Lesia Linkous Pristas, a teaching and learning project manager for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and a long-time employee of Virginia Tech, died of cancer on June 25. She was 50.

Pristas had only joined CETL in February to manage teaching and learning programming, including the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy, workshops, institutes, and award programs. But she had spent 25 years as an employee of Virginia Tech, the bulk of that as a program administration specialist for the Division of Polymer Chemistry, a nonprofit technical division of the American Chemical Society that was housed in the Macromolecules Innovation Institute.

In a remembrance service held June 28 at War Memorial Chapel, Pristas was described by family and colleagues as a light who exuded a spirit of hospitality, kindness, and encouragement. “She danced through life,” said Michael Ellerbrock, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, who led the gathering.

Kimberly Filer, associate vice provost for teaching and learning and director of CETL, said Pristas joyfully exemplified Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community. “I believe Lesia lived these principles every day. Lesia lived a life of serving others with kindness and care. She left Virginia Tech a better place.”  

A 1990 graduate of Auburn High School and a lifelong resident of the New River Valley, Pristas was known and loved for her service to the community. For 18 years, she led Weight Watchers meetings with a gentle, encouraging grace. Her gift was to inspire people to see themselves differently.

Sunday mornings found her taking her mother to church at Mount Elbert United Methodist Church, where she was a member.

She was also the owner and lead instructor of Back Porch Studios, a dance studio in Floyd County. Clogging captured her heart, but she taught many different styles of dance to students of broad ages and skill levels.

Pristas earned a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University in 2023 while working full time, a testament to the value she placed on lifelong learning. Her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in leadership also came from Old Dominion in 2020.

Pristas is survived by her husband, Robert Ronald Pristas; her mother, Lucell Link Linkous; her children, Tayelor and Colin Pristas; and her step-sons, Edward and Justin Pristas. She will be missed by her sisters and their husbands, Neta Byerly (Steve), Dinah Akers (Jim), and Kathy Mitchem (David); mother-in-law, Marie Teresa Pristas; Rob’s godmother, Polly Fryer (her husband David Fryer is predeceased); brother-in-law, John Martin Pristas (Laura); as well as nieces and nephews, Jon Byerly, Jessica Akers Gillespie, Casey Akers, Donnie Black, Daniel Black, Abby Mitchem, Kacey Pristas, and Sidney Pristas.

A memorial wreath in Pristas’s honor was placed outside of Virginia Tech’s War Memorial Chapel on June 28. For more information, see her full obituary.

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