Every Hoo Has a Story: Thanks, Mom

May 11, 2023 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

The question to Amanda Chok, a University of Virginia fourth-year student counting down the days to Final Exercises, was a simple one: “Besides yourself, who is most responsible for getting you to this point?”

Her answer came quickly.

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“Definitely my mom,” said Chok, a public policy and leadership major from Richmond. “She’s my biggest supporter and I love her so much. She’s a single mom, so she put me through college single-handedly.”

One day last month, UVA Today lured random fourth-year students we found on the Lawn into impromptu interviews to tell us about their time at the University. The idea for “Every Hoo Has a Story” is borrowed from a CBS News series where a reporter coaxed amazing tales from random people he met in America.

When we asked these Cavaliers who got them to this launching point in their lives, so many people praised their moms. So, as Mother’s Day approaches, here are a few stories of inspiring Wahoo moms.

Chok’s mom is Lee Kim, a woman who left Malaysia with “absolutely nothing” to give her daughter a better life. She knew very little English, so she taught herself the language by reading bedtime stories to her daughter, Amanda.

We ran into Chok in her cap and gown, taking photos on the Lawn just a few weeks before Final Exercises. When she strolls down the Lawn to graduate, she’ll be bursting with gratitude for her mom.

“Thank you for everything you have done for me and all the countless sacrifices you have made for me this day,” she said. “I may not show my appreciation well, but at the end of the day, you are who made me who I am today and, without you, I would not be sitting here right now.”

Tucker Shelson told us his grandmother, Marie Murphy, lifted herself from humble beginnings to make it easier for his mom – and now him – to be successful. He said his whole family inspired him to look for opportunities outside of his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, but his grandmother set the tone generations ago.

“She instilled in me when I was younger the idea that hard work can really pay off.”

For UVA cheerleader Stephanie Ricker, her mom shows love in countless small ways. Like hopping on a train from New York to Charlottesville to help Ricker heal a broken foot. Or showing up to cheer on the cheerleader at football games. Or a surprise visit on her 21st birthday when Ricker couldn’t get home.

“I want nothing more than to make her proud and to follow in her footsteps and be a genuinely good person like she is. She is the most selfless individual,” Ricker said. “I love her more than words can ever describe. She is a superhero.”

Ellie Wilkie grew up with a journalist for a mom. She remembers Dana Wilkie dashing around between deadlines to pick her up from school and to deliver her home, and the nearly constant clickity-clack of her mother’s computer keyboard as she banged out stories on the dining room table.

“She just doesn’t stop working, but she’s also incredibly caring and incredibly fun,” Ellie Wilkie said. “She’s just a fun person to be around and I think she showed me early on that you can be ambitious and goal oriented and pursue school and work with a passion, but still have space for fun and enjoyment, and enjoy yourself along the way.”

So, to all the Wahoo moms out there, especially the ones who’ve gotten these fourth-year students to the finish line, this day’s for you. Enjoy.

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications