Julia Kathleen Pryde

Age: 23

Class: Masters Student (first year)

Major: Biological Systems Engineering

Hometown: Middletown, NJ

High School: Middletown North (Middletown, NJ) - Class of 2001

Previous College Education: BS, Biological Systems Engineering (Virginia Tech, 2006)

Died along with Prof. Loganathan and 8 other students in Advanced Hydrology class.


Audio/Video Remembrances

Video from The Asbury Park Press: Vigil for Julia Pryde

Video by a Middletown High student: In Loving Memory of Julia Pryde (available for download here)

Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues

Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).

Memorial webpage created by Julia's high school (Middletown HS in Middletown, New Jersey).

Statement from SEEDS (“Seek Education, Explore, DiScover”):

We were first introduced to Julia Pryde in August 2003 when she was a student in Dr. Mike Rosenzweig’s Principles of Biology course at Virginia Tech. Julia stood out as a natural-born teacher/scholar. Her love of science and deep respect for nature spoke loud and clear. Passionate, organized, and a real people-person, Julia quickly became known as a beacon of hope for the future.

SEEDS (“Seek Education, Explore, DiScover”, www.seedsguys.org) is a non-profit youth education organization based in Blacksburg. SEEDS was founded in 1995 by Dave Deshler and Mike Rosenzweig. Julia began volunteering for SEEDS in 2004. By that time, Julia was well known and respected by her peers and by her professors, including Dr. Mary Leigh Wolfe, Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering. In addition to her activities in the community with SEEDS, Julia was known for presenting the VT administration with a university-wide composting feasibility study.

In September, 2005, Julia was nominated by her peers to serve as an officer of the VT Chapter of SEEDS. We have enjoyed and enormously benefited from Julia’s work in our peer and children’s programs.

Julia is already sorely missed. She was extremely bright, intelligent, intuitive, and flexible, with a high degree of creativity and integrity. She rallied her friends into action and was not one to let challenges stop her from trying. Most importantly, Julia was known as a most wonderful, friendly, yet serious “old soul”. The sparkle of her eyes, her smile, and laugh are unforgettable. Our love goes out to Julia’s family and friends. She is irreplaceable.

Newspaper Remembrance Stories

Student Channeled Love of Outdoors into Helping Others Quality
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Robert Jacks and Julia Pryde just finished co-writing a grant.

Two Saturdays ago, they took part in a stream cleanup.

Then, Wednesday afternoon, Jacks and other friends found themselves delivering a care package to Pryde’s mourning parents — leaving a collection of granola bars and organic drinks — “Julia food.”

Late Monday, Pryde was identified as one of the Virginia Tech massacre’s 33 victims.

Those who knew the graduate student describe Pryde as an outdoors lover who was passionate about the environment, a committed young lady with hopes of possibly earning a doctorate and working overseas in developing nations.

Mary Leigh Wolfe knew Pryde for most of college. The professor was Pryde’s undergraduate and graduate adviser. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2006 in biological systems engineering, Pryde traveled with Wolfe and others last summer to a poor, mountainous region of Ecuador, where her interest was improving water quality for the area’s people.

Before a shooter’s bullet took her life during an engineering class on hydrology, Pryde was planning another Ecuador trip this summer to collect data for her thesis.

She was concerned about environmental quality, environmental justice. But what made her stand out, Wolfe said, was that Pryde took her passion and did something.

For instance, she completed a research project encouraging the campus to turn food waste into compost. Wolfe said an undergraduate group is trying to persuade the university to implement the system.

Outside the classroom, Pryde was an active member of Seek Education, Explore, DiScover — SEEDS — a non profit youth education organization.

Jacks, a 20-year-old sophomore, met Pryde through the group this school year. Although graduate studies alone filled her schedule, Jacks estimates Pryde spent hundreds of hours doing volunteer work for SEEDS, participating in stream cleanups, leading children on hikes, even teaching him to play Hacky Sack .

“She had a very helping, giving nature to her,” Jacks said. “You could tell by her spirit.”

When there was no word from Pryde after the shooting, Jacks said her parents began driving from New Jersey. At the Inn at Virginia Tech, her family learned their daughter was dead, not merely missing.

By Tuesday, her hometown newspaper, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, ran a story about her death. A friend who left a comment on the paper’s Web site recalled Pryde’s kindness, even when it came to bugs.

“And even though she had to collect some of the insects for … classes,” wrote a person using the name vtknight, “she felt so bad that they had to die in order for her to collect them.”

That’s what people will remember when they think of Pryde, Wolfe said — her passion, her heart and her interest.

“Everyone has wonderful memories,” she said. “Wonderful stories to say about her.”

— Erinn Hutkin (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Julia Pryde, 23, was a graduate student in biological systems engineering from Middletown, N.J. She wrote a proposal to have the school cafeteria stop throwing waste in a landfill and start recycling it as compost.

She was studying watershed management in mountainous regions to help improve water quality. She was killed in an advanced hydrology class, along with a professor she much admired, G.V. Loganathan.

Last summer, Ms. Pryde went to Ecuador and Peru with a group of faculty and fellow students to study water supply and agriculture issues in those developing countries, and to enhance links with educational and scientific groups there. Technology developed in Peru could be adapted to Ecuador, Ms. Pryde wrote in a report on the trip.

N.J. native 'passionate about issues'
USAToday Profile

Julia Pryde was the pride of Middletown, N.J., long before using Virginia Tech as her ticket to academic research in Ecuador and Peru.

Pryde, 23, received her bachelor's degree from the university, and she was halfway through a master's program in biological systems engineering. She wanted to get her doctorate and become a professor and researcher.

As part of the master's degree program at Virginia Tech, Pryde traveled to Ecuador and Peru last summer to conduct research on water purity. The goal was to help create a more sustainable form of agriculture that would help the poor residents of the Andes.

"She was very passionate about issues, and she would act upon her passions," said her professor and travel partner, Mary Leigh Wolfe. "But she saw the other side, too. She had a great laugh."

Back home in New Jersey, Pryde swam freestyle and breaststroke for her high school team and played in township softball leagues. "She was a model young lady who was doing everything right in her life," Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said. "She had a bright future ahead of her."

Washington Post Profile:

Julia Pryde's passion for nature informed everything she did, from a week-long trip to South America to study water quality to the way she kept her hair: in free-flowing dreadlocks.

Pryde, 23, was studying to put her passion to work. As an undergraduate and then a graduate student in Tech's biological systems engineering program, she planned to make a difference by protecting the environment. Pryde was attending an advanced hydrology class in Norris Hall at the time of the shootings.

Pryde was a "wonderful, friendly, yet serious old soul," said Mike Rosenzweig, a friend and fellow member of the Tech chapter of SEEDS, a nonprofit environmental education group. "She rallied her friends into action and was not one to let challenges stop her from trying."

Last year, she traveled with a professor to Peru and Ecuador to work on watershed management. The year before that, she launched a program to begin composting food waste from Tech's dining facilities.

Gregory K. Evanylo, a professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, advised Pryde on the composting study. There was no dissuading her, though others before her had tried to start similar projects, he said.

"Sometimes we're apt to spill a little cold water on a project because we think we may have gone down that road before," Evanylo recalled. "She would have no part of throwing in the towel. That's the beauty of working with young, unjaded, enthusiastic students like you find at a place like Virginia Tech."

Mary Leigh Wolfe, Pryde's biological systems adviser, couldn't help chuckling as she recalled Pryde's determination. Wolfe also marveled at Pryde's commitment to bolster her ideals with a foundation of scientific know-how. "Her belief system was very much in place," Wolfe said with a laugh. "She was a passionate woman."

In her home town of Middletown, N.J., Pryde was passionate about swimming. Pryde, a 2001 graduate of Middletown High School North, swam for teams at her swim club, her high school and the YMCA.

Those who knew her remember a young woman committed, with great energy, to helping. Even a casual posting of hers on a Virginia Tech Web page, passing on a solicitation for volunteers to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, made her dedication plain.

"I thought this might interest some of you out there," Pryde wrote. Clearly, it interested her.

-- Amy Gardner, The Washington Post

Making world better was a goal for slain Middletown student
The Asbury Park Press (NJ)

MIDDLETOWN — Like many other students at Virginia Tech, Julia Pryde had a lot of classwork to complete in the days leading up to Monday's tragedy.

Through several e-mails, the 23-year-old who grew up in Middletown communicated with Mary Leigh Wolfe, who served as her academic adviser at the university for more than four years.

Pryde wrote no broad ruminations on life but detailed how she was preparing for finals.

"She was very passionate about her schoolwork, but she was also a very well-rounded person," Wolfe said. "She wanted to improve the living conditions of poor people."

Pryde was killed Monday on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. A graduate student in the biological systems and engineering department, she was one of 33 killed in the tragedy. Three were from New Jersey.

Wolfe said Pryde aspired to either teach or continue research into improving the environment, particularly for those less privileged.

"She was a very open-minded person," Wolfe said. "She had a wonderful laugh that would not hold back, just like her."

Pryde, a 2001 Middletown High School North graduate, also took to the water and had such a passion for swimming that she took a job as a lifeguard and office assistant in the summer of 1999 at the Middletown Swim and Tennis Club. She was also a member there for some time.

Jim Kelly, who was club manager at the time, said Pryde loved what she did.

"She was hard working, always conscientious and really caring," said Kelly, of Middletown.

A tight-knit community to which many members have belonged for decades, the swim club will feel the effects of Pryde's death.

"It brings you back to 9/11 and all the people (Middletown) lost then," he said. "She was a part of the swim club family and we will really miss her."

Pryde played soccer for several years for the Middletown Youth Athletic Association. Ben Curci, also Middletown's superintendent of recreation, was her coach for three years.

She was versatile, often playing midfield, but could also play goalie when needed to help the team, Curci said.

"She did whatever she needed to help her teammates," he said.

Scholarship in her name

The school community is already taking steps to remember Pryde. A $500 scholarship in her name will be given this year to a North graduating senior.

The sign outside High School North on Wednesday read: "Julia Pryde in our hearts and thoughts."

A member of the National Honor Society and frequently on the high honor roll, Pryde participated in the high school swim team all four years and was captain of the varsity team as a senior, interim Schools Superintendent Karen L. Bilbao said.

"There were many, many Middletown staff members who knew her because their children went to school with her," Bilbao said. "There were lots of memories, so this has really hit home for us."

Even though Pryde graduated from North almost six years ago, the death has still taken its toll on the school community, she said.

"When something like that happens, it seems so distant," Bilbao said. "Then the pieces start to come together . . . and you find out one of the victims is one of your former students that so many people knew. It's just devastating."

By Alison Herget and Kevin Penton

April 19, 2007

A day of mourning

Local victim recalled as woman determined to help others

The Asbury Park Press (NJ)

MIDDLETOWN — At a get-together for her friend Abby Winter's 21st birthday, Julia Pryde made a desperate plea to save a pesky spider scurrying around on the floor.

Kill it, Pryde's friends urged. But Pryde insisted they leave the insect alone. "I hope in your next life you come back as a spider," friend Meaghan Connor recalls Pryde telling her. "And I won't be there to save you."

Never passive or shy, Pryde was an eco-friendly go-getter who lived by the belief that she could change the world one step at a time, her friends said. Whether it was traveling to Ecuador to improve living conditions for the poor, or giving a homeless man a hug, Pryde would always go out of her way to help others, they said.

"She was a person of such achievements, who gave and gave, up until her last second," said Connor, 24, of Middletown.

Enveloped by grief and sadness, hundreds gathered at High School North Friday evening to remember 23-year-old Pryde, an alumnus and friend who was among 32 people murdered in Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

A student halfway done with her graduate studies in the biological systems and engineering department at Virginia Tech, Pryde aspired to use her knowledge and love for the environment to land a career helping others.

A group of friends donning T-shirts reading "Julia Gulia" — a reference to "The Wedding Singer," a movie Pryde liked — took turns speaking about Pryde to people in the bleachers holding candles enveloped by plastic cups to keep the flames lit.

Most friends wore sunglasses while speaking. They were only successful in shielding their tears, not the intermittent cracks in their voices from sobbing. But a few times the mood broke.

"Please throw the plastic cups away," friend Tiffany McMahon, 23, of Middletown, told the crowd with a laugh, adding that is what Pryde would want everyone to do.

On Friday, McMahon wore her hair in dreadlocks, just as Pryde had done with her hair for some time in college.

Pryde's sister, Leah, briefly spoke to thank the community for its support.

"I would like to thank all of you . . . whose help and kindness and support has just poured in," she said. "It has meant so much to us and helped us to get through this."

Pryde was so earth-friendly that she would go out of her way to pick up litter no matter where she was, said her friend Abby Winter, 24, of Middletown.

Her love for the environment consumed her studies at Virginia Tech, where she also received her bachelor's degree in biological systems engineering. During her time in college, she traveled to Ecuador, Chile and the Andes to study how to improve living conditions for residents there.

Pryde also had been nominated by her peers at Virginia Tech to serve as an officer of the school's chapter of SEEDS (Seek Education, Explore, Discover), a nonprofit group dealing with ecology issues, Connor said.

A donation box for SEEDS was set up at Friday's ceremony because "that's what Julia would have wanted," Connor said.

Pryde put her all into everything she did, including school work and extracurricular activities, friends said.

A member of the National Honor Society, whose name frequently showed on North's high honor roll, Pryde also was an ardent swimmer.

North Principal Patricia Vari-Cartier said Pryde often broke her own swimming records. She was a member of North's team all four years in high school and also swam on the Red Bank YMCA team.

She worked as a lifeguard, and office assistant at the Middletown Swim and Tennis Club and was a member there.

"She was more than willing to take on a challenge," Vari-Cartier said.

But aside from improving the environment, Pryde believed she could also change the world with love.

"Everything she did was for everybody else," Winter said. "She set her mind on making the world a better place to live."

One time Connor said she and Pryde were approached by a homeless man.

First, he asked Pryde for money. Then, he asked for a cigarette. She gave him neither.

But as he started to walk away Pryde told the homeless man, "I can offer you a hug."

And it was a "sincere hug," Connor recalls, where Pryde wrapped her arms around him tightly.

The homeless man thanked her, telling Pryde that he had not received a hug in many years.

"That was exactly what I needed," Connor recalls the homeless man telling Pryde.

By Alison Herget

April 21, 2007

'Julia was on a mission to save the world'

In Middletown, vigil for devoted ecologist

The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)

Julia Pryde wanted to change the world.

As several hundred people gathered at twilight last night for a candlelight vigil in her memory, it was clear that Pryde, a devoted ecologist with a contagious laugh, had changed everyone she knew.

They gathered at the Middletown High School North football field to remember the 2001 graduate who was one of 32 people in the path of (the gunman) and was killed on the campus of Virginia Tech on Monday.

From a podium on the running track, a dozen of Pryde's friends and former classmates shared tearful memories of the 23-year-old graduate student, whose personal life and career goals centered on improving the earth's ecology. Pryde's parents laughed. TV cameramen and longtime members of the press shed tears.

"Julia was on a mission to save the world," said Middletown High School North principal Patricia Vari-Cartier, who knew Pryde since she was a small child.

"We mourn what she could have accomplished with her intelligence, motivation and passionate dedication to her work. Just by being here tonight we are helping each other cope with this loss," she said.

Pryde's parents and other family members sat near the top rows of the bleachers, lined with hundreds of town residents carrying candles, as twilight descended. Her sister, Leah Palmer, was the only family member to speak.

"I would like to thank all of you here, in Virginia and everywhere else whose help, kindness and support has just poured in," she said. "It has meant so much to us."

On Thursday night, Pryde's friends gathered at one of their homes to prepare for last night's vigil, sorting through stacks of photos and tying red ribbons onto lapel pins to be worn in her memory.

They arrived with eyes reddened from crying. But before long, there was laughter.

It came with the stories they told of Pryde, described as the "different one" in the tight-knit group of classmates. They recalled how they would walk together -- most of them in their stilettos and sunglasses, Pryde in her Birkenstocks and homemade clothes, bopping along to a song playing only in her head.

There were the phone calls they would get: calls from Pryde out of the blue, just to tell them about something she had seen on a hike a pretty sunset, or two deer sipping from a lake in the woods.

They laughed, too, at her serious side: her astounding smarts and obsession with "sustainable structures" homes built from environmentally friendly materials.

"She was the most beautiful, simple person you could ever meet," said Meaghan Connor.

Their collection of photos included a shot of Pryde's cheeky smile, a grin so wide it turned her blue eyes into tiny slits; another of Pryde wincing as she tried to stop her friend from killing a spider.

It has been almost six years since Pryde last attended classes at Middletown North. But Connor and several others recalled how the fading of their high school memories and Pryde's move to Virginia never put a dent in their friendship.

"The further apart we became in our adult lives, the closer our friendship grew," said Connor.

As they pored over photos and told stories, they struggled to describe one of Pryde's most unique attributes: her laugh.

"It was a loud giggle," said Abbey Winter, Pryde's friend since second grade.

"You could hear her from another house down the street, laughing, and you would know Julia was in that house," said Connor. "It was contagious."

But they also knew Pryde as the diligent student who took a full schedule of AP classes, was captain of the swimming team and the only girl in shop class.

And at Virginia Tech, her friends said, Pryde's academic prowess and love of the outdoors blossomed into her pursuit of a career in nature conservation and natural-resource management.

She spent a year working on a project studying the production of alternative fuel for the island of Fiji in the South Pacific. She submitted a proposal to university officials for a campus-wide composting program. She spent a week studying water systems in impoverished regions of Peru and Ecuador.

'She just loved the research and she loved to learn," said Winter, who hosted the gathering of friends Thursday night. "The more she learned about it, the more she loved it, and the more it was just her."

The friends last saw Pryde when she returned to New Jersey for spring break in late February. She spent a few days here, then slipped out of town and returned to Blacksburg, Va., without saying goodbye.

"I hate saying goodbye, so I just left," Winter recalls the text message she received from her friend. "But you know I love you."

By Brian Donohue

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

As a dedicated environmentalist, it was a natural for Julia Kathleen Pryde of Middletown, N.J., to choose biological systems engineering for both her 2006 B.S. and for her master’s degree. It was also natural for her to care deeply for others, as she showed when she traveled to Ecuador and Peru last summer to conduct research on water purity to help create a more sustainable form of agriculture that would help the poor residents of the Andes. 

Julia, who was born Sept. 7, 1983, participated in swimming for her high school, the local swim club, and the YMCA. She enjoyed soccer and softball. She had a great interest in music and was a volunteer at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg.

Julia was a certified wild-land firefighter who received her training while working with the Student Conservation Association. She conducted a restoration project with the Nature Conservancy of New Jersey in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey and performed home assessments and GPS data collection for fire evaluation at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. She was a member of one of the firefighting teams deployed to fight fires in Arizona in 2005.

She planned on pursuing a doctorate degree, becoming a professor, teaching in college, and conducting research with a focus on creating pure water and sustainable agriculture in the Andes and Africa.

Last year, she wrote a feasibility study urging Virginia Tech to compost leftovers from its dining halls, a plan friends are trying to get implemented.

Julie was also an officer of the Blacksburg organization, SEEDS–Seek Education, Explore, DiScover. She was an active supporter of those resisting mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia and an active member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

The endowed scholarship fund created in memory of Julia Kathleen Pryde for biological systems engineering students is a legacy that will honor her research and her passion for the environment.

Julia had twinkling eyes and always carried a smile that would burst forth into ready laughter. Her generous golden spirit will never be lost to anyone privileged to have been in her presence.

A warm and accepting person, she was open to a variety of people, ideas, circumstances, and challenges. She embraced these challenges, whether academic, social, ethical, physical, economic, or spiritual, all with enthusiasm. She placed herself on a path of new trials, always in pursuit of a better world and a better self.

Julia’s sister, Leah, a gifted equestrian, described her younger sister as a “natural” on horseback. She was a natural at many other things, including swimming, soccer, softball, guitar, sewing, jewelry making, mathematics, listening, problem solving, firefighting, volunteering, and intuitively relating to people from many walks of life. She was open, kind, generous, and brave.

Julia was a natural naturalist, too. She had a harmonious friendship with all living things and the habitats intended for them. She absorbed it all like a poet with a sense of passion and enchantment, while at the same time working to help sustain it with infinite wisdom and the logical clarity of the engineer she was. Her creativity delivered thought-provoking solutions that endeared Julia to many colleagues.

Julia was also a math wiz. She could grasp concepts of numbers and patterns that would baffle most.

Julia was a very distinct individual with and without dreadlocks, homemade jewelry, bellbottoms, glowing joy, with two loving brothers who liked to tease her, a big sister with whom she had so much talent in common and whom she admired greatly, a father whom she always turned to, and a mother whose beauty she boasted about when her Mom couldn’t hear. The grey hairs she generously gave her parents during her trying teens were soon replaced by swells of pride at the unique, delightful, insightful, generous, loving citizen their daughter had grown into.

She cared and thought about others much more than she paid attention to any personal concerns. She wanted to help change the world and was already on her way to creating positive changes for many people. Her giving to her causes and friends was infinite. In this world, her special brand of person is in great demand but, sadly, scarce supply.

We can honor Julia by being ourselves and by appreciating and respecting the beauty in us and all around us and by continuing her stewardship of our remarkable planet.

VT Memorial Scholarship / SEEDS Program Funding in Julia's Memory

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Julia Kathleen Pryde 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, all donations to SEEDS in Julia’s memory will go to support two SEEDS endeavors that Julia was interested in:  Helping financially underprivileged children attend SEEDS' summer environmental and community field camps and assisting in SEEDS' local watershed education project (the latter being a project that Julia had been helping out on for five years).