Rat-ta-tat-tat. The distinct vibrations and sound of a drum line filled the air, shiny instruments glinted in the August sunlight, and in the pause just before the resounding of 330 instruments blending into music, Jay Muscatello looked around his surroundings in awe. This was the first day of the Marching Virginians band camp.

Muscatello had come to Virginia Tech to major in electrical engineering, but music was also an important part of his life. The Marching Virginians provided an outlet for him to enjoy a passion — playing the trumpet. 

“Band camp was my first college experience,” said the former vice president of the power and data sector at Moog, Inc. “We began a week before school started and I quickly realized you could easily make friends. And by the time the semester started, I was already a part of a close-knit group of people.”

After graduating in 1980 and raising a family of three Hokies with his wife, Linda, he remained connected to the band. When his daughter Angela, who carried on the Marching Virginian legacy, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2005, she was not the only Muscatello on the field. Her father did more than cheer for her on the bleachers. He was on the field, playing his trumpet with The Marching Virginians alumni band. 

Although that was his last time marching, he is still active with the band, serving on its board of directors. And now, for Giving Day 2021, he and his wife are challenging others to show their support for the Spirit of Tech. As one of the largest College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Giving Day challenge grants, if 330 people make a gift to The Marching Virginians, the Muscatellos will donate $5,000. Once the number matches 500 gifts, they will donate an additional $5,000 to the band.

At noon on Feb. 24, Virginia Tech will kick off its third Giving Day. For 24 hours, alumni, students, faculty, staff, families, and friends will come together and make a powerful joint impact on the future of the university. 

Gifts to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences will enable students and faculty to make lasting contributions to the world through insights from the arts, humanities, and social sciences, said Laura Belmonte, the college’s dean.

“Education is always the best investment into the future that you can make,” said Belmonte. “Giving Day represents an opportunity not only to unlock challenge grants, but also to unlock the full potential of other Hokies. This is my first Giving Day; I can’t wait to watch the Virginia Tech community coming together to support each other!”

The Muscatellos’ donations are among a dozen challenges within the college. The largest challenge is for $10,000, which supports student scholarships. Nancy Munnikhuysen, a 1974 graduate in management, housing, and family development, will unlock the gift once 500 people have donated to any department, school, or program in the college. Her challenge grant is on behalf of the college’s Dean’s Roundtable and Alumni Advisory Board. 

Darcy Williamson, a 1992 communication graduate, will donate $5,000 once 750 people have made a gift to any department, school, or program in the college. In a similar challenge, Lara (Liberal Arts and Sciences ’92) and Henry Hadad will provide donate $5,000 when the number of donors reaches 1,000.

The college’s newest school, the School of Communication, has a challenge grant from an alumnus.

“One barrier that people might have when they think about giving to Virginia Tech is that their contributions are so small that they don’t matter,” said Craig Nesbit, a retired vice president of communication at Exelon. “My challenge match is a way to emphasize that this simply isn’t true. Every bit counts.”

Nesbit, who graduated in 1981 with a communication degree, will donate $5,000 to the School of Communication if 100 people make a gift to that school’s annual fund. 

He is also a role model for those who want to become more involved with the university. He serves on both the college’s Dean’s Roundtable and the German Club Alumni Foundation, and he is the former president of the Department of Communication Alumni Board.

The college’s other schools each have a challenge grant as well. Once 50 people have made a gift to the School of Education, a $500 challenge grant will be unlocked. And gifts by 20 people can unlock a $500 challenge grant to the School of Performing Arts.

Two departments also have a challenge grant. Once 20 people have made a gift to the Department of Religion and Culture, a $500 challenge grant will be unlocked.

For a second year, Donna Mitchell, a first vice president at Morgan Stanley, is challenging others to donate to the Department of English. Mitchell, who earned degrees in business management in 1983 and in English in 1984, will give $5,000 if 100 people make a gift to the same fund.

“My reasons for giving this year are basically the same as with the last Giving Day,” she said. “I’m a strong proponent of education and the ‘If you give a person a fish they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them how to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime’ philosophy. Plus, in this era of technology and global competition, having an education is ever more important to the ability to make a livable wage.

“I support English, and the humanities in general, because I believe it’s a true classical education, teaching students how to think instead of what to think. That’s of utmost importance in our current society.”

For those inspired to donate on Giving Day and to make a difference for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, please visit givingday.vt.edu/clahs21. Giving Day 2021 starts at noon on Feb. 24 and goes until noon on Feb. 25 EST.

“It’s important for anyone who has had Virginia Tech as part of their life to consider giving whatever they can, whether it’s $5 or $5 million, because it’s hard to find a university of this caliber of any size,” Muscatello said. “You know your donation is going to a good cause. No matter what your giving level is, the important thing is just to give back.”

Written by Leslie King