The Manfreds, (from left) Michelle, Ross, Richard, Capri and Cole, have all taken classes at Thomas Nelson.
The 2020 Christmas card photo for the Manfred family shows all five members in Virginia Tech colors or gear. It’s fitting since one of the sons, Ross, graduated from the Blacksburg school earlier this month and his twin is on track to finish in 2022.
It also would be fitting if all five were wearing the green and purple of Thomas Nelson since they each attended the College. Plus, Thomas Nelson happens to be where the mother, Michelle, has worked since 2005. Although Michelle claims she didn’t do any arm-twisting to get her children to attend Thomas Nelson, she did admit to having an influence on them.
“Well yeah, you know their mom rides their butt (about the College),” she said.
What’s also interesting, and points to the diversity of the College population, is they all took different paths to Thomas Nelson. They all have attended for various reasons and programs, too.
“That’s what fits for Thomas Nelson,” said Michelle, who is the director of Information Services in Enrollment Management. “We’re here for a variety of things, not just necessarily transfer degrees.”
Since joining the College about 15 years ago, Michelle has taken several classes, from physical education to Zumba to pilates to self-defense to a music class in the spring.
“I started attending after I started working there,” she said.
Of her children, Ross was the first to attend Thomas Nelson. He took the traditional route, starting right out of high school in fall 2016. He graduated in spring 2018 with a degree in engineering.
“It made sense,” he said, adding that he discovered what he really wanted to do when got to Thomas Nelson. “I always was interested in computers, but I needed some direction. It was good that I went there to discover a little bit more about other engineering fields, kind of reaffirmed my decision to go into computer science at Virginia Tech.”
When he was looking at colleges, of course his mother chimed in about Thomas Nelson. But how much say did she have in him attending the College?
“Not as much as you’d probably think,” he said, “although she has a history of twisting my arm.”
He liked the small setting, the fact it was close by, and that it was more afforadable than four-year schools. And having a mother who worked there could be advantageous.
“In case I get in any trouble, she’ll get me out of it,” he said.
There was no need for that, as he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and earned the Hastings Award from the engineering department. He highly recommends the College, and not just for those who are indecisive about a career path.
“Just to go here and give it a try, even for one year,” he said. “There are a lot of good teachers there.”
If he had to do it all over again, he would go to Thomas Nelson.
“I definitely think that it took me down a path in life that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” he said. “Everything was great.”
Ross’ twin brother, Cole, went to the Apprentice School after high school. During his second year there, he also started taking engineering classes at Thomas Nelson. He spent almost two years at the College before transferring to Virginia Tech. Studying material sciene engineering, he and is on track to finish at Virginia Tech in 2022.
Ross said he and his mom probably had some influence on Cole attending Thomas Nelson.
“I definitely talked to him and was like, ‘This is a good place to go. You should go here,’” Ross said.
Michelle’s daughter, Capri, had yet a different experience at Thomas Nelson. She went to Marymount University in Arlington out of high school and is in her second year there studying biology and pre-med in the hopes of becoming a surgeon. She took an EMT course at the College this summer, and will probably take more when she’s home on breaks.
“She’s what we call our visiting students,” Michelle said.
For Capri, it was a practical decision.
“They have a lot of opportunities for courses, like the EMT course,” she said of Thomas Nelson. “It was a really good opportunity. … The different classes are good to get your basic courses, your gen eds, out of the way.”
She considered attending Thomas Nelson before going to a four-year school, but things worked out and she was able to attend Marymount right away. That might have been a slight disappointment to her mother.
“She really tried her hardest for (Thomas Nelson) to be the (first) school I went to, but …” Capri said with a laugh.
Adding to the family legacy is Michelle’s sister Beverly Bartlett, who earned a degree in business administration in fall 2013 before transferring to Old Dominion, where she earned a bachelor’s in business administration. She now works for AARP. She also took a non-traditional path, going back to school in her 60s after a 25-year career in the food industry.
“I thought I needed to do something else, get another skill set,” Bartlett said.
With her sister working at Thomas Nelson, it seemed like the obvious choice. Even though she was much older than most of her classmates, she never felt ill at ease.
“I didn’t really feel like anybody was treating me any differently or negatively,” she said. “It was a pleasant experience. … I never had a problem at all feeling out of place or anything such as that.”
Michelle’s connections to the College don’t stop there. Her husband, Richard, took classes at Thomas Nelson from 1992-94. And a godson also attended the College, graduating in 2013.
There was no master plan for all of them to attend the College. No cajoling on the part of Michelle or anyone else in the family. It just happened that way.
“We’ve all kind of chosen different paths so we let each other do our own thing,” Capri said of her siblings. “We figured we knew what was best for us.”