Thursday, June 19, 2014
Contact: Cara Bailey, Coordinator of Yeager Society Outreach, (304) 696-7153

Marshall University announces new class of Yeager Scholars

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Eight exceptional high-school seniors have been selected by the Honors College at Marshall University to enter its Yeager Scholars Program this fall semester. One is the first international student in the history of this prestigious scholarship program.

Each new Yeager class is named after a strong supporter of academic achievement opportunities at Marshall. The James and Verna Gibson Class of 2018, which is the 28th Yeager class, includes a student from Ontario, Canada, and several high school valedictorians.

Dr. Ronald Bieniek, dean of Marshall's Honors College, said, "In their high school lives, our new Yeager Scholars exhibited a strong desire and ability for broad intellectual and leadership activity. I am so pleased that we are able to offer them such a superb academic package for their developmental benefit - and for their future contributions to a global society. I am proud to be so closely associated with the Society of Yeager Scholars."

The James and Verna Gibson Class of 2018 will have an enhanced curriculum throughout their college careers. Some of the requirements include: maintaining a high cumulative grade point average, completing four challenging interdisciplinary seminars, and involvement in campus and community activities. They will also have the opportunity to study literature, political science or history abroad at Oxford University in England as well as further study abroad in a country of the scholar's choice.

These students went through an extended competition, involving a challenging written application and two interviews -- one by telephone and one by a panel of interviewers on the Huntington campus of Marshall University. The final selection was made by university faculty and staff, university alumni, Society of Yeager Scholars board members and community members.

The Society of Yeager Scholars is named for U.S. Air Force Brigadier General (Ret.) Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, who is a native of Lincoln County, W.Va. In October 1947, Yeager became the first supersonic pilot by breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 experimental aircraft in California.

Jim and Verna Gibson attended Marshall University in the mid-1960s and are currently retired. Jim has had several small businesses, and Verna has been CEO of The Limited Corporation; on the board of Chico's women's fashion clothing store, and president of Outlook Consulting. Verna is credited for drastically moving the companies forward.

The Gibsons are longtime supporters and contributors to the university. Their giving level is in the "Pathway of Prominence" ($1 million to $5 million) range. They were contributors to the first phase of the H.E.L.P. building construction. They love and support Marshall and the Big Green Foundation.

The Society of Yeager Scholars James and Verna Gibson Class of 2018 are:

Sonia Chandi, of Mississauga, Ontario, the first international Yeager Scholar. Chandi is a graduate of Port Credit Secondary School in Mississauga, and will be taking pre-med classes in hopes of becoming a neurologist. In 2013, Chandi was given the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, an international leadership award. The award is based on community involvement, physical activity, development of one specific skill and the pursuit of an adventurous journey. She also plays ice hockey and was the captain of a championship team.

McGinnis Dalton, of Logan, W.Va., a graduate and valedictorian of Logan High School. He plans to study theatre and creative writing, in hopes of becoming a voice actor. Dalton was named an Ambassador for Justice during his junior year by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. Students are chosen who have shown outstanding leadership skills and a commitment to social justice. Dalton was also a Governor's Honors Academy Legislature Representative and has received numerous educational awards.

Brooke Estep, of Barboursville, W.Va., a graduate of Cabell Midland High School. Estep plans to major in public relations in the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Estep attended Rhododendron Girls' State, and Youth Leader Core, which is a program designed to help cultivate strong leaders and communicators.

Abigail Feldman, of Lyndonville, N.Y., a graduate of Lyndonville Central School. She is interested in anthropology and international affairs. Feldman received the George Eastman Young Leaders Award, which is given by the University of Rochester to high school juniors who show strong leadership experience, demonstrate academic achievement and rigor in courses, as well as extensive extracurricular involvement.

David Hannan, of St. Albans, W.Va., a graduate of St. Albans High School. He plans to study mathematics while at Marshall. Hannan was the valedictorian and student body president of his class. He was given the Harvard Book Award during his time at St. Albans, which is presented to students of outstanding academic achievement.

Cody Mason, of St. Albans, W.Va., a graduate of St. Albans High School. He plans to study civil engineering and jazz. Mason received several honors for his musicianship on the alto saxophone, and was the field commander of the marching band his senior year. He is a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.

Sarah Nix, of Huntington, W.Va., a graduate of Huntington High School. She hopes to study diplomacy and international affairs. Nix was active in the speech and debate program and the International Club at Huntington High School.

Rebecca Turnbull, of Bridgeport, W.Va., a graduate of Bridgeport High School. She plans to attend the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications. As a high school student, she was chosen to participate in the West Virginia Governor's Honors Academy, the West Virginia Writers' Workshop, and National Honor Society.