, she spent summers horseback riding and working at a veterinary clinic. At Virginia Tech, she majored in poultry science and equine sciences, a course of study that set her on a path toward veterinary school.

"An outgoing kid, smart as all get out, a straight-A student," is how John W. McCarthy, a family friend and the administrator for Rappahannock County, Va., described her. "She was a warm, engaging, smart, beautiful, outgoing kid. She was one of those people you could see had a real bright future. She didn't have a subject she didn't excel in."

Those around her said she often went out of her way to make friends. Molly Mills, 18, a classmate, said she rode horses with Emily in the equestrian club.

"Emily was an absolutely amazing girl," she said.

Passions ranged from riding to writing
USAToday Profile

Emily Hilscher loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian.

The 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, Va., was majoring in animal and poultry sciences. Throughout high school, she worked at the Rose Hill veterinary practice in Washington, Va.

"Animals loved her, as people did," said Camilla Brown, a clinic secretary

Hilscher lived in the Virginia Tech dorm room next to another victim, Ryan Clark.

Senior Jessica Gould met Hilscher, an avid horse rider, at the university's Equestrian Club. Gould, who is also pursuing a veterinary degree, said she acted as Hilscher's mentor, offering guidance and assistance when needed.

"She loved to ride," Gould said. "She loved it here."

Nick Kocz, her English composition teacher, said, "My class began to gel this semester largely because of her."

She had returned from an equestrian competition, and Kocz asked Hilscher to let the class interview her to write a profile. Two dozen people came together over the assignment, Kocz says.

"She was so open, so good," he said. "She made it real for people." He said her own writing stood out: "There was a purity in her voice."

Washington Post Profile:

Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old from Woodville, Va., was on her way to becoming a veterinarian.

A freshman, she was majoring in animal and poultry sciences with a concentration in equine science. She was known around her rural Rappahannock County community as an animal lover, said family friend John W. McCarthy, also the county's administrator. She was a member of Virginia Tech's equestrian team.

"She worked in a vet's office here last summer," said McCarthy, who has known Hilscher since she was a small child.

She graduated last year from tiny Rappahannock County High, in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains. The Hilscher family lives on a rambling property up a long driveway, McCarthy said. On MySpace, Hilscher lists her home town as "Crappahannock," in the way teens do, but says she makes the "best of" living in the rural county of 7,000 residents with no fast-food outlets and only one stoplight. She said her friends are what keep her smiling.

Bob Chappell, superintendent of the Rappahannock County schools, issued a statement yesterday saying the community was mourning the loss of this "bright, talented young lady."

Hilscher leaves behind a brother and an older sister, McCarthy said.

On her MySpace profile, the blue-eyed Hilscher calls herself the "pixie" and says she's into "snowboarding, riding and music."

On a group devoted to her memory on Facebook, a fellow student says he'll remember her walking home from horseback riding at Tech.

The teenager said she liked every kind of music except country and classical. "Give me something I can bang my head to or dance like crazy and I'm all over it," she wrote.

McCarthy said Hilscher and his oldest daughter, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, had been friends since childhood. "She's crying her eyes out," McCarthy said.

He said Hilscher was a "caring, thoughtful person" whose "endless potential was cut off long before it should have been."

-- Daniela Deane, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Emily Jane Hilscher, 18, thought of herself as a pixie, and she had a bright smile and a twinkle in her eyes to match.

She hailed from the tiny town of Woodville, Va., not far from Shenandoah National Park. After graduating from Rappahannock County High School last year, she spent the summer working around the corner at a veterinary practice.

A veterinarian there told the local newspaper, the Culpepper Star Exponent, that many young assistants come in loving animals, but are put off by the hard reality of caring for sick and injured creatures. Not Ms. Hilscher. “To do that with happiness and stay positive makes her very special,” said the veterinarian, Betty Meyers.

Ms. Hilscher went to Virginia Tech to study animal and poultry sciences, with a focus in equine science. She also rode with the university’s equestrian club.

“Emily Hilscher was a wonderful student to have in class — bright, cheerful, thoughtful,” her freshman composition instructor, Nick Kocz, writes in an e-mail message. One day, to demonstrate interview techniques, he asked her questions in front of the class. She made it seem fun, he says: It was the moment the students “really began to gel as a class.”

“Emily taught me to have faith in in-class unstructured student demonstrations,” Mr. Kocz said. “Since then, I have allowed students to become more involved in forming individual lessons, which has helped me grow as a teacher.”

Ms. Hilscher had spent the weekend with her boyfriend, a student at nearby Radford University, before returning to her dormitory on the morning of April 16. She and her resident assistant, Ryan Clark, were shot to death there.

Police initially trailed Ms. Hilscher’s boyfriend because her roommate said they had all gone to a shooting range recently — not an unusual activity in rural Virginia. Then false rumors spread about a relationship between Ms. Hilscher and the killer. No such relationship existed, her friends insist. In online postings, they express frustration and anguish over the lies they say have dishonored their friend’s memory and compounded their grief.

What is important, they say, is remembering Ms. Hilscher.

“I’d feel grateful if even one of my children grew up to be the person she was,” says Mr. Kocz, a father of three. “We’re all deeply saddened at the loss.

Sara Lipka

Rappahannock residents remember Emily Hilscher
The Culpeper Star Exponent (Virginia)

WOODVILLE - Rappahannock residents were at a loss for words Tuesday as shadows of big puffy clouds pushed over Woodville’s quiet rolling cow pastures.

Everybody knows everybody in Woodville, the quiet rural Rappahannock County town where BlueRidgeMac is the most recognizable landmark before hitting Sperryville. The community was reeling a day after one of its own - 18-year-old Emily Jane Hilscher - became one of the first victims in the tragic Virginia Tech massacre which claimed 32 innocent students and teachers.

Emily was a 2006 Rappahannock County High School graduate and a freshman studying equine science and animal and poultry sciences at Tech. She was one of two killed at West Ambler Johnston Hall early Monday morning before a shooting rampage across campus claimed 30 more.

Stacks of newspapers at the Sperryville Corner Store proclaimed the sad news. A clerk there, who knew Emily since she was “yea high,” said not many people were talking about it; they were just waiting for more facts to emerge so they could begin to comprehend this tragedy.

Cows ambled as usual in the tranquil foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It looked like an ordinary day, but there was an unmistakable haze of overwhelming grief in the air.

At Rose Hill Veterinary Practice, where Emily once worked as a veterinary assistant, Camilla Brown gingerly thumbed a portrait of her beaming her customary sunny smile underneath a black velvet show helmet.

“There wasn’t anything she didn’t do with a smile,” Brown said, her eyes red from crying. She never stopped smiling, she continued. “Maybe when she slept.”

Emily was home visiting a couple weeks ago, riding friend Sara Astbury said, wiping tears away with a tissue. She said Emily and her mother were looking to buy another horse, so they could ride together during the summer.

“She was really, really sweet,” Astbury choked. “It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened to anyone for that matter.”

Brown said Rose Hill Veterinary Practice - located across from Rappahannock County High - fielded phone calls all Tuesday from pet-owners who knew Emily.

“Lots of kids love animals,” veterinarian Betty Meyers said.
Often when her young volunteers face the “hard realities” of caring for sick and injured animals, she said, that love begins to fade. That wasn’t so with Emily.

“Kids come in here and last a month, and last a week,” Meyers said. “(For Emily) to do that (care for sick and injured animals) with happiness and stay positive makes her very special.”

“I think that’s really true,” Brown agreed. “She never, never had an unkind word for somebody else, which is rare for a teenager.”

“I’m repeating the same stuff over and over again…(but) that’s Emily,” she said.

Katie Dolac, Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Emily Jane Hilscher, a freshman animal and poultry sciences major, was the beloved daughter of Eric and Elizabeth Hilscher, best friend and sister of Erica, and granddaughter of Gilman and Mary Carlson and Carl and Merle Hilscher.

Her hometown was Woodville, Va., and she was a graduate of Rappahannock County High School, Class of 2006. She was a skilled horsewoman, animal lover, enthusiastic cook, and imaginative artisan. Emily was always wise beyond her years and insisted on fairness in everything. She was eternally trying to save someone or something. She wanted people to be happy.

Emily had a passion for horses, and in the fall of 2006, she began what, for her, was to be an eight-year journey at Virginia Tech that would have culminated in her becoming a veterinarian and then working in an equine practice.

Emily became a member of the Virginia Tech equestrian team in spring 2007. She was a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association and competed successfully in her first show at Virginia Intermont College on Feb. 12, 2007. She was scheduled to compete in her second show on April 21.

According to her equestrian team coach, “Emily was just entering her Intercollegiate riding career. She showed great promise and had a perfect attitude that would have made her a very successful intercollegiate rider. Her strong work ethic and determination was always displayed as she spent long hours at equestrian club events always with a smile on her face.”

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Emily Jane Hilscher 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.