Fraternity award extends an engineering student’s legacy

Dillon Hensley, a College of Humanities and Sciences student, is the first recipient of the Chris Ducic Scholarship, named after an academic standout in the School of Engineering who died in 2015.

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Dillon Hensley, who received his physics degree in May and plans to pursue an M.S. in the subject at VCU, is the first recipient of Triangle Fraternity’s Chris Ducic Scholarship.

Dillon Hensley completed his bachelor of science in physics with help from a program named for an outstanding engineering student: the Chris Ducic Scholarship. Hensley is the first recipient of this award, which was established by VCU’s Triangle Fraternity, a social fraternity for science, engineering and architecture students. The award is named for Chris Ducic, an academic standout in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and founding member of Triangle who died during his senior year in 2015.

“The best way to remember Chris is by remembering his work ethic and intellect. He had a big personality — that’s for sure — but also a very strong intellect. [An award] named after him keeps that idea front and center,” said Zachary Cullingsworth, a graduate student in mechanical and nuclear engineering and Triangle member.

The best way to remember Chris is by remembering his work ethic and intellect.

Jeffrey Wilson, a mechanical and nuclear engineering senior and Triangle past president, recalled that five or six brothers approached him individually to suggest a program in Ducic’s name.

“When it happens that spontaneously, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The award is funded through VCU’s Triangle brotherhood and anonymous donations from two other VCU student organizations. It is awarded to the Triangle member with the highest GPA and may be applied to tuition, supplies and other study-related expenses.

Hensley’s status as the first recipient of the Ducic award is one more way that physics sometimes crosses with engineering. As a student worker in the School of Engineering, Hensley is immersed in the engineering discipline via research posters around West Hall.

“The recognition the School of Engineering gets is amazing. I also attended the Capstone Design Expo last year and was really impressed,” he said, adding that this would have pleased Ducic. “When I arrived at Triangle in 2015, the brothers pointed [Chris] out and said, ‘We’ve got another straight-A student.’ From then on, Chris and I ribbed each other about engineering versus physics. He was always hounding me to come over to engineering.”

Hensley received his physics degree from the College of Humanties and Sciences in May 2017 and plans to pursue an M.S. in the subject at VCU. During his last semester, he held down a job and a 17-credit course load while also teaching a lab, all of which reinforced his admiration for Ducic’s example of work-life balance.

“He managed everything extremely well and made it look easy. I think he thought his productivity was ‘normal,’ when in fact he was doing about twice as much as everyone else,” Hensley said.

Triangle’s mission is to help members develop outstanding character while navigating — and bonding through — the rigors of STEM fields. Ducic epitomized those values, according to Wilson and Cullingsworth. As the Triangle brother who consistently had the highest GPA, Ducic was, according to Wilson, “usually the one who led the way to understanding” at the group’s regular study group sessions. Wilson and Cullingsworth both recall how Ducic often enfolded tutorials into questions or requests for feedback, and emphasized his gift for keeping study sessions fun.

“It never felt like studying,” Wilson said. “It felt like hanging out with a buddy. It was like a party, but you got a lot done.”

Now Triangle’s Chris Ducic award prepares the way for future generations to benefit from an outstanding student’s legacy, something Cullingsworth believes would have pleased Ducic — for the most part.

“Chris was really modest. He’d always share the credit, even when he deserved all of it,” Cullingsworth said. “I think he’d get a big kick out of an academic [award] from Triangle. The only thing he’d object to is putting his name on it.”


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