Richard C. Beitel Jr. of Annandale and Melinda H. MacDonald of Reston have been named the outstanding students for their colleges at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Beitel, a student in the College of Education and MacDonald, completing her fourth year at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, were honored last week during Founders Day ceremonies at the university.
Beitel, an elementary education major, will return to Fairfax County after graduation to teach at the junior high school level.
He said that he chose this age group because the students then "are more sensitive to their needs."
"This is a critical time in these kids' lives," he said. "They undergo many physical and emotional changes."
He currently is a student-teacher at an elementary-middle school in Pulaski County.
In commending Beitel, Virginia Tech officials said that his influence and leadership had stretched from the university campus to Africa. As president of the Mortar Board chapter at Tech, a national senior honor society, he had led the university's Hunger Drive for Africa.
Beitel said he has wanted to teach since he came to Virginia Tech after transferring from West Virginia University. Kenneth Hoskisson, of the college's curriculum and instruction department, said that Beitel "has always taken the initiative to apply what he was learning in his classes to his classroom."
Beitel credits two persons at Lake Braddock High School for leading him to teaching. "Dr. Patrick McCarthy motivated me," he said. "He took a personal interest in kids and still does. The principal, John Alwood, also was great. He tried to make teachers realize the importance of human relations."
MacDonald set her sights on her chosen profession even earlier: when she was in third grade.
"I've always wanted to be a vet," the honor student said. "I spent nine years in Africa -- Tanzania and Liberia -- and that's when I became interested in vet school."
At Virginia Tech she has a grade average that is a scant 0.04 from being perfect. After graduation this June she will intern for a year at the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary clinic in New Bolton, Pa.
"I hope eventually to go into surgery," MacDonald said. "I especially enjoy working with horses and other large animals."
Like their counterparts in medical college, veterinary students must cope with long hours in the hospital in addition to their classwork.
"No day is as expected," MacDonald said. "When the day is 'done,' it's fairly common to get an emergency."
Although MacDonald said she did not think that her efforts at Virginia Tech were any greater than those of her colleagues, the outstanding senior award is based on effort as well as grades.
"Mindy has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement throughout the professional curriculum," said Dr. Colin Carrig, associate dean for instructional programs at the veterinary college. "She also has performed at a very high level during her clinical clerkship rotation, and appears poised to make a significant contribution to the field of veterinary medicine."