May 15, 2016 – Alumna Beth Ingalls has spent her career “putting out fires,” using skills she developed as a student. And since earning her forestry degree in 1977, she has been giving to the college annually so others would have the same opportunities to learn the lifelong skills that make careers.
True, the “fires” Ingalls was putting out varied during her different jobs, but the skills she learned in the college applied across the board. One of her first jobs included keeping track of forest fires, which seemed a natural career given her education. She soon switched to human resources, where she helped resolve sometimes fiery personnel issues at a large company. Now she works with a financial consulting firm helping people plan for their future so they can avoid financial “fires.”
“One of the skills I learned at Virginia Tech was how to work with people, how to work collaboratively,” she said. Among her best experiences as a student was the four-week Forestry Spring Camp, where students and faculty from different programs within the college worked on forestry projects at a camp near Appomattox. “That experience of working with individuals with different interests and different points of view made a big impression on me,” she said. “We became a team.”
“I first learned how the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), fit into my life in my involvement with student organizations,” said Ingalls, who was a member of the Forestry Club, the Society of American Foresters, and Xi Sigma Pi, the forestry honor society. She worked on projects with each organization to help others in both the college and the Blacksburg community. “I got to absorb the ethic of service,” she said.
Ingalls was one of the first women hired by the Tennessee Division of Forestry as a fire prevention forester, serving nine counties. After earning an MBA in management in 1983, she changed careers, joining the human resources staff for The Hecht Co. chain of department stores, where she served for more than two decades. She is currently a branch office administrator with Edward Jones Investments in Catonsville, Maryland.
She has found ways to apply the spirit of Ut Prosim in each of her professional positions. In human resources, for example, she helped employees understand the company’s policies and benefits and how they best applied to each individual. “My job was to help them understand the benefits and costs so that if there was a problem — if a “fire” hit their lives — they had resources to turn to.”
Throughout her long and varied career, Ingalls has continued to donate to the college year after year, without fail. “It was more a matter of ‘of course, I give,’” she said, explaining that her family simply expected her to get an education and that giving back to the place that gave you the education is just what one does.
In addition, she is working to endow a scholarship targeted to transfer students in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation for the same reason — to give opportunities to others. Ingalls has also made plans to support her scholarship endowment through a bequest.
“Beth’s annual gifts exemplify the great value to the college of regular support,” said Emily Hutchins, development director for the college. The endowed scholarship will add to Ingalls’ 40-year legacy of giving, in addition to support that will continue after her lifetime.