“Last Word” column from University of Lynchburg Magazine by Bryan Gentry
The best part of my job is getting to immerse myself in the worlds of Lynchburg alumni and students and witness their passion for their work.
One example is Tarsha Joyner ’13. Over the past decade, she has had a few different career paths, but she’s always put her heart and soul into developing new talents and bringing ideas to life.
When I first met Tarsha, she was finishing an associate degree in computer programming. After graduating, she got a job in tech support. Then she enrolled at Lynchburg College to earn a degree in art and pursued photography and design work.
In her senior year, an art assignment led her to design a brand for a baking company. She turned it into a real-life venture, selling cookies at the downtown market on Saturdays. Suddenly, she and her husband were taking culinary classes and talking about starting a bakery. She won the Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.” For the past three years, she ran Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats in downtown Lynchburg.
I have to admit that I was always a little puzzled by Tarsha’s career changes. What took her from computer programming to photography and design to baking? That was one question I asked Tarsha when I wrote an article about her for this magazine a few years ago. “I’ve always searched for and sought out creative outlets,” she said. “I immerse myself in whatever I feel to be the most expressive of my creative abilities.”
Her approach echoes what I’ve seen in many other Lynchburg alumni. Our careers are less about money or continuity and more about passion and creativity.
Last year, I spent a few hours “cascading” with Andy Nichols ’79. We waded through a creek in Shenandoah National Park and rappelled down a waterfall. Andy had been in that creek countless times, but he still had fun every step of the way. His career is an outlet for his love for connecting with others in the outdoors.
I once watched Alice Watson ’90 teach an elementary school music class. I was amazed by how she introduced the kids to a new song and, before long, had them playing it on xylophones and glockenspiels. She combined 25 years of teaching experience with fresh energy. She loved it.
This summer I reached out to Nat LeDonne ’18, who used to be a student photographer in my department. At Lynchburg, Nat developed a unique strength for sports photography. She spent the past year traveling the country shooting sporting events for Duke University. I asked Nat if we could feature her in an admissions brochure. She told me about her adventures and sent a photo of her posing with her camera beside Duke’s 2018 Independence Bowl trophy. Her enthusiasm for her work is contagious.
All of these alumni told me about people here who helped them to grow. To embrace change and challenge. To dig in to life and answer tough questions with their best efforts.
This summer, Tarsha announced that she is moving her bakery to the Richmond area, where she can be closer to grandkids. Who knows what other creative, entrepreneurial challenges she’ll embrace there? But one thing is for sure: Like the other alumni I speak with so often, she’ll never do anything half baked.