Julia Pryde

Julia Pryde

Hometown: Middletown, N.J.

Age: 23

Class: Graduate Student

Major: Biological Systems Engineering

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

© 2007 The Washington Post Company