Ross Kimbel Doesn’t Like to Sit Around
By Charlotte Crystal
As a kid In Salt Lake City, he schlepped his skis to school so he could ski after class. In high school in Atlanta, he taught rock climbing. In college in Charlottesville, he mobilized more than 1,000 fraternity brothers to roll up their sleeves and give blood, two years in a row.
A native of Washington, D.C., Kimbel grew up in Utah and Georgia. His outside interests read like a table of contents in an outdoor magazine: snow skiing, hiking, rafting, rock climbing. But he also spends a lot of time inside, doing for others.
Despite his father’s desire that he follow in his footsteps at the University of Virginia, Kimbel started college at the University of Georgia.
But he missed the emphasis on honor that he grew up with. After a year at Georgia, he decided to transfer to U.Va.
“Coming here was the best decision I ever made,” Kimbel said. “I soon became involved in the fraternity system here. At Georgia I saw a lot of partying but not a lot of studying. At U.Va., the fraternities include a lot of the university’s strong, on-Grounds leaders.”
In the fall of his second year, he participated in the fall rush and was invited to join Phi Delta Theta. It probably didn’t hurt that his older brother was then IFC president and a member of Phi Delta Theta.
Since then, Kimbel has worked hard to make his mark. He served as a counsel for U.Va.’s Honor Committee and as the Inter-Fraternity Council’s chairman of community service. This year he served as the IFC president.
“Student self-governance is very real here,” Kimbel said. “The decisions that I and our governing board make affect 1,500 people every day. Never did I think there was going to be this much freedom in running a system the way we think best. There is a ton of responsibility.”
Given the legal liability that the fraternity system shoulders for its facilities and events, Kimbell has found a course in commercial law taught by John Wheeler at the McIntire School of Commerce to be particularly relevant.
Kimbel estimates that he spends 40 hours a week on IFC business. A lot of the work consists of meetings — meeting with deans, meeting with students to oversee projects and committees, meeting to analyze problems and come up with solutions.
“My whole world right now is group work, solving problems and then implementing the steps to reach the goals,” he said.
Last year as a third-year student and chairman of community service for the IFC, Kimbel searched for a meaningful project. He realized that every fraternity at U.Va. included community service as a core value. And by adding up all the members of the 31 fraternities, the IFC had the potential to do something big. But what?
He recalled that when Georgia played Auburn, fraternities at the two schools entered a friendly competition. He thought that U.Va.’s fraternities could do the same thing. Kimbel first pitched the idea for a week-long blood drive competition — The Crimson War — to culminate on Nov. 3, 2004, the day that the Cavaliers faced the Maryland Terrapins on the gridiron.
Virginia Blood Services officials said that procuring 15 usable units was a successful one-day drive. The first year, the IFC men set an ambitious goal of 200 units. The second year, they more than doubled their goal. Kimbel oversaw a 12-15 member steering committee and a 55-man president’s council to organize the blood drive in cooperation with the Inter-Sorority Council, the Multi-Cultural Greek Council and the National Pan Hellenic Council. They reached out to students, faculty and members of the larger University and Charlottesville communities.
The first year, The Crimson War gathered more than 500 units of blood. The second year, it registered more than 1,000 people and brought in more than 800 donations, said Nancy Conry, director of public relations for Virginia Blood Services in Richmond.
“The Crimson War was the best college event in VBS history and Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005, was the single highest donation day in VBS history, period,” Conry said. “I can’t say enough about the dedication of the incredible kids who put this on. We were awestruck.”
“Seeing that kind of community effort was so amazing and exciting,” Kimbell said. “It’s my hope that this will continue as an annual event.” (In fact, VBS is already planning for next year’s event, scheduled for the week leading up to the Virginia-Maryland game on Oct. 14, 2006).
He believes that his experience with the IFC has had a major influence on the likely direction of his life. “It’s taught me how to identify problems, develop strategies for solutions, implement the strategies and see them through to the end. “
He’ll need those skills now, working for Sapient Corp, an information technology and business consulting firm based in Washington. But if the job doesn’t keep him busy 24/7, it’s likely that he’ll be looking for something else to do.
2006 by the Rector and Visitors