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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2012

We are rapidly concluding our 175th Anniversary year. Each of you is an integral part of the past, present and future of Marshall University.

When you look back on your time in college, it is likely the exciting and personal aspects of being a student at Marshall University that you recall most fondly. Perhaps, high among these memories is the jubilant blasting of the fight song across the gridiron. Perhaps, it was your involvement in your favorite student organization – The Marching Thunder, Student Government, WMUL, Marshall theatrical performances, or other extracurricular activities – that stands out most for you. Without a doubt, the extraordinary and often lifetime friendships you formed and enjoyed are clear reminders of your Marshall days and the special meaning and affinity for “We Are ... Marshall.”

Perhaps, your favorite professors stand out in your mind’s eye. Few if any students graduate from college without having been inspired along the way by at least several memorable professors. Maybe those professors challenged you in a way that motivated you or inspired you to take intellectual risks that helped you discover new horizons. Maybe (s)he was the first person in your life to help you realize your inner talents and potential and discover your life’s calling. Whatever the case may be, these exceptional professors made a difference in your life. It could be that these people are why you are a proud member of our alumni family.

As we set our sights on the next 175 years, we are well-advised to cherish the legacy and memories of Marshall University, while also attending to laying the cornerstones for a powerful future, one more focused than ever on creating empowering, distinctive learning experiences for our students that are positive, personal and life-changing.

I believe we are well on our way to meeting this goal.

Consider that over the past four years, our fresh- man class has grown to record levels and our recruiting efforts remain strong. Once students enroll at Marshall, we engage actively in encouraging and empowering their success so that they finish what they’ve started – earning their college degree.

Our most recent initiative in this regard has focused on intensive academic and career advising, especially during our students’ first year at Marshall. We ensure that students are registered for required courses earlier in their course of study, mean- ing that we are averting problems in the sophomore year before they become crises in the senior year. We have implemented digital tools that enable real-time tracking of degree progress for individual students, retention metrics and predictive analytical tools all focused on amplifying student success and graduation rates. These student success and retention instruments are focused on assuring that both academic advisors and students have the information needed to track the student’s progress and make informed decisions, whether for course registrations to fulfill university, college and major requirements or career path preparation for competitive success. Gone are the days of triple-cross-referencing the catalog and crossing your fingers. Advisors today are providing evidence-based advising tailored to each student enrolled at Marshall. They match interests and skill sets with career aspirations and in the process help each student figure out their plan for embarking on their personal quest for success.

As you peruse the special article in this issue on the history of your beloved alma mater, you will be struck by how Marshall’s journey has been marked by change every year since 1837. Some years, change happened more with bricks and mortar. Others were marked by new leadership and academic transformation. In this, our 175th year of dedication to higher learning, we embark on a very personalized journey toward success hand in hand with our students, guiding and encouraging them toward success. They know that the people of Marshall really care about them, that our students matter most, as they always have. We expect success from our students. Given our unified commitment, how could they not?

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2012

Quite simply, it is a great time to be a part of Marshall University. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished these last seven years but even more excited about what lies ahead.

Marshall University — faculty, students and staff — has progressed and accomplished much more than many people thought possible. While the skyline of the Huntington campus continues to evolve, our collective attitude continues to change as well.

Rather than waiting for good things to happen, we make them happen. We are confident. We are self- assured. We are determined. We set lofty goals and accomplish them. We establish positive momentum and refuse to relinquish it. We work hard and set high expectations for our university and ourselves.

In a recent presentation to honor our remarkable faculty, I was reminded that we are most certainly the manifestation of our expectations. As each outstanding educator walked to the front of the theater to be recognized and applaud- ed, it struck me once more that our values and principles continue to move us forward and we must never forget what matters.

Priorities matter.

Planning matters.

Leadership matters.

Teamwork matters.

People and relationships matter.

Today, because of our hard work, amazing opportunity awaits Marshall University. I absolutely believe that as a university community we have the power to redefine the public higher education landscape. This statement is bold and I would not say it if I did not wholeheartedly believe it. We have the capacity to define what is special, distinctive and compelling about a degree from Marshall. Now is our opportunity to create a new landscape.

We live in a time of profound disruption. Being good at what we do is no longer good enough. Staying in the middle of the road is a road to a future nowhere.

I believe that the university that creates the most powerful, compel- ling learning experiences for its students will rapidly become the definer and architect of the higher education landscape of tomorrow. So I challenge all of us at Marshall University, as well as those who love and support this beloved institution, to ask ourselves: Why not us? Why not now?

I trust you will answer those questions with the question: Indeed, why not?

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2011

The new academic year opened in August with record fresh- man enrollment, near-capacity occupancy in the residence halls and a Huntington campus revitalized with more than $13 million in facility renovations and improvements. A new gateway on Fifth Avenue now welcomes alumni, friends and visitors to campus, and planning for more than $110 million in new capital projects is well under way.

The Huntington campus is more stunning than ever, thanks to landscaping and hardscape beautifications that have enhanced the aesthetics of the grounds. From Point Pleasant to South Charleston and Huntington our centers and campuses rank among the most attractive locations in the state. These aesthetically appealing settings combine to provide welcoming spaces conducive to learning and enjoyment of the distinctive academic and social experiences at Marshall. They also create energizing environs for our faculty and staff to engage in fulfilling work.

Inside our academic buildings, the first phase of major instructional technology enhancements is well under way, as part of a three-year comprehensive plan to refurbish and upgrade every instructional area on campus. Our initiative to expand our academic profile continues in earnest. New degree programs are being developed that complement our strengths in the biosciences and health science fields. Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Public Health and Bioinformatics are included among these developing pro- grams. We are also continuing to expand engineering as well as other high-demand fields of study.

Key to the latter development will be the construction of the new 140,000-square-foot Biotechnology Incubator and Applied Engineering Complex. Thanks to the work of our senior West Virginia State Senator, Bob Plymale, the leadership of the West Virginia Legislature, the Governor and the Higher Education Policy Commission, Marshall is the recipient of $25 million in funding toward the $50 million required to design and construct this new building. This new facility will be juxtaposed along Third Avenue between the current Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories and the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.

Seven additional buildings are planned as part of this new expansion of Marshall’s Huntington campus. These projects include:

  • The Fine Arts Incubator in downtown Huntington will become the new home for various Marshall fine arts programs, especially in the visual arts. This major building renovation project opposite Pullman Plaza will enhance the arts and cultural landscape of the city of Huntington, while enabling expansion and increased visibility for Marshall’s fine arts programs
  • The Multipurpose Indoor Practice Complex, which will consist of three interconnected buildings, will be built on the site of the current soccer field. This complex will consist of the Indoor Practice Facility, the Student Athlete Academic Center and the Sports Medicine Translational Research Center. This facility will benefit all of Marshall’s intercollegiate sports teams.
  • A new Soccer Stadium Complex will be constructed on the north side of Fifth Avenue on the site of the Veterans Memorial Field House.
  • A multi-floor parking structure will be built adjacent to the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse and replace the surface parking lost on Third Avenue due to the construction of the Biotechnology Incubator and Applied Engineering Complex.
  • A new, high-technology academic building will be built to provide modern, versatile learning environments for today’s and tomorrow’s tech-savvy students. The student-centric spaces in this building will be designed to empower students to engage in inter- disciplinary thinking and learning experiences, which integrate theory and application in immersive 24/7 settings.

The anticipated cost to design and construct all of these new capital projects is $115 million. A little over one-third (about 34.8 percent) of the funding required will need to be raised privately, giving rise to our private fund-raising goal of $40 million. As we enter 2012, the 175th year since our founding, please consider adding your gift to this very important fundraising goal for the future of Marshall University.

Marshall has joined 21 other universities invited to participate with the Lumina Foundation and the Higher Learning Commission in beta testing a new model for regional reaccreditation. This pioneering process, called the “Open Pathways Project,” will allow us to undertake a series of quality improvement initiatives focused on establishing an institutional degree qualification profile. Simply put, we will use comprehensive assessments of our stated learning outcomes as well as evidence of students’ actual learning outcomes – across the curriculum and at the undergraduate and master’s degree levels – to address very important questions about the caliber and distinctiveness of a Marshall education. This initiative places Marshall University in a leadership role nationally.

We are embracing with renewed commitment our dedication to student success and academic innovation. We recognize the special contributions made by members of our Board of Governors, the members of the Higher Education Policy Commission and our legislative leaders for helping Marshall University realize its vast potential. This is a special time in our historic institution’s nearly 175-year history – one of tremendous growth and opportunity. I personally thank our readers for your commitment to Marshall University and helping to fulfill the promise of a better future.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2011

As the oldest public institution of higher education in West Virginia, Marshall University has a long and distinguished history. Since Marshall was founded in 1837, how- ever, there has been perhaps no greater milestone than the earning of university status.

Fifty years ago this spring, on March 2, 1961, to the joyous cheers of students, faculty, staff and members of the community in the brand new Gullickson Hall, Governor W. W. Barron signed into law the bill granting university status to Marshall College.

It was a tremendous day for West Virginia and the entire Marshall family. I have to believe that Governor Barron, as he put pen to paper, must have envisioned a vast array of possibilities for Marshall University, its potential for growth and the enormous promise our beloved institution held for the great state of West Virginia.

Historical accounts tell us it took great maneuvering and political debate for our institution of higher learning to become a university. The change did not manifest from a simple petition or a common declaration. It was the culmination of a lengthy struggle led by one of my predecessors, President Stewart Smith, along with colleagues, friends of Marshall, legislators and other supporters.

It was indeed a defining moment in the history of Marshall University.

Today, I am proud to say that Marshall University is fulfilling the dreams of those who foresaw the institution’s extraordinary potential and had the courage to pursue it.

Our university boasts record student enrollment, a flourishing research enterprise and the growth of new, high- demand degree programs, like physical therapy, pharmacy and health informatics. The school’s nationally ranked school of medicine and forensic science program, as well as its growing engineering school and the new school of pharmacy, are among the many reasons more students than ever are choosing Marshall University to find their passions and pursue their dreams.

Our progress could not have been achieved without the steadfast support of our state’s legislative and executive leaders – both past and present. They embraced a vision for what Marshall University could be in service to the people of West Virginia and our nation and then placed their trust in us to make that vision manifest. We greatly appreciate their tireless support.

We also are thankful to each of you for your continuing support of Marshall University. We remain committed to honoring the legacy of our namesake and advancing the capacity of our university to serve our state and nation with distinction for generations to come.

We Are... Marshall!

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2010

Consider for a moment these assertions that reflect the mindset of a resilient West Virginia businessman who instilled the same level of determination in his son. Clearly, a work ethic like this comes from thriving in the trenches of the highly competitive world of the entrepreneur. Fortunately for the multitude of employees at The Greenbrier resort, as well as those at his 40-plus other companies, Marshall University’s own Jim Justice is very much his father’s son.

Look only as far as the cover story in this issue of Marshall Magazine to grasp what drives Jim Justice to succeed as he relentlessly reinvents his enterprises at considerable financial risk to improve their performance. His holdings are diverse and, in many cases, quite dear to him and his wife, Cathy, also a proud Marshall graduate. Justice is the president of companies ranging from coal properties to tree farms to cotton gins and land projects; yet, his purchase and revitalization of “America’s Resort,” the Mountain State’s rarest of gems, The Greenbrier, is his greatest joy and challenge. His investment in The Greenbrier epitomizes the passion this man exudes for his work and his commitment to creating new opportunities and building a better future.

As I read his story, it became clear to me that to conquer the challenges confronted by the self-made, it is not enough to inherit determination; you have to have extremely high expectations, acumen for business and an unyielding work ethic. Entrepreneurs must believe their ideas and interests will net them success eventually. They become the manifestation of their expectations.

Justice embodies the progressive energy and spirit embedded in the vision and aspirations we have established for Marshall University. I believe that when we define and design our preferred future and commit to it passionately, we begin the process of actualizing it. The future is something you do and mold; it is something you design. It is not something that just happens. We are compelled to distinguish our high-probability future – the future that is most likely to manifest if we let things keep going the way they have been – versus our highly preferred future – the future we choose to create.

Justice purchased The Greenbrier out of bankruptcy and began turning this rescued jewel into a growing enterprise. He did so believing he would succeed. He lives his life and runs his businesses expecting success, absolutely and unequivocally. When I talk about Marshall, I often speak about the importance of growth as the seeds for prosperity, and I emphasize there simply is no room for failure in the paradigm. Certainly, as a state-assisted university, Marshall will continue to confront budgetary challenges in the coming years. However, I am more optimistic than ever we will not only surmount the challenges, we will continue the forward momentum that has characterized our recent extraordinary progress.

Our student enrollment has risen to unprecedented lev- els, recent studies show the economic impact of Marshall has never been greater, new facilities are being constructed and high-demand academic program offerings are being introduced. These developments, and more, are transform- ing Marshall into a preferred destination university for incoming students.

Like a successful entrepreneur, our courage and an unyielding commitment to accomplishing our goals will continue to serve as the impetus for moving forward. This resiliency leaves no room for failure.

And, like the revitalization and innovative thinking required to restore a 232-year-old resort to its former glory, it will take renewed investment and commitment for Marshall to build and expand the intellectual resources of our state at the pace required to advance its economic future. Investments in the genesis of new knowledge and innovation are the keys to the revitalization we seek.

I admire the resolute entrepreneurial spirit of Jim Justice and know he is just as committed to stimulating the economic engine at The Greenbrier as we are to advancing our university as a potent economic multiplier for West Virginia and the entire region. He is an inspiration to his Marshall University family, embodying the ethos of industry, determination and forward-thinking we want to see in our students and beloved alumni.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2010

A recent economic impact study commissioned by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission makes a compelling argument for unleashing and capitalizing on the economic power of public higher education locally, regionally and nationally. This study presents a convincing case for public higher education as a major economic multiplier. In other words, rather than representing just a cost to state tax- payers, public universities and colleges actually return many times more to state coffers than the amount of public fund- ing invested. This multiplier effect of public higher education has been essentially ignored over the last three decades, as states have continued to shift the cost of a college education at public institutions to students and their families.

According to this study, Marshall University returned to West Virginia and the Tri-State Region more than $20 for every $1 West Virginia taxpayers invested in our university through state appropriations. No other public sector entity comes close to yielding a return on investment of this magnitude.

The total annual economic impact of Marshall University to the local, state and regional economy in 2008 was more than $1.5 billion. This figure doesn’t even take into account the value created by public higher education with regard to growing our college-educated workforce.

Interestingly, the economic impact of Marshall University tripled between 2005 and 2008 — an extraordinary accomplishment fueled by legislation passed in 2005 that gave the boards of governors of Marshall University and West Virginia University the authority to govern their respective institutions with unprecedented flexibility.

Coincident with my first five years as Marshall’s president, this experiment with public university governance has provided the depth and perspective we need to assess the effectiveness of a decentralized governance model for the state’s two research universities.

Simply stated, it has been a resounding success. The results provide definitive proof.

Marshall University is stronger and more vibrant today than it was in 2005. We expect record freshman enrollment this fall. Overall student enrollment will soon exceed record levels, propelling us toward our goal of increasing undergraduate enrollment by 50 percent. Non-resident enrollment has nearly doubled and full-time freshmen enrollment has increased by nearly one-and-a-half times.

We are adding important new, high-demand professional degree programs like Physical Therapy, Public Health and Health Informatics to meet societal and employer needs. Undergraduate majors like Forensic Science and Computational Science also are being added to our curriculum portfolio, while low-demand majors and programs are being phased out.

Over the last five years, more than $190 million in new capital projects, more than half of which have been funded privately, and 12 new facilities have been completed at Marshall. In addition, more than $35 million in major building renovation and deferred maintenance projects have been completed or are under way. Research grant funding has doubled – far surpassing record levels - and now exceeds $50 million annually. Marshall’s Honors College has been established and a new core General Education Program is being implemented this fall.

Our progress is the result of our entire team setting very high expectations and working hard to meet and exceed them. The evidence is clear: setting priorities and planning matters; leadership matters; teamwork matters; and, relationships matter. All serve as the foundational keystones for the successes we have achieved.

Looking ahead, we must recognize the economic power of locally governed institutions of public higher learning. When liberated to serve our mission – the public interest nationally and internationally – universities like Marshall possess an extraordinary capacity to operate as economic enterprises that multiply many-fold the investment by tax- payers. We must value the direct economic impact our pub- lic colleges and universities contribute, especially when this enterprise operates globally, serving mobile students from across the world. And, we must acknowledge and value the tremendous long-term impact that college graduates from our public universities have on creating economic opportunity, enhancing our global competitiveness, improving our social institutions and advancing our quality of life.

This awareness must be translated into more enlightened public higher education policy initiatives that focus on advancing a framework conducive to greater global competitiveness, productivity and accountability. This line of thinking is essential if our state and our nation are to experience a resurgence of opportunity and a renewal of the American Dream. I’m very proud of Marshall’s leadership in this regard, and, as we look to the next five years and beyond, I am confident this wonderful institution will remain one of our greatest public investment success stories.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2010

Difficult times confront us. It is no secret that our state and nation are in the midst of the worst recession our nation has faced in 80 years.

Recently, I have been asked whether Marshall University is positioned to weather the repercussions of this deep economic recession, including projected cuts in state appropriations over the next few years. My answer is a resounding yes—the University will not only outlast this crisis but with dedicated planning, hard work and a healthy degree of sacrifice, we envision emerging stronger from it.

A significant key to our success will be sustainability efforts like those you will read about in this issue.

During a time when public universities across the country are battening down the hatches, capping enrollments and struggling to stay afloat, at Marshall University we have been working to accelerate growth, improve productivity and gain efficiencies. We are examining every aspect of the University — from top to bottom — to actualize opportunities and leverage resources that will help us serve our students and our constituents more effectively and more resourcefully.

We are combing the University for increased efficiencies from the president’s office to boilers and light bulbs. Last fall, the University’s new Sustainability Department began the task of monitoring everything from our power usage to the food we waste in our dining halls. These efforts have rapidly produced significant monetary savings in University operations, while benefiting our students and our environment.

In fact, the University is on track to save approximately $600,000 due to changes instituted on campus in the wake of the student-initiated Green Fee, the hiring of a sustain- ability manager and continued energy savings produced by practices and improvements instituted by our Physical Plant.

Consider that the University has:

  • Conserved more than 17 million gallons of water during the past year.
  • Held natural gas expenditures steady and decreased power usage from 73.5 million kilowatt hours to 71.3 million kilowatt hours.
  • Launched a campus-wide recycling program funded by a grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. These measures are diverting tons of waste from our local landfill and reducing waste removal costs.
  • Led the State in the Demand Response Program, a regional energy curtailment system adopted to reduce electrical usage in five campus academic buildings during peak demand periods. Marshall is the first West Virginia higher education institution to participate in this voluntary pro- gram to reduce demand on the national power grid during peak usage periods.
  • Promoted dining with- out trays to reduce food waste and water and energy usage, which is having the added benefit of improving meal plan choices for our students.
  • Continued to give students a voice in the process of advancing campus sustainability through the Greening Marshall Committee, a process unique to our University. As a result of their hard work and ideas, their Green Fee has made possible our new Sustainability Department and other vital initiatives that will help us as we work to “Be Marshall Green.” Our students are responsible thinkers and doers. Their conservation and environmental consciousness bodes well for our future. I am very pleased they wear the Green and White.

We are confident that Marshall University will continue to achieve success, and even growth in these challenging times. These future successes will be built on an enduring foundation that the University’s strategic initiatives have helped establish. The recent sustainability projects are an extension of these initiatives and demonstrate our willing- ness to adapt our plans to take advantage of new opportunities. Adapting and adjusting to new realities — quite literally retooling our organization as we move forward — is what you can expect to see at Marshall University as we continue the important work of fulfilling the promise of a better future.

Throughout, we will remain a community steadfast in our unwavering commitment to serving, educating and inspiring future generations of students, advancing knowledge, discovery and innovation, and catalyzing greater economic development and opportunity.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2009

This year has been a banner one for Marshall University’s research enterprise. The progress that has been achieved is paving the way for new areas of opportunity for the future.

I am particularly pleased to report that competitive funding awarded for research at Marshall University has increased dramatically—more than 40 percent over the past six years.

Why is this growth in grant funded research important? The direct impact that research has on catalyzing economic growth underscores its importance both short- and long-term. The grants provide funding for job creation at the University and bring additional dollars into the region. Even more significantly, however, research discoveries can lead to the creation of techniques and products that form the basis for high-tech startup companies—businesses that will locate near the University, thereby amplifying the growth of jobs in our area.

It has been said that success breeds success. Here are just a few more examples of our recent research successes.

Over the past few months, our faculty members have been competitively awarded more than $3 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the federal stimulus program—for projects ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease research to a science and engineering faculty diversity initiative. These awards are not handouts. Our researchers competed for these funds against faculty members at our nation’s leading research institutions.

In August, we unveiled conceptual drawings of the proposed Applied Engineering Complex for our Huntington campus and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission approved $25 million in funding for the project. This Board-approved facility plan is scaled at $50-60-million and features advanced learning environments, teach- ing/research laboratories and resources to support undergraduate and graduate programs in engineering, mechanical engineering and bioengineering, mathematics and computational sciences, environmental sciences, transportation and applied digital/simulation technology, as well as space for a new high school. STEM Academy and offices for the Marshall University Research Corporation. This new facility will be a tremendous asset to our students and faculty, while providing the resource capabilities to advance current and future research funding initiatives.

We are also witnessing the results of our strategic commitment to hiring the brightest, most talented researchers we can find. Fueled by the successes of the School of Medicine, Marshall University is now home to a number of highly talented and successful researchers. They are helping to attract other outstanding researchers and students. This cycle is a positive, self-perpetuating path- way to excellence, and we are very energized by the progress that has been achieved.

As you will read in the cover article, the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) also is off to a fine start. Institute director and lead research scientist Dr. Eric Kmiec joined us in January 2009 and is assembling a stellar team of scientists and research associates. This summer, gene regulation expert Dr. Joan Wilson was the second scientist to join the institute created through the state’s new “Bucks for Brains” research trust fund, and she and Dr. Kmiec are developing a focused program of pioneering research dedicated to producing patentable scientific breakthroughs and creating new high-tech businesses based on those discoveries.

Many of these initiatives would not be possible without the impetus provided by the 2008 “Bucks for Brains” legislation. This bill established the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, a groundbreaking initiative, and we owe Governor Joe Manchin and the West Virginia Legislature a debt of gratitude for their foresight and leadership in establishing the trust fund.

It is indeed a cornerstone of our efforts to build a sustain- able research platform at Marshall University predicated on endowment-based research.

Since inception of the program last year, generous Marshall donors have pledged more than $750,000 to the university’s endowment, specifically for research. Those pledges combined with the match from the state’s trust fund—will translate into more than $1.5 million in endowed funding for Marshall’s research programs.

And we are just getting started. The “Bucks for Brains” pro- gram has the potential to make a $30 million impact on our university’s research ventures.

Thank you to everyone who plays a role in the university’s research endeavors—alumni, faculty, students, donors, staff, administrators and friends. These are exciting times at Marshall University. I am glad you are part of our team!

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2009

The dawning of our fifth year together seems a fitting time to draw attention to the noteworthy progress of Marshall University over the past four years.

The partial list below reflects the hard work of many committed, talented, passionate people who truly love Marshall University and demonstrate it by their actions. They share our Strategic Vision for the University and are a vital part of actualizing it. Part of our pledge to the Marshall University community has been and continues to be to work steadfastly toward fulfilling the promise of a better future for this institution, our beloved state, its citizens and, ultimately, our nation. In our vision statement, we reference aiming for perfection. We affirm that this aspiration is not a destination but rather a commitment to becoming better and better in all that we do each and every day. Those words guide us in everything we do. I believe when you review a few highlights below, you will agree.

  • “We Are Marshall” movie: This film allowed us to share a tragic chapter in our history in ways that have inspired awareness and pride in who we are as Sons and Daughters of Marshall.
  • Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center: This capital project is the most ambitious ever undertaken and has transformed the landscape of bioscience research at Marshall.
  • Rebirth of the Bachelor of Science program in Engineering: With the coming retirement of many of our country’s civil engineers and the immediate need for skilled and capable engineers to work rebuild and improve infrastructure around the world, this career path is without doubt one of the most crucial fields of study we can offer our students. A degree in engineering will prepare our students for a highly competitive global marketplace.
  • Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories: This modern facility is home to our resurgent engineering program.
  • Marshall Recreation Center: Rapidly becoming the social and physical activity hub for our students, this amazing addition to the Huntington campus is one of the finest facilities of its kind in the nation.
  • Dot Hicks Field: Marshall’s softball team now plays its home games at one of the best facilities in Conference USA.
  • Marshall University Honors College: This new college will increase the national visibility of Marshall to prospective honors students.
  • First Year Living- Learning Residence Halls: These modern facilities are important to the overall campus life experience at the University and will help improve student retention.
  • MIIR (the Marshall University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research): This initiative will intensify and accelerate the rate at which our applied research reaches the marketplace and fosters economic development.

With the recent addition of Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, (see story on page 9) I will match our leadership team against the best in the country. The caliber of leaders we have assembled and the solidarity we share for Marshall University establishes a firm foundation for future success and progress. Simply put, they are the right people in the right place at the right time.

As you consider the accomplishments of the past four years in their entirety, I ask that you take a few moments to contemplate what a new building truly means to our community; that you think about how new majors and programs influence the lives and futures of our students; and that you ask yourself why research matters not only to the Marshall community but the world at large.

I trust you see what I see and not only take pride in it but support it as well. We now expect that world-class researchers will choose Marshall as their home. We are committed to developing new majors and programs and building new state-of-the-art facilities that are vital to realizing the vast potential of Marshall University in the 21st Century.

Our shared vision was set in motion nearly four years ago. All of our distinct achievements truly come together to light our journey as we endeavor to actualize the tremendous potential that lies within us as an institution of higher learning, as a state and as a people. Decisive, strategic leadership that effectively plans, prioritizes, acts and then follows through, characterizes who we are today at Marshall University.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2009

Advancing human intellectual capabilities and knowledge is at the heart of the value created by higher education. Over time universities, like many complex organizations, can become blinded by organizational habits that limit our capacity to recognize and act on opportunity. In so doing, we limit our horizons and jeopardize our capacity to respond to the inevitable challenges of the future

Avoiding these pitfalls and guiding Marshall University toward fulfilling its vast potential is as imperative today as it was on my first day as president. Many of the essential elements are now in place for Marshall to assert itself as a high value, distinctive University that prepares influential leaders and responsible, forward-thinking citizens for the 21st Century. Gone is the propensity to embrace the status quo and the habits of time. Instead, we look to enterprising leaders who have the courage to inspire, prioritize and deliver results. Gone is the tendency to value process and adequacy over excelling and producing results that advance the value we create. Gone is the aversion to taking risks versus the nerve to engage in sensible risk-taking. Gone is the indifference and pessimism toward taking initiative to solve problems. Instead, challenges confronting the University are met increasingly by responsive and responsible problem-solvers. important developments that are reshaping the face of Marshall University. Comparing the present landscape

Comparing the present landscape at Marshall University to our campus just four years ago reveals significant change and progress toward meeting the expectations of our students for distinctive, high quality educational opportunities. Facilities do make a difference; so too does modern technology (see article about Dr. Jan Fox). The Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center opened in the fall of 2006. It clearly was a factor in the creation of the endowment-based Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR), the West Virginia Research Trust Fund and our ability to attract Dr. Eric Kmiec and his research colleagues to Marshall where he serves as Director and Lead Research Scientist of MIIR. His research program already is providing undergraduate and graduate students with unique entrepreneurial research opportunities. The Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories opened in August 2008. This facility is an important factor in the extraordinary growth in the number of students majoring in Marshall’s new undergraduate engineering program, which was established in the fall of 2005. The First Year Freshman Residence Halls opened last fall. They remain filled to capacity and for good reason. They are safe, secure and modern environments that clearly meet the needs of our first-year students, and will for years to come with up-to-date technology, including wireless accessibility in all areas, security phones, video surveillance, card- swipe entry access and multimedia specialty rooms.

The Marshall Recreation Center opened in February 2009 and already is having a positive impact on our campus. According to Dave Stewart, director of campus recreation, 9,074 people used the new facility during the first full week it was open. We believe the impact of this 123,000-square-foot facility on student recruitment and retention – not to mention the general health of our community will be nothing short of amazing. The new Dot Hicks Softball Field, the new Marching Thunder Practice Field, the Joseph M. Gillette Welcome Center and the major renovations to Smith and Harris Halls, Old Main and the Memorial Student Center in Huntington, as well as the Mid-Ohio Valley Center Science and Nursing Addition in Point Pleasant, all represent important developments that are reshaping the face of Marshall University.

New degree programs and majors are developing that address high-demand fields and professions, which open new areas of opportunity for our students and better serve our region. The strategic vision set forth nearly four years ago continues to guide and propel Marshall forward. Despite the progress that has been achieved, considerable work remains. The ethos of Marshall University is aligning with the accelerating pace of change that has epitomized the first decade of the 21st Century.

We are positioned well to work with state and national leaders to overcome the monumental economic and global challenges that now confront us. Every time we think we have measured our capacity to transform the impossible into the possible, we look around and are reminded that we have only just begun. The extent to which we succeed will be determined by the ingenuity, aptitude and determination we bring to these precarious problems. Ultimately, future generations will measure our success by the extent to which we have elevated the capacity of our graduates to prevent their reoccurrence.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2008

According to recent national survey findings, high school seniors have acknowledged that the most important factor in making their decision about which college or university to attend is the quality of the academic facilities avail- able in their contemplated major. Not surprisingly, universities that offer well- resourced, state-of-the-art facilities and that provide distinctive, value-added educational experiences are in high demand.

At Marshall University, we are work- ing diligently and proactively to advance the University’s competitiveness with respect to the quality and caliber of the academic facilities available to our students. Even though much work remains, we have made considerable progress. Noteworthy among these accomplishments has been the construction of the new Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories building. Thanks to the incredible support provided by Art and Joan Weisberg of Huntington, students from our region and beyond, who have decided to pursue engineering as their college major, can now earn their Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering (B.S.E.) at Marshall University. This new facility offers our students the opportunity to study and learn in modern, well- equipped laboratories designed for a 21st Century engineering education.

Since May 2006, the Weisbergs have contributed $5 million in support of Marshall’s Division of Engineering and Computer Science. Their generous gift has largely underwritten the construction of the new $4.2 million engineering lab building, appropriately named the “Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratories.”

The magnificent 16,000-square-foot building located on our Huntington cam- pus across 3rd Avenue from Smith Hall was dedicated on August 16, 2008 in a ceremony honoring Art and Joan, owners of State Electric Supply Company in Huntington. It was indeed a privilege to join with a very large crowd of friends and colleagues, along with 20 members of the Weisberg family, to pay tribute to this amazing couple.

As we grow our engineering program, it is clear that we would not be where we are today without the tremendous generosity of Art and Joan. Their most recent involvement and support was the singular factor in our ability to move for- ward on construction and development of the facility named in their honor. This building was completed just 21⁄2 years after our Board of Governors unanimously approved the start-up of the new B.S.E. degree program at Marshall. That decision signaled the long-awaited rebirth of a 4-year undergraduate engineering program at Marshall University.

The addition of this new facility and the other capital improvements that have been completed during the last three years or so are transforming Marshall University into a destination campus that is attracting more and more students. The evidence already is clear that the new engineering major is a significant attraction to entering students. This fall’s enrollment of 140 engineering students at Marshall is nearly double the 77 students enrolled in fall 2005 – before approval of the B.S.E. degree. Since fall 2004, enrollment in our College of Information Technology and Engineering (CITE) has increased from 142 to 310 students.

Yes, quality academic facilities do matter because they are the most crucial decision point in the choice of a university for many of today’s students. The more visible and robust the opportunities are at Marshall University that potential students can see and experience, the more likely they are to choose to pursue their college education here.

Art and Joan Weisberg long ago recognized the importance of engineering edu- cation and developing an educated and adaptive workforce in Huntington and throughout West Virginia. This philosophy was embraced by Art when he began to experience firsthand that engineering is a very versatile form of education that contributes significantly to advancing personal opportunity and innovation in our society. He has affirmed the benefits of his college education again and again throughout his lifetime as he has transitioned from engineer to enterprising entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Thank you, Art and Joan Weisberg, for your vision and your support. The entire Marshall University Community expresses our eternal gratitude to both of you.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2008

More than 37 years ago, Marshall University made a commitment to eternally remember the victims of the catastrophic 1970 plane crash, which claimed the lives of 75 people, including most of the members of the Thundering Herd football team. The Memorial Fountain installed on the Memorial Student Center plaza in 1972 is emblematic of that solemn pledge. On April 9 of this year, we reaffirmed that commitment during a ceremony on our Huntington campus in which we rededicated the Memorial Fountain. In renewing our vow we, the Marshall Family, resolved to do whatever is necessary to affirm the memories of those who lost their lives.

This rededication event was the culmination of a series of events that began following a routine structural inspection of the fountain. The report filed by the structural engineering firm revealed that the base supporting the fountain was deteriorating at an accelerating rate due to aging, and the likelihood was that the fountain would become unstable within 18 months if nothing was done. The decision to proceed with the structural renovation to the base supporting the fountain was obvious; however, we were faced with an important decision about the scope of work that would be performed.

In January, the fountain was lifted from its original base by a 350-ton crane and moved to a nearby temporary location so a new foundation could be built. During the two months that followed, extensive repairs were made, not only to the base but to the reflecting pool and the fountain mechanical systems.

The foundation now features a classical granite surface with no exposed pipes and the fountain appears to float on the water, just as sculptor Harry Bertoia had envisioned. On April 9, less than five months after the water had been turned off for the winter in the annual Nov. 14 Memorial Service, it was turned back on during the rededication ceremony.

The Marshall University Foundation Inc., under the guidance of CEO Dr. Ron Area, spearheaded fundraising efforts to cover the $200,000 cost of the renovations. A committee of family members of the crash victims, including Sheila Nash- Foster, Courtney Proctor Cross, Michelle Prestera Craig, Parker Ward and Keith Morehouse, offered input and support of the improvements.

Marshall University physical plant members worked hard to insure the success of the project. Assistant directors Tony Crislip and Dale Osburn headed their efforts. Also, Don Van Horn, dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Brian Carrico, director of safety and health, were heavily involved in the project.

Dean Van Horn led the effort to have the 13-foot, 6,500-pound fountain displayed as envisioned by Bertoia. Carrico ensured that every aspect of the project was performed safely and that we complied with all environmental requirements.

We thank everyone who had a part in the restoration of the fountain, including the following contractors: Aero Fab, Inc., of Huntington; Cement Finishing, Inc., of Barboursville; Duncan Machine Movers of Lexington, Ky.; McColm Sears Monument Company of Huntington; Hilbert Tile & Marble of Ashland, Ky.; and Veolia Environmental Industrial Services, Inc., of Ashland, which donated all of its services and materials to the project.

We extend a very special thank you to Governor Joe Manchin for his participation in the rededication ceremony. In concluding his message, he paid homage to the crash victims when he said, “Indeed, through this fountain’s waters, they shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever.”

We are Marshall, and we shall never forget them.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2008

When Marshall University head football Coach Mark Snyder has announced the signing of student-athletes to each recruiting class over the past three years, he has attributed those signings to a total team effort by the entire university.

Thundering Herd fans and supporters then read with great interest key statistics and skills sets each player will be bringing to Marshall. Their interest, of course, is in trying to gauge just how the new players will contribute to restoring the championship mantle of the Thundering Herd.

The university is also interested in the competitive success not only of our new football players, but as well, the nearly 400 student-athletes who represent Marshall in their chosen sport. This success is defined by both their performance on the playing surface and in the classroom. We are committed to and expect their very best in both venues.

That philosophy and expectation begins with me, as president, and carries forward through our head coaches and their coaching staffs. We share a common belief that the increasingly more sophisticated and complex level of play of contemporary sports places higher demands on student-athletes both mentally and physically. Victories against more challenging competition necessitates play at a much higher level than ever before “between the ears” and “between the lines.”

Academic assistance is an area Marshall University student-athletes are introduced to long before they hit their first home run, score their first touch- down, sink their first basket or perform their first dive into the Cam Henderson Center pool.

In fact, when recruits visit our cam- pus, members of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program, under the guidance of director Tara Helton, meet with them to let them know exactly what is expected and the academic help that is available to them, should they choose to attend Marshall. That assistance makes their transition from high school or another institution of higher education easier. The Harless program is dedicated to meeting the athletes’ needs as students.

Clearly, our current student-athletes are placing a high priority on their academic studies, and with the help of caring coaches, faculty, counselors, mentors and tutors, they are performing at honor roll levels.

According to Helton, 170 Marshall student-athletes earned grade point averages of 3.0 or better last fall. That number represents an increase of 25 from spring 2007. Of those 170 student- athletes, 22 posted perfect 4.0 GPAs, including six from the women’s track team. Our women’s golf team posted the best overall GPA last fall at 3.49, followed by volleyball at 3.44. These vital statistics make us proud and justify the awarding of athletic scholarships.

Other important achievements include the awarding of a Conference USA post-graduate scholarship to former Thundering Herd football player Ian O’Connor, who is now attending veterinary school at the University of Tennessee. Jeff Mullins, another former football player, received the same C-USA scholarship the year before and now is attending the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall.

These outstanding numbers do not mean that 100 percent of our student- athletes perform as expected in the classroom; however, the overall academic performance of our athletic program has improved dramatically in less than three years. In 2007, which is the most recent year for which data are available, all of Marshall’s teams had NCAA Academic Progress Rates above the cut-line of 925. MU was one of only three C-USA universities with ALL of its programs above the cut score. We ranked 4th in C-USA that year in the number of student athletes who earned C-USA Academic Medalist Awards (3.75 GPA or better) and tied for 3rd in the number of student athletes who earned Commissioner’s Honor Roll Awards (3.0 GPA or better). As noted earlier, 2008 looks as if it may surpass the successes of last year.

The vast majority of our student-athletes realize the importance of earning their college degrees. They understand, though sometimes with hesitation, that a very small percentage of them will ever play professional sports. For many, the conclusion of their college careers will mark the beginning of a new phase of their lives that will not require athletic skills, but will require intellectual and other skills sets as well as a college degree. Subconsciously, everyone who competes in sport knows in his or her heart and soul that the day will come when they can no longer compete on the playing surface. That day comes sooner for some and later for others, but it will come.

Convincing recruits to sign with Marshall, as Coach Snyder has said, “takes a total team effort.” Preparing them for life and career thereafter also takes a total team effort – from all of us.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2007

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III is a true friend to Marshall University. As you will observe in this issue of Marshall Magazine, his tireless enthusiasm for moving West Virginia forward has received national attention and serves as an inspiration for current and future generations of West Virginians. Many of his leadership initiatives have a direct influence on Marshall University and receive a great deal of media attention from the recent announcement of our newly accredited residency program in orthopedic surgery to the intrastate football series with West Virginia University. Ironically, the accomplishment that I believe will shape the future of Marshall University most significantly occurred with little fanfare early in his first year as Governor of the Great State of West Virginia.

After the conclusion of the 2005 Legislative session, Governor Manchin signed into law Senate Bill 603, which was commonly referred to as the Higher Education Flexibility Bill. This legislation, which was part of an aggressive legislative agenda sponsored by the then-newly elected Governor Manchin, granted two public universities – Marshall University and WVU – greater self-governance. These two institutions were selected because of the quality and caliber of their governing boards and their respected leadership roles in the state’s public higher education system. The enhanced flexibility included an increased leadership and governing authority for each university’s Board of Governors, the power to create and discontinue academic programs with- out the consent of the Higher Education Policy Commission, the authority to manage the investment of University funds, and the freedom to plan and build new facilities based on the needs of the university.

At first, the impact of this important legislation was not readily discernable, but the influence of Senate Bill 603 is now visible across Marshall University. The many construction projects underway at Marshall are positioning us for a robust future. The authority vested in the MU Board of Governors has led to the rebirth of a four-year engineering degree program at Marshall. Bold initiatives approved by the Board of Governors, like the Border State and Legacy Scholarship Plans, have been catalyzed student recruiting efforts leading to a significant increase in full-time freshman enrollment this fall. I believe we are only beginning to experience the benefits afforded by greater self-governance and what this flexibility will mean to the ability of Marshall University to shape our own future and unleash the vast potential we possess to create greater public value and accelerate the pace of economic growth.

As President, I thank Governor Manchin for his vision and leadership. Senate Bill 603 is a remarkable legacy. Governor Manchin’s confidence in our institutions and trust in our leadership serves as a challenge to us to become greater forces for economic develop- ment and positive change in both West Virginia and the region. By liberating the innovative potential of Marshall University, we are now positioned well to become even more financially self-sufficient, while catalyzing new businesses and job creation, as evidenced by the recent successes we have witnessed with intellectual property commercialization.

We have a bright future at Marshall University. In many ways, we stand at the threshold of a new renaissance in West Virginia that was set in motion with the signature of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2007

As you read this edition of Marshall Magazine, I ask you to reflect on the future of Marshall University and the recent progress that has been made. Presently, an attitude of transcendent change and action-oriented leadership dedicated to getting the job done and done well motivates what we are doing and accomplishing. We have entered a high-energy era accentuated by the quest to actualize the full potential of our outstanding university and its people.

As a result, we are witnessing inventions and research-based discoveries and breakthroughs in science, biomedicine, forensic science and intelligent transportation system designs that are opening gateways to new knowledge-based industries. We are boldly forging a novel public-private partnership to finance, construct and manage new facilities integral to enhancing the quality of student life. We are reinstituting engineering programs that are dedicated to preparing graduates for the workplace of tomorrow. We are pioneering new international collaborations that are opening new educational and research opportunities for faculty and students. We are emerging as a regional, residential university that students will regard as their preferred destination for higher learning because of the distinctive and life-changing opportunities provided to learn, grow and discover the future. We are developing bold new approaches to improving the quality of teacher education and advancing student access to high quality math and science instruction. We are launch- ing new commercial enterprises that hold considerable promise both for the future of Marshall University as well as the economic development of our city, state and region. And, we are experiencing the manifestation of athletic programs that are leaders in Conference USA in terms of both academic prowess and athletic venue competitiveness.

With the established successes, we are clear in our resolve that contemporary higher education at Marshall University must bring about more multifaceted and foundational outcomes for life and career in the 21st Century. We continue to accomplish more with much less, as we have always done while holding ourselves to a higher standard that represents an unyielding commitment to quality and excellence. To a person, we take considerable pride in how well we perform and what we accomplish, despite resource limitations. That is simply the nature of the challenge. Regardless, we simply must remain committed to improving and to the mindset that as best practices evolve, we as a learning organization must evolve with them by examining what we are doing, how effectively we are doing it and how the results compare to the best. This approach simply but powerfully urges consideration of results in the following context: if we are good, how do we become better, and as we become better, how do we become the best through ingenuity, resolve and hard work?

In the end, it is these attributes that define what is possible. The solutions to the problems that lie before us can be found within us. We simply need to open our minds to the possibilities and then let them in. Inspiring others to believe and resolve to making the seemingly impossible possible is the essence of our mission. Hidden therein is the path to fulfilling the promise of a better future. Together we can turn possibilities into realities. Each of us in our own way possesses the means to make such a difference in the future of Marshall University. I hope you will consider and commit to the difference you are motivated to make.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2007

This edition of the Marshall Magazine features an article about the top Marshall University professors, as voted by our alumni. The personalities and qualities of all of them – five living legends and six enduring legends – are brought to life in the various tributes and stories about each individual. These narratives no doubt will rekindle wonderful and perhaps nostalgic memories for generations of alumni fortunate enough to have experienced them.

Many of the comments submitted by our alumni during the voting process extol the virtues and express the unmistakable respect and admiration felt by alumni for these exceptional individuals. Glancing through some of the submissions, I noticed a variety of interesting accounts, which provide insights into the profound ways in which these professors and their teachings have influenced the lives of Marshall students.

One person described Dr. Ralph Turner, who taught journalism at Marshall for 32 years, as “demanding, tough, avuncular, inspiring, histrionic and always ready to lend an ear.” In the next sentence, the same writer com- plained, “I’ve cursed the man when trying to meet a project deadline.” And finally, he admitted, “He’s one of the real-life people I most admire.”

The word “brilliant” was used to portray history professor Dr. Charles Moffat while another described journal- ism professor Dr. George Arnold as “thoroughly in command of his field.”

Shortly after my arrival at Marshall in summer 2005, I was asked to write a brief magazine article about my favorite teacher. The remarkable teacher I chose ignited in me a passion to learn and to never impose limits on what is possible. She saw something in me that I had not discovered in myself – promise. Looking back, it is interesting that in youth, until someone else “sees” promise in you, it is often difficult to see it in yourself.

Each of these highly respected individuals, no matter whether they began teaching six decades ago or are still in the classroom today, shared certain common characteristics that distinguished them. They viewed their role with their students as a calling. They showed that they cared and took a sincere interest in the progress of each student. They found ways to inspire and bring out the best in each of us. They found ways to make the seemingly incomprehensible comprehensible, and even enjoyable. They modeled the attributes that they wished to see manifest in us and held themselves to the same or higher standards. These revered professors were not afraid to challenge their students to become better. Indeed, this characteristic is often cited as making them so memorable. They challenged us to find our voice and imbued us with the courage to stand up for ourselves.

Dr. Simon Perry is one of the five living legends. He has worked at Marshall University for nearly 45 years and is our most senior professor. He has guided and helped generations of students navigate and demystify interdisciplinary learning through the study of political science. Simon and I share and discuss books that we have read whenever we see each other. Indeed, on occasion we have been known to give copies of recently read and noteworthy books to each other. One of the books I gave to Simon was authored by Robert William Fogel (The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism). I was gratified to learn that Professor Perry found it of sufficient merit, so much so that he incorporated it into a course he is teaching this semester.

Anyone who wishes to understand the secret of Professor Perry’s success need only observe his insatiable curiosity and prodigious consumption of books. His personal library is legend and as I understand it he has a habit of reading more than one book at a time. Wisdom and opportunity are the products of a prepared mind and Professor Perry is the embodiment of that truism.

Marshall University is fortunate to have Dr. Perry and sociology professor Dr. Kenneth Ambrose, who has been at Marshall for 32 years, still on campus every day – still teaching, still challenging, still motivating, still making a difference in students’ lives.

No doubt, dozens or more former or current Marshall professors merited consideration as living or enduring legends. To each of them and to the professors named herein as living and enduring legends, we extend an eternal thank you. You have made a lasting difference and you make us proud to be a part of Marshall University. Each of you epitomizes the enduring meaning of the “we” in We Are ... Marshall!

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2006

As the Dec. 22 release date for "We Are Marshall" approaches many people are wondering just what impact the movie will have on Marshall University and the community.

As I mentioned in an article published elsewhere in this edition of Marshall Magazine, I believe we can expect that Marshall University and Huntington, W.Va., will become a common household name and place. The movie will have significant effect on Marshall's visibility and name recognition nationally, and even internationally. Although there are no guarantees, we expect that the result of that recognition will be increased enrollment, beginning in the fall of 2007.

Before the movie is release, a coast-to-coast, multi-city promotional and publicity campaign will be conducted. Virtually every major media outlet nationwide will be introduce to the film, the filmmakers, and Marshall University.

I remember when information began to circulate about the possibility that a major motion picture might be filmed on location in Huntington and on the Marshall University campus. I heard from a number of skeptics who predicted that Hollywood would never come to Huntington, W.Va. Those individuals who derided the idea as a pipedream were quite surprised when Warner Bros. Pictures showed up in Huntington to begin filming in April and happily remained here for three consecutive weeks.

During that time, and later in Atlanta, thousands of people from Marshall and the general public were given the rare opportunity to participate in the making of the move on-site with some of the best in the business. That opportunity, no matter how large or small, was extraordinary enriching and life-changing experience. For some of our students and recent graduates, such as former basketball star Mark Patton, it has changed career aspirations and opened new areas of opportunity.

As for the movie itself, I most likely will not see a final "cut" until just before its release. But I cannot imagine that the movie would show Marshall in anything but a very positive light. All indications point to an emotional and very uplifting film that will capture the hearts and spirits of millions during the Christmas season and for years to come.

We are grateful to Warner Bros. for including Marshall University in the entire filmmaking process. As most people know, the studio could have made the movie with absolutely no input from Marshall. Instead, Warner Bros. sought the university's involvement from the outset, and we were thrilled to oblige. We also appreciate the efforts of Governor Joe Manchin, his staff and the West Virginia Film Office for helping secure the three weeks of shooting in Huntington.

The tragic Marshall plane crash nearly 36 years ago proved that tomorrow is a blessing, not a promise; a reminder that our time on this earth is previous. This defining moment unveiled the remarkable resilience and power of family and community, values held dear by West Virginians. This story of incredible courage and the struggle to overcome devastating loss will be told to the world in the movie, "We Are Marshall," in just a few short months.

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Summer 2006

"We Are ... Marshall" is on the minds of Marshall fans and supporters nationwide this summer as the premier of the Warner Bros. movie of the same name moves closer and closer. The tentative release date remains Fall, 2006.

Repeatedly hearing or reading the words "We Are ... Marshall" naturally brings to mind the loud cheers that vibrate through the Joan C. Edwards Stadium and Cam Henderson Center. But it also is a reminder of just what this very powerful chant means, not only to our athletic teams, but to this institution as a whole.

"We" is a commonly used pronoun that often is taken for granted in terms of its meaning. Its usage conveys a powerful message of unity and community. It brings together people from all walks of life from faculty, staff, students, and community members to friends and alumni living in various parts of the world. It is no wonder the film crew making the movie saw so much power in this three-word sentence that they named the move, "We Are Marshall." It is far more than just a cheer. It is a way of life in Huntington and throughout the international Marshall Community.

Last November, we began the process of creating a Strategic Vision that is being implemented through a collaborative effort between the university and its various constituents. The "We" concept is the centerpiece of this process. We promised then that the process would be inclusive, dynamic, and ongoing, and that is just what it has been and will continue to be.

With close to 1,000 people from within the university, the community and elsewhere submitting ideas concerning Marshall's future priorities, "We" are well on our way to actualizing our tremendous potential and establishing the first in a series of definitive action plans for accomplishing the university's foremost goals. The vision and plans represent the Marshall community's Strategic Vision and plan for what this university can and should be. "We," as one, are chatting our future together.

Marshall University believes in individualism, but knows that when individuals join together to serve and work toward the common good, all of us benefit, especially the students we work so diligently to educate.

Various suggestions and ideas received concerned new facilities. The health and wellness center was identified and remains the top priority for this administration. At the time of this writing, eight bid proposals for a unique student-center complex (wellness center, residence hall, parking facility, baseball field and improved softball field) on the Marshall campus have been received. They were submitted in response to the university's "Request for Proposals" and are under review. Working together, "We" will see the dream of these much-needed structures become reality in the not-too-distant future.

In his poem, "We and They," Rudyard Kipling wrote about the power of a culture. The culture of Marshall University is all of us coming together, making things happen, working as one. It is why "we" soon will have a health and wellness center.

It is why this university will become better and better, day by day. It is why we can join together with joy and pride in proclaiming that "We Are ... Marshall."

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Spring 2006

Recently, with my "Litter Gitter" in one hand and a trash bag in the other, I spent the better part of a Saturday morning "walking" west on 4th Avenue from Hal Greer Boulevard to 7th Street picking up trash along the way to help clean up the city of Huntington.

What made this nine-block venture so enjoyable was that I was accompanied by about 150 friendly and dedicated volunteers, most of whom were Marshall University students. Most college students normally are not willing to get up early on a Saturday morning, let alone to pick up debris.

The latest volunteer effort spurred me to think back to the amazing volunteer work our students have performed during this school year. Michael Misiti, our student body president, was quoted in one article as saying, "I'm very proud that we can rely on the student when help is needed."

Last September, help was needed in a big way after Hurricane Katrina. Our caring students came through - in a huge way. And I, like Michael, am very proud of them.

The Student Government Association, Volunteer Services and other campus organizations, seeing the suffering after the storm, organized "Bring a Buck," a campaign to collect money for the victims during the Marshall-Kansas State football game.

The goal was $30,000. But the students' efforts inspired Marshall alumni, members of the Marshall University Foundation, Inc., board of directors and others to give far more than one dollar each. Incredibly, the total collected exceeded $525,000!.

Just a few days before "Bring a Buck," a blood drive sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Marshall Student Ambassadors brought in 182 units of blood - the most ever collected at Marshall over a two-day period.

Then there was Marshall University's Day of Service, in which hundreds of students performed cleanup duty not only on campus, but in the community. Later in the fall, the Pickled Pepper Players, a group of seven Marshall theatre students, entertained hundreds of children during a 10-day, 2,400 mile "Gulf Coast Relief Tour." The group gave 24 performances of children's theatre plays. They gave up those 10 days to raise the spirits of children displaced by the hurricanes.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the everyday rigors of administrative duty and lose track of why we are here. Our central purpose is about our students. Their success is the number one goal of everyone on campus, including our dedicated faculty.

The administration at Marshall is working hard to address various priorities that will better serve our students. Among the projects that offer the greatest potential to benefit the quality of student life are the new Student Health and Wellness Center, improvements to the Memorial Student Center, new course and degree offerings, and the modernization of other facilities.

Our faculty members are working just as hard to meet the learning expectations we have set for our students. I noticed quickly after arriving at Marshall last July 1 that our faculty members routinely go above and beyond to help students who, for whatever reason, have not discovered their passion. They take a hands-on approach in their teaching, while working closely with and inspiring students to help them find their passion. For may students, their success is a direct result of our faculty's many skills.

Clearly, our students and faculty share a common bond - they care about others. For that, I can only say on behalf of Marshall University, "Thank you."

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Column in Marshall Magazine, Autumn 2005

At the crossroad of total interdisciplinary convergence lies Truth. Its meaning is revealed at the frontiers of discovery, where the contrived distinctions between the arts, sciences and humanities cease to exist. At this interface between reality and possibility, the vistas of unlimited opportunity are unveiled to the prepared mind.

I have been asked numerous times about my vision for Marshall University. The question I prefer to discuss is the collective vision WE have for the future. I believe that creativity can solve almost any problem but we must know where we are going.

That begins with a self-defined design for our future. We need to imagine it. We need to expect it. And then, we need to dedicate ourselves fully to it. Only then will our future manifest. This process is a shared journey, one of discovery and commitment.

Accepting this challenge involves risk. It means dedicating ourselves to a future that compels change. It means discomfort, accepting the inherent uncertainty, ambiguity and sudden opportunities that always emanate from such transitions. It means committing to becoming better and better at what we do, continuing to learn, and to explore new horizons and possibilities.

Our journey is neither for the timid nor the feeble. It requires stamina, and the resolve and courage to chart new paths and overcome adversity. It requires a relentless dedication to seeing our vision fulfilled. It means acting on new opportunities, while overcoming novel and unfamiliar impediments.

As we plan, it is important to be mindful of the shifting landscape before us. Predicting the future is at best an inexact art. Even so, I have taken the liberty to share five perspectives in the bulleted paragraphs, which are intended to help clarify some of the challenges that I believe lie ahead.

  • More than ever before, the commerce of ideas will dominate the future. Opportunity will favor the prepared mind that can integrate and think critically and apply these ideas creatively and innovatively to create new areas of economic enterprise and advantage. We can expect that preparing our graduates to compete and succeed globally will be an ever-present challenge and responsibility.
  • If we aim for perfection, it serves as a catalyst for the continuing examination of what we are doing, how we are doing and how we can improve and become better. Excellence is earned. If we want to excel, what we are doing must inspire and be worth our very best; otherwise, why do it?
  • The future will belong to institutions of higher learning that think, act and function integratively. How we prepare and transition ourselves for this new order will determine the nature and extent of the opportunities open to us.
  • Our future is limited only by our imagination, our willingness to plan and our commitment to making that plan reality. To fulfill the promise of a better future means charting a course, our course, amidst an almost infinite array of possibilities.
  • Lastly, the future will belong to universities that can solve the following conundrum: how to integrate what we know about human learning and capitalize on the vast potential afforded by technology to advance the productivity and quality of thinking and learning achieved by students, and do so at lower cost, while expanding access to college to a much larger cross-section of society.

We stand at a crossroads. The future lies ahead. The vision resides in our hearts and our minds. It will be shaped by our imagination, aspirations and strategies for accomplishing them. I welcome your comments and ideas as we set course to fulfill the promise of a better future.

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Column in The Herald-Dispatch, September 18, 2005

This past week, Marshall University celebrated a major and historic milestone.

Marshall and the new startup biotechnology company, Vandalia Research Inc., announced an exclusive licensing agreement to commercialize a patent-pending DNA production system.

Vandalia Research Inc. is the first company to emerge from an incubator program initiated two years ago to foster economic growth through university-based scientific research. The system, called Triathlon DNA, provides advanced production capabilities, duplicating DNA 20 to 30 times faster than existing technology.

This remarkable achievement serves as a reminder about how important higher education is to the future of West Virginia. Those who doubt that idea must be prepared to pay the price of lost opportunity. Ignoring the importance of education leads to a decline in our standard of living. Universities like Marshall are the engines of economic development. To be sure, the future course of Marshall is directed toward improving our region's economy.

In many ways, Vandalia Research Inc. is showing us the way. As the first of what potentially will be more new biotech companies to emerge from the research conducted at Marshall, it proves that we can succeed at intellectual property development and commercialization in Huntington.

The launching of Vandalia is the result of the collaboration between alumni, faculty and students with strong support from the community. An indebtedness is owed to all of the local investors who provided the initial startup capital of $500,000.

I am very proud of those who have made this venture possible. Vandalia's management team includes two Marshall professors, Elizabeth Murray and Michael Norton. They guided two of our brilliant young undergraduate students, Derek Gregg, a Philippi, W.Va., native, and Justin Swick of Chesapeake, Ohio, who co-founded Vandalia Research in March 2004.

Opportunities abound at Marshall for all students to discover and develop new career paths and build futures through initiative, imagination and hard work. Helped immensely by faculty and university resources, what seems impossible becomes possible.

What Derek and Justin have accomplished demonstrates that Marshall University is not only committed to preparing our students to compete in the global economy, but also has created pathways for dedicated, imaginative people to achieve high-level success.

More than ever before, the commerce of ideas will dominate our future. Just as Vandalia entrepreneurs have shown, opportunity will favor those who can integrate ideas and think critically. Imagination and innovation can create new economic enterprises. Preparing our graduates to compete and succeed globally will be an omnipresent challenge.

The future will belong to institutions of higher learning that can integrate thinking, action and function. Universities that are prepared for this reality will ensure future opportunities. To fulfill the promise of a better future will mean mapping a direction, our direction, amidst a seemingly infinite array of possibilities.

Students of today will be the leaders and captains of industry tomorrow. Their future is our future. Never was that more evident than this week during Vandalia's announcement.

The faculty and students involved in this endeavor truly are an inspiration to us all.

Column in The Herald-Dispatch, August 18, 2005

As the young boys and girls asked questions and responded to the ones I asked, their curiosity was unmistakable as they sat shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the old St. Cloud Commons clubhouse.

An hour-long visit this past week with about 25 children taking part in the River Valley Child Development Services School-Age Program called “Summer Connection” was a gentle reminder of the endless possibilities a young, developing mind possesses.

Without question, these Cabell County children, who ranged in age from 5 to 12, already are aware that attending college is very important to their future. When I asked how many of them plan to attend college, it appeared that every hand went up. They seem to know that future opportunity will come with a college education.

When I asked them why they want to attend college, they responded with a variety of answers. Number one, clearly, was to play sports. Number two was “to get smarter.” Numbers three and four … you guessed it – sports.

While most of them don’t quite understand just yet what college is all about, they do know it’s something good – something important.

Their sports dreams are understandable. When I was 10, I thought I was going to be a major league baseball player. As I worked to improve my skills, I discovered I could teach myself and learn on my own, if I worked hard and dedicated myself.

And what happened after all that work? I became a scientist.

My point to the children was this message: You can become anything you want to be if you are willing to work hard and commit yourself to achieving your goals. Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals, and persevere to accomplish them. Commit yourself to working harder than everyone else – aim for perfection – and you will seldom be disappointed with the results.

I discovered that many of the parents and staff members at the Center graduated from Marshall. Most of the children, clearly, have heard about Marshall. In the coming years, they will become more and more aware of the significance that college – hopefully Marshall – will play in their lives.

Along the way, it is crucial that they engage actively in the mental work required to learn how to learn. During our conversation we discussed the following principle about life and opportunity: “If there is something you really enjoy doing, dedicate yourself to become the very best at it. Read about it. Learn everything there is to learn about it. Practice the skills and fundamentals involved regularly to improve your performance level.”

Most of all, we discussed the importance of imagining success, a future of robust opportunity, and then charting a path to achieve it. Each child I met has the ability to learn and excel in most anything that child sets out to accomplish. Seldom are such aspirations realized alone. Parental support can make such a difference.

One thing is certain. I found the River Valley kids as curious as they are young. As the visit wound down, I asked them, “Do you have any questions of me?”

Of course they did:

“What’s your job?” one asked.

“How hard is your job?” another chimed in.

And finally, “Is it fun?”

My answers were brief and, of course, very positive. And then came the final question from one of the budding young athletes:

I paused briefly, looked around the room and then shrugged my shoulders.

“That’s an interesting question,” I replied. It was a reminder that every question is a new opportunity to learn.

PDF Versions

Title Date
Autumn 2013 with President Kopp Autumn 2013
Summer 2013 with President Kopp Summer 2013
Your Marshall - Past, Present, and Future Autumn 2012
Redefining Higher Education Spring 2012
Continued Growth Summer 2011
Celebrating University Status Spring 2011
Jim Justice Autumn 2010
Multiplying Impact Summer 2010
Sustainability: A key to success in challenging times Spring 2010
Success in Research Autumn 2009
Aiming for perfection Summer 2009
Aligning with the accelerating pace of change Spring 2009
Art & Joan Weisberg ensure the future of engineering program Autumn 2008
We shall never forget them Summer 2008
The meaning of student-athlete Spring 2008
A remarkable legacy Autumn 2007
Fulfilling the promise of a better future Summer 2007
Marshall professors impact lives Spring 2007
We Are Marshall Autumn 2006
The Spirit of "We Are ... Marshall" Summer 2006
Taking the time to care Spring 2006
A time of transition Autumn 2005