We Are Marshall: 2000-2010

Dan Angel succeeded Wade Gilley as Marshall’s president in January 2000 and immediately began working toward National Prominence for the University. He instituted a strategic plan for Marshall called “MU 2010: Owning the Opportunity,” and initiated the Campaign for National Prominence, which surpassed its goal of $100 million by 2005.
The “We Are Marshall” Memorial Bronze piece by Sissonville native, Burl Jones, was dedicated on November 11, 2000. The statue was the idea of John and Ann Krieger of Huntington. Fans of Marshall football donated $150,000 for its creation and installation. It is attached to the Joan C. Edwards Stadium on the west facade.

The dedication plaque reads in part, “This memorial will stand for all time as a symbol of community resilience and as a reminder of the awesome strength that can flow from a people united with a common bond. It represents the life, legacy and legend that is Marshall University Football. This gift from our hearts has healed our hearts.”

The Thundering Herd football team won its fourth Mid-America Conference title on December 2, 2000, in a home game. For the first time in league history, the MAC championship was televised on a major national network, ABC; previous champion games had been broadcast on ESPN.

Marshall faced the Western Michigan Broncos, which had defeated them earlier in conference play, 30-10, breaking the Herd’s 33 consecutive home-game-record of wins. Quarterback Byron Leftwitch led the Herd in sweet retaliation, with a 19-14 victory for the conference championship.

The Thundering Herd football team capped the 2000 season, by winning the Motor City Bowl, held at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, on December 27, 2000.

Bryon Leftwich, future NFL quarterback, led the Thundering Herd to a 25 to 14 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was the Herd’s third consecutive bowl game win. Leftwich was named Most Valuable Player of the game.

In February 2001 Marshall University celebrated the 200th birthday of the university’s namesake—Chief Justice John Marshall. The commemoration included an exhibit of John Marshall portraits at the Huntington Gallery of Art, and a two-day conference that brought prominent Marshall and constitutional scholars from across the nation to speak at the University.

Senator Orrin Hatch, then Chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, gave the keynote address for the conference sessions.

Marshall Medical School alumnus, Dr. Paul Ambrose, M.D., died aboard American Air Lines flight 77, when it was hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists and flown into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.Fifty-nine people on board, plus the hijackers, as well as 125 people in the building were killed. Two planes were also flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, and another plane went down in Pennsylvania as passengers fought for control of the aircraft with the terrorists. Paul was the son of MU professor Dr. Ken and Sharon Ambrose
The Thundering Herd football team won the GMAC Bowl game, held at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile Alabama on December 19, 2001. Over 40,000 fans watched MU trailing 8 to 38 at the half, only to overcome the deficit and defeat East Carolina, 64-61 in double over-time. The 2001 GMAC Bowl remains the highest scoring bowl game.
The Thundering Herd football team won its second consecutive GMAC Motor City Bowl game, held at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile Alabama on December 18, 2002. Marshall lead throughout the game. The final score was Marshall 38 and Louisville Cardinals 15. MU quarterback, Byron Leftwitch was voted the Most Valuable Player. The game was broadcast over ESPN.
In 2001 the Thundering Herd women’s volleyball team won the Golden Ball trophy from interstate rival West Virginia University, in four games, winning 3 to 1. The team won the next seven games, from 2002 to 2009. The 2010 game saw the trophy go to West Virginia University.
In November 2003 Marshall’s football stadium was named the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the first Division I-A stadium named for a woman. The playing field had earlier been named the James F. Edwards Field in honor of Joan’s husband.

The Edwards’ were long-time, generous and devoted supporters of the University.

The stadium seats 38,016 people. Its record attendance of 41,382 was set on September 10, 2010 in a 24-21 overtime loss to West Virginia University.

The Marshall Commons opened in the Fall 2003, located on Sixth Avenue between 17th and 18th Street on the south side of campus. It consists of Gibson, Wellman, Haymaker, and Willis Residence Halls, along with Harless Dining Hall. Each dormitory structure contains four single-occupancy bedrooms, two double-occupancy bedrooms, and four double-occupancy bedrooms. The spacious Harless Dining Hall provides a variety of dining options and experience for MU students and employees.
In 2005 Marshall University left the Mid-American Conference and joined Conference USA. Conference USA (officially abbreviated C-USA) was founded in 1995. The conference sports include men’s sports of baseball and football; and women’s sports of rowing, softball, and volleyball. Sports for both genders include basketball, cross county, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, as well as indoor and outdoor track. Marshall competes in all sports, except rowing.
Stephen J. Kopp, Ph.D., assumed the presidency of Marshall University on July 1, 2005, taking over from interim president Michael J. Farrell. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1973 from the University of Notre Dame, and his Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics in 1976 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a postdoctoral fellow at St. Louis University Medical Center, department of physiology, and a research fellow and NIH fellow in the department of biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In April 2006 filming for “We Are Marshall” began in Huntington. For three weeks the film crew worked on MU’s campus and at other locations throughout Huntington. Scenes were filmed in the Morrow Library, the Memorial Student Center, Twin Towers, and a variety of outdoor campus locations.

Members of the Marshall community, as well as town’s people, served as extras in a number of the scenes. It was an exciting and heady time—when Hollywood came to Marshall University.

On December 12, 2006, the world premier of “We Are Marshall” was held in the historic Keith Albee Theater. Stars of the film, Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Kate Mara, Arlen Escarpeta, and Anthony Mackieand, as well as the movie’s director, McG, were in attendance.

The movie had a profound effect on the audience, ranging from tears and wild applause when the scenes of the Young Thundering Herd’s triumphant were shown.

Following the premier, the participants moved to the Civic Center for a Hollywood-style gala, in which the center was festively decorated for the occasion, and people got to mingle with the celebrities in attendance.

In January 2007 the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center was opened for use. The 200,000 square-foot, three-story structure contains class rooms, labs, lecture rooms, and animal quarters. It brings facilities for the faculty and students from the College of Science and the Medical School. A glass-enclosed, covered bridge connects the building with the Science Building across from it on Third Avenue.
On April 12, 2008, the new Joseph M. Gillette Welcome Center opened. The building with its attractive facade was the former home to the local chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. It was thoroughly renovated for the university’s use.
The state-of-the-art Dot Hicks Field opened on March 15, 2008, in a softball double header against the University of Houston. Unfortunately, MU’s softball team lost both games to their rival. Dr. Dorothy “Dot” Hicks, was former member of the School of Kinesiology in HPER/ESSR, Physical Education Department.
After extensive renovations, the Memorial Fountain with its reflecting pool was rededicated on April 9, 2008, as the fountain was turned back on after being turned off the previous November.

Governor Joe Machin, President Stephen Kopp, and Michele Prestera, who represented the surviving family members, spoke to the assembled crowd. In the above photograph, student Blake Racer sings the Alma Mater, while Student Body President Dominique Elmore looks on.

On August 16, 2008, the Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Laboratory was dedicated. The building was named in honor of the family of Arthur and Joan Weisberg, owners of State Electric Supply, who donated $2.5 million in support of the university’s engineering program.

The building houses the revived engineering program that the MU Board of Governors approved in 2006 in the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences.

On August 22, 2008, the two, new First Year Residence Halls, called North and South, opened for MU freshmen students.

The halls are co-ed by floor and house a total of 782 students in double occupancy rooms. Each building is equipped with a theater room, standard classroom, and apartments for faculty-in-residence and full time professional staff that live in the halls. Each building also has a kitchenette, recreation lounges, study lounges, and a pool table. The rooms are also equipped with heating/air conditioning, basic cable, high speed internet, and a private bathroom.

On February 5, 2009, the new Marshall Recreation Center opened on the corner of 20th Street and 5th Avenue. It contains 123,00 square feet of a state-of-the- art recreation and health facilities.

The building includes courts for basketball, volleyball, badminton and dodge ball. A popular feature is its 35-foot climbing wall. It has an aquatics center with 3-lap lanes, leisure swimming pool, and spa. 17,000 square feet are devoted to a fitness center with free weights, exercise machines, and cardio equipment. A 3-lane 1/7th of a mile track encircles and overlooks the first floor. The facilities is completely accessible for persons with disabilities.

The Marshall University Thundering Herd topped the Ohio University Bobcats at the Little Caesar’s Bowl (former Motor City Bowl) at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. The final score was 21-17.

The 2009 game marked an unexpected renewal of the Battle for the Bell, the rivalry between the two nearby teams, which has been on hiatus since Marshall’s move from the Mid-American Conference to Conference-USA in 2005. It was the two teams’ 53th game.