In Memoriam: Alan B. Gould, 1938-2019


Remembering a remarkable career that will have a lasting impact on Marshall University.

Alan GouldDr. Alan B. Gould served in a lengthy list of posts at Marshall over his more than 45-year career at the university.

“I came here to teach in 1969,” Gould said in a 2010 interview. “I had no aspirations to do anything else. But little by little, one thing led to another.”

Indeed they did.

His death in September 2019 closed the book on a Marshall career that can only be called remarkable.

Just a partial list of Gould’s many job titles over the years includes: professor of history, chair of the history department, assistant to the president for special projects, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, provost and executive director of the Drinko Academy. He even served as the university’s interim president from 1990 to 1991.

Born Aug. 2, 1938, in Huntington, Gould graduated from the former Huntington East High School in 1956 and by 1962 had earned a B.A. and an M.A. in history from Marshall. He then went on to West Virginia University where he earned a Ph.D. in history. While there he also met the love of his life, Mary Nell.

Alan Gould at podium“No matter what his job title was, Alan Gould was first and foremost a historian,” said Dr. Montserrat Miller, professor of history at Marshall and Gould’s successor as executive director of the Drinko Academy. “He viewed the world through a historical lens, and he reveled in studying the past all the way through his dying days. Marshall became a better university as a consequence of Alan Gould’s insistence on the importance of history.”

“He was innovative, imaginative and wrought many positive changes to the university and community,” said Miller. “The number of programs he helped initiate or restructure is nothing short of vertigo-inducing.”

To cite but a few:

As its founding director, Gould brought to life the Regents Bachelor of Arts program, which enables adult students to count their life experiences as credit hours toward a degree. Since the program was created in 1975, it has enabled more than 6,400 students to earn R.B.A. degrees.

He played a major role in creation of the Yeager Scholars program. For 33 years the program, named for famed air ace Chuck Yeager, has welcomed a new class of gifted high school graduates.

Alan Gould and Mary Nell GouldGould was the chief architect of MU’s Metro Fee, which gives high school graduates from nearby counties in Ohio and Kentucky a hefty discount from the university’s out-of-state tuition.

And Marshall’s SCORES Festival, which each year brings more than 1,000 high schoolers to campus for a series of academic competitions, was largely his handiwork.

“But these and other achievements,” said Miller, “were actually just the beginning part of his record, a prelude as it were. Because in the fall of 1994, Alan entered into the happiest and most productive years of his professional life. It was then he was named executive director of what would come to be called the John Deaver Drinko Academy for American Political Institutions and Civic Culture.”

The Drinko Academy sprang from a remarkable professional and personal friendship forged between Gould and Drinko. A Marshall alumnus, Drinko was the managing partner of one of the nation’s largest law firms. He and his wife, Elizabeth [Libby], were generous supporters of higher education at a number of universities, including Marshall.

Alarmed by the political polarization and incivility they saw creeping into the national discourse, they set up the academy with a number of aims: To encourage civility, encourage responsible citizenship, recognize and reward outstanding faculty by naming them Distinguished Drinko Fellows and honor community members who demonstrate selfless service to the common good.

“But they did more than that, much more,” said Miller.

“It was Alan, as interim president in 1990, who issued the first call for construction of a new Marshall library. Then, as executive director of the Drinko Academy, he and John Drinko rolled up their sleeves and rallied a huge number of supporters to make the new library a reality. That is why the Drinko Library is called the Drinko Library. But they didn’t stop there. They also determined that we needed to have a statue of John Marshall, so they and others came together to make that happen, too.”

Meanwhile, Gould put together a proposal to establish the John Marshall Professorship in Political Science, which John and Libby supported. As a consequence, Marshall was able to entice no less a national figure than noted biographer Jean Edward Smith.

“This list of Alan’s achievements goes on and on,” said Miller. “It includes, among others, the establishment of the John Marshall Fife and Drum Corps, the Simon Perry Center, the Elizabeth Gibson Drinko Honors Convocation, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Lyceum and, of course, Constitution Week.”

In 2010, when Gould was asked if he ever thought about retiring, he replied: “I enjoy the campus atmosphere and putting together things like Constitution Week. There are great colleagues and great students here, so why would I want to play golf?”


About the Author: James E. Casto is the retired associate editor of The Herald-Dispatch and the author of a number of books on local and regional history.


Photo (below): Dr. Alan B. Gould sits with his wife, Mary Nell, as he is honored for his years of service at the John Deaver Drinko Academy at Marshall University.


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