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Although she earned a master’s degree in business, the arts came naturally to Reena Shrestha. As a high school flutist, she could look at sheet music for the first time and play it as if she had practiced it 15 times. Her exquisite hand-crafted cards and the thoughtful, encouraging words she wrote within them put store-bought cards to shame.

But her joy and positivity were not limited to greeting cards. Reena made strangers feel they could speak to and confide in her. She had a gift for making people feel understood and appreciated. Incredibly, more than five years after her death at the tragically young age of 30, Reena continues to work her magic through a scholarship created in her memory at her alma mater, the VCU School of Business.

“It felt so good to be appreciated”

In September 2021, Amuri Morris had just embarked on her senior year at VCU – double majoring in management and entrepreneurship at the School of Business as well as painting and printmaking at the School of the Arts when she learned she had been selected as the recipient of the Reena Shrestha Memorial Scholarship.

“It was the final push I needed to get through school. It meant I could keep studying and worry less about financial hindrances that could keep me from attending next semester. But it was also significant to me because the scholarship just seemed so attuned to my interests. The application focused on the interaction of business, art and creativity, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my combination of majors. It felt so good to see that appreciated, and to connect with donors who had an interest in that.”

A family with strong ties to VCU pays it forward

Dr. and Mrs. Chandra M. Shrestha established the Reena Shrestha Memorial Scholarship in 2016 in memory of their daughter. Preference is often given to business students with an interest or background in art as well as business students in the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation.

Creating a scholarship at the VCU School of Business felt like the obvious way for the Shrestha family to remember their beloved daughter and sister.

“It seems like our entire family went to VCU,” says Reena’s older sister, Sheela Jones. “My dad [Chandra M. Shrestha] was an adjunct Economics professor at the School of Business for years. My older brother and I graduated from the School of Business. Reena earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at VCU and then we both went back for the same degree – a master’s of science in business with a concentration in human resources.”

“Three kids, five degrees,” adds Gaurav “G” Shrestha, Reena’s older brother. “Our family was blessed with opportunities from people who funded scholarships. A scholarship paid for my father’s graduate degree. I mostly paid my own way but earned some merit scholarships near the end. Sheela earned a four-year Presidential Scholarship at VCU that covered her tuition. We all benefited from others giving back.”

Scholarship recipients strive to make 100% use of funds

“I definitely wouldn’t have been able to attend school without scholarships,” says Morris. “The main thing that I want donors and potential scholarship donors to know is that scholarship recipients are putting our best foot forward to make 100% use of their funds. Their investment is not something we take lightly. I’ve taken every opportunity in my field that I can get.”

“It’s been awesome to meet the recipients,” says Jones. “They are all super talented and driven. We loved seeing Amuri’s artwork on the website she created. The recipients have all been so grateful.”

A “shining light” continues to illuminate the paths of others

It’s clear that Reena’s giving spirit is a family trait. Morris says, when she met “G” and Sheela at a scholarship event, their focus was not on telling her about their cherished sister. Rather, “they were very interested in what I was doing and in understanding how they could invest in future generations. As a first-generation student, it’s inspired me to think about how I can help students in the future who are in situations similar to my own.”

“Our emphasis is not on Reena, it’s on the recipients,” says “G.” “It’s exciting that our financial support can provide opportunities to someone who resembles Reena’s character strengths and passions. We want them to be inspired – to understand they have the power to make an impact in whatever they do.”

“If I was asked to summarize my sister in one word,” says Jones, “It would be ‘light.’ If you heard Reena laugh, it would make you laugh. She was incredibly loving and so encouraging to me. She had the kindest heart – able to convey, so powerfully, how much she loved you and how much she wanted you to have her well wishes. She was such a bright light. Our hope is that this scholarship can serve as a shining light for its recipients – to help them to keep achieving their goals and to be a light for the world.”


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