|Eulogy or Dr. John Deaver Drinko
delivered by Dr. Alan B. Gould
Libby, Randy, Deaver, Lynn, Lee and all of the other members of
the Drinko Family. I bring you sincere condolences from your
friends at Marshall University.
At his Alma Mater, John gladdened the hearts of all those he
touched. And, I was fortunate to know and to work with John for
the last fifteen years.
John Deaver Drinko was the most interesting and accomplished man
I’ve ever met. He devoured information, was interested in
literally everything under the sun and amazingly seemed to have
retained everything he had ever read, heard or seen. His
compassion and comprehension was remarkable, and no one could
tell a story like he could.
I look upon John Drinko as a friend and mentor. He’d talk to
you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say,
this is an extraordinary man.
John Deaver Drinko was a man of many parts – noted attorney,
successful businessman, prominent Charolais cattleman,
inveterate student of life and philanthropist extraordinaire.
While actively engaged in several philanthropic pursuits, John
Drinko earned a national reputation for his singular support of
higher education. As evidence of his unstinting interest, Dr.
Drinko received honorary degrees from a dozen American colleges
and universities. His generosity extended well beyond the bounds
of the Marshall University community. John’s interest in higher
education was remarkably universal. He established 16 endowed
chairs and nearly a dozen academic programs in the name of his
law firm, its founders, colleagues and friends or himself and
And, of all of these collegiate interests none was more
important to John Drinko than his ties to his Alma Mater –
Marshall University. It was during the Great Depression that
John came to Marshall on an athletic scholarship. In reality,
John was mature well beyond his years. Actually, since the age
of nine he had assumed the role of breadwinner for himself, his
Mother and his sister Francis. He arrived at Marshall wearing a
feed sack shirt made by his Mother.
John told me on numerous occasions how wonderful his years at
Marshall were. He enjoyed his time at his Alma Mater and fondly
recalled that “looking back, I had some of the greatest teachers
in the world”.
In 1942, while working fulltime at the local A & P, John
graduated with highest honors and never forgot his Alma Mater.
It was at that time, he said, that he would someday find a way
to demonstrate his appreciation. And indeed, John, true to his
word, has repaid his debt a thousand fold!
“I believe,” He once said, “Somebody built the place before I
got there. If you got something out of it, you should give
At critical times in its institutional history John Drinko has
been there for his Alma Mater. No better example exists than the
leadership role he took following the devastating Marshall plane
crash on November 14, 1970 which clamed the lives of
seventy-five football players, coaches, university staff, fans
Immediately upon hearing the news, John rushed to Huntington to
help. In rapid order, he raised over $500,000, in
contributions for the victim’s families before he returned to
Then in 1985, John and Libby established a one million dollar
academic chair, the university’s first, in the College of
Liberal Arts. Some nine years later (1994) John created and
handsomely endowed the now nationally recognized Drinko Academy
for Political Institutions and Civic Culture.
Shortly after establishing the Academy, John told me and again
I’ll quote him: Whatever we do, “it will always be done First
Class and never half way”. John Drinko played an active and
enthusiastic role in the organization’s evolution and operations
since its inception. And, the Drinko Academy is now regarded as
an academic centerpiece on campus and is recognized as one of
the university’s elite Centers of Academic Excellence.
Additionally, the Academy is the proud recipient of three
national awards for academic and community achievement.
John’s support did not rest solely with the work of the
Academy. A list of sixteen major university programs and
projects have benefited from his generosity and leadership.
Then there is John’s pride and joy! His Library. It is an
award winning structure renouned both for its architecture style
and its technological innovations. What John was most proud of
was the number of individual donations to its construction
–exactly 2,265 in number – far more than for any other building
project on campus.
At John’s insistence all donors, large and small alike, received
equal acclaim. As John said: “Remember the Widow’s Mite –
Sometimes, Alan, less is more!”
This attitude is what we at Marshall remember most about John
Drinko. He was a people person who genuinely cared. On each
visit, John would approach someone – a grounds keeper, a
student, a faculty or staff member, extend his hand and exclaim,
“ Hi I’m John Drinko –what’s your name and what do you do?” He
was interested in talking to people, listening to their comments
and thanking them for their contributions to Marshall. His
caring left a lasting impression upon all he met.
As one person put it: “John Drinko was not just a benefactor, he
was our friend and mentor.” To quote another: “Dr. Drinko is a
tither many times over… He doesn’t just give money, he gives
of himself..” And finally, speaking for hundreds of us, “John
Drinko has used not only his wealth but also his ideas to
improve the quality of education for generations to come, we
will continue to benefit from his insights and his generosity.”
If you think that John Drinko is gone then obviously you have
not visited the Marshall campus. John Drinko’s legacy is alive
and vibrant. The daily life at Marshall University makes John
Drinko uniquely relevant. Brilliant, visionary, often blunt and
always hard driving, John Drinko dedicated his significant
talents and boundless energy to accomplish Marshall’s
His name and his ideals will continue to command attention in
the central work of his university. And it is our privilege to
serve as stewards of John’s legacy to his Alma Mater he loved so
much. As stated by our university President, Dr. Stephen Kopp,
“John Drinko will be forever remembered as a “Son of Marshall.”