Dr. Tina Aldrich is gone from this space, but her spirit remains on campus.
As 2013 came to an end, so did the life of a treasured and valued Marlin with the passing of Dr. Tina Aldrich on Dec. 27.
Dr. Aldrich was diagnosed in October of last year with uterine sarcoma, a very aggressive form of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately only 1,000 cases are diagnosed every year and this particular form does not respond well to chemotherapy.
Dr. Aldrich made the announcement of her diagnosis to her students through email, since she had been keeping them up-to-date on her ill health and apologizing for missing so many classes.
“The ten weeks she was in the hospital she was positive and fighting,” said Dawn Gaimaro, Dr. Aldrich’s wife, “just like she had been through the rest of her life.”
“She didn’t tell us much but she sounded like herself, positive,” said senior Lauren Hoffman. “After she missed so many classes Doug [Kennedy] and Willie [Harrell] took over her classes.”
“She had a way about her, an openness. It’s a tremendous loss for our community” said Dr. Wayne Pollock, Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies. “She was a wonderful fit for the department.”
Dr. Aldrich was an Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies for three years at VWC. She taught the internship course for her department as well as Introduction to Recreation and Leisure Studies, Outdoor Recreation and Outdoor Leadership courses.
“She got me into recreation, she got me hooked,” said Hoffman, who first met Dr. Aldrich in a leadership class a few years ago. “When my dog died she put aside her problems to console me. She made you feel important.”
“I have endless memories with her. I wouldn’t be a Recreation and Leisure Studies Major if it wasn’t for her. She was hands down my favorite person at this school,” said junior Charné Scott.
Freshman Steve Smeck spoke with Aldrich at a VWC Day Open House.
“She is the reason I came here, she taught me a lot about this major,” said Smeck.
Aldrich’s consideration for her students continues through the Dr. Tina Aldrich Scholarship Fund, which she asked people to donate toward instead of purchasing flowers.
Gaimaro said “When she was in the hospital, I suggested starting the scholarship fund. She really cared about her students. She worked through college herself and knew the value of a dollar. It hasn’t been determined yet how the scholarship will be distributed but, it will go to someone who really deserves it and is similar to her. She was an amazing teacher, wife, and stepmother.”
At 47 years old, Aldrich was still involved with her community here in Virginia and in Maine where she attended school and obtained her Master’s. She was a kayak instructor and guide for Wild River Outfitters, a sea kayak instructor for L.L. Bean, Leave No Trace master educator and an American Canoe Association coastal kayak instructor and licensed Maine guide.
“She embraced the development of students in and out of the classroom and they embraced her. She came to us from a big school background, but she understood the small liberal arts education and that’s why we hired her. It will be hard to replace her.”
“I met her the day she interviewed on campus. We had a brief conversation but it was meaningful. She was a very valuable member of the community,” said Dean Buckingham, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of Enrollment Services.
Aldrich’s life continues to be celebrated on campus.
The Men’s and Women Basketball Teams sold shirts to raise awareness of cancer and chose to acknowledge the loss of a beloved member of our campus community, with the name Tina on the back of the shirts.
The shirts will be available at the Cancer Awareness game on Feb. 19 if you pre-ordered a shirt.
“Her ashes will be spread this coming summer in Maui, Hawaii specifically in Kipahulu,” said Kennedy.
This gathering is one of several celebrations of Aldrich’s life. One occured at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk on Jan. 18.
A celebration of life will be held for the campus and community on Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m. in the Monumental Chapel.