For Kay Moody Winzenried’s 40th birthday, her husband, Peter, endowed a Virginia Tech scholarship in her honor and to celebrate the bond she shared with her two college roommates; all three women graduated from the university in 1972. Now a similar spirit of philanthropy is leading Moody Winzenried to fund two new endowments. 

Her time as a supporter of the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, is the driving force behind these initiatives. Winzenried fondly remembers sitting in the center’s garden, listening to a group of undergraduates describe how life-changing the study abroad experience was for them. Their words moved her and increased her desire to help more students enjoy a similar journey. 

As a world traveler and a dual citizen of both the United States and Switzerland, Winzenried is no stranger to the transformational growth that occurs when one lives within a new culture. 

“It was hearing the students talk about the thrill of seeing architectural elements they pass every day, like those found in the Church of Santa Croce near the Steger Center,” she said. “When students see that for the first time and find inspiration to incorporate those elements into a project, and you see the gleam in their eyes, you know they’re going to be traveling the world for the rest of their lives. This is part of who they’re going to be.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in clothing and textiles from Virginia Tech, Winzenried earned a master’s degree in business from San Francisco State University. She had a nearly 20-year career with one of the country’s leading retailers before becoming an international journalist and communicator in the wine and travel industry.

As a tribute to her husband, who died in 2019, one scholarship includes his name — the Moody Winzenried International Scholars Endowment. This fund will provide support for College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences undergraduates who are taking part in study abroad at the Steger Center. The college will administer the scholarship.

“Kay’s splendid gift will open the world for Virginia Tech students, many of whom will have never before had the opportunity to experience foreign cultures,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the college. “There a few undergraduate experiences more transformative than study-abroad and we are immensely grateful for Kay’s generosity and great spirit of giving.”

The second fund — the Daniela Doninelli International Scholars Endowment, named for the Steger Center’s longtime managing director — is open to all students engaged in study abroad there. The vice president of outreach and international affairs, in consultation with the director of global education, will administer that fund.

“Daniela is one of the first people students meet when they arrive at the center,” Winzenried said. “She represents the heart of the university, and there’s something so special about her and her interaction with the students. She’s touched so many lives that have come through the center, and it goes beyond just being a consistent administrative presence to ensure everything runs smoothly. She teaches students how to live in a small Swiss community, and what the expectations are for being an international citizen.”

Doninelli feels honored by this gesture but believes the success of the Steger Center is more holistic.

“The donors are just as much part of this entire facility as the students and the faculty,” she said. “Without the faculty, there would be no students. And the faculty, without the donors’ help, would not be here. We are all part of it, building what the Steger Center is today.”

For the semester-length residential program at the Steger Center, students stay at Villa Maderni, a renovated 18th-century villa near Italy that provides dining, lodging, and classrooms. Students enjoy field trips and excursions to local and regional sites, cities, and organizations, which provide real-world learning experiences that span many European cultures.

Winzenried — a Chuckatuck, Virginia, native who now considers Dallas, Texas, home — also had a residence in Switzerland, her husband’s birth country. Over the years, she hosted programs at the Steger Center in affiliation with Virginia Tech’s hospitality and tourism management program and the university’s Women in Leadership and Philanthropy group.

Among other gifts to the university, she and her husband also donated to the center’s 2014 renovation. When the facility known as the Center for European Studies and Architecture was renamed the Steger Center in 2014, Winzenreid was present at its dedication. In addition, she serves on the center’s Olivio Ferrari Foundation Board of Directors.

But she still remembers her undergraduate days, when she was a scholarship recipient and work-study participant. Such funding made it possible for her to attend Virginia Tech.

“I know what financial assistance means,” she said. “Early in my career in human resources for Neiman Marcus, I realized my desire to be generous to others, but I didn’t really see how I was going to do that until after I was gone. I thought this would be part of the legacy aspect of financial planning. Yet through Peter’s birthday gift I learned I didn’t have to wait.

“For me, the most rewarding aspects of being a donor are meeting the scholarship recipients and receiving their cards and letters,” Winzenried added. “I remember my quiet moments of sitting in the garden, visiting with students, and hearing what their experiences had meant to them academically and personally, and how transformative it is for each one.”

Through the Moody-Pratt-Minor Scholarship, the first scholarship Peter Winzenreid funded in his wife’s honor, 250 students have received funding. Kay Moody Winzenried’s two new endowments will begin providing scholarships in 2021. She hopes others will join her in supporting the Steger Center and study abroad programs throughout the university. 

Written by Leslie King