• YEAR: Doctoral candidate
  • MAJOR: Biological Sciences
  • HOMETOWN: Augusta, Georgia

Vanessa Hale

Growing up in Georgia, Vanessa Hale was far from hallowed Boilermaker territory, but her grandfather, William Reynolds, made sure she knew what it meant to be a part of the Purdue family. The 1938 Engineering graduate sang the Purdue fight song to his young granddaughter. Now, some 70 years after her grandfather's student days, Vanessa is walking the same ground he once walked — and she's married to a Boilermaker.

Vanessa, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences with a Purdue veterinary degree already in hand, seeks to make her mark in wildlife conservation research. When not studying or in the lab, she volunteers as a veterinarian at the Wildcat Creek Wildlife Center, where a day's work might include attending to a box turtle, opossum, flying squirrel or baby hummingbird. Meet Dr. Vanessa Hale, proudly carrying her family's Boilermaker legacy forward.

Redeeming family honor

Vanessa's father came from a long line of Purdue graduates — engineering, biology, home economics, mathematics. He broke the mold by attending Indiana University and marrying a fellow IU student. "With much chagrin," she says, "my earliest memory of Purdue was as 'the enemy.' I was raised in red and white with Bobby Knight as a household name," she says.

She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and spent time in New Mexico, but found her way home for graduate school. "Now that I am older and wiser, I have redeemed the family honor by resuming the Purdue legacy and cheering for the 'right' team to take home the Old Oaken Bucket."

Spoken like a true Boilermaker

Vanessa says her life at Purdue has felt like family and given her the loving support to flourish. "I have experienced great times and difficult times, joy and stress, but I've always felt like I've had support or someone to whom I could turn. Purdue has challenged me to become a better learner, a better teacher, a better doctor, a better scientist and a better community member ... and I have accepted this Boilermaker challenge."

Life before Purdue

Hale spent three years with Teach for America at a high school in Crownpoint, N.M. She helped students there develop a plan to "beautify" the school — a constant target of graffiti. They held an art competition for a student-designed mural that incorporated graffiti. Some 200 cans of spray paint later, the result was beautiful and still makes Hale proud. And, she's equally proud of her Purdue grandfather's talents as a watercolor artist.

Something borrowed ... something new

Hale married Purdue biology alum Jeremy Hale the summer before starting graduate school in West Lafayette. Her first Purdue clothing item (a black and gold Purdue sweatshirt) was given her by her new husband on their wedding day. How's that for a wedding gift?

Legacy links
  • Husband: Jeremy Hale, BS '90, biology
  • Grandfather: William Reynolds,
    BS '38, mechanical engineering
  • Grandmother: Lois Kirtland,
    BS '38, home economics
  • Uncle: Robert Reynolds,
    BS '62, chemical engineering
  • Uncle: Donald Reynolds,
    BS '65, mathematics
  • Aunt: Gail Reynolds,
    BS '76, interdisciplinary engineering
  • Great aunt: Grace Kirtland,
    BS (exact date unknown, ~1937-1939), home economics
  • Great uncle: Bryan Allen,
    (exact date unknown, ~1937-1939), forestry
  • Second cousin: John Allen,
    (degree and graduation date unknown)