PARKERSBURG -West Virginia University at Parkersburg in the next year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The theme is the College the Community Built and planned are a variety of activities, exhibits and programs.
"The reason is because we're the only public institution in West Virginia that was founded by the citizens. They passed a bond levy which made this campus possible. The Wood County Court gave the property so that we could build out here," said Connie Dziagwa, executive director for institutional advancement at the college. "This is really a celebration of the college's existence because of the commitment of the Mid-Ohio Valley to higher education."
The college is located on West Virginia 47 east of Parkersburg.
In 1961, the Parkersburg Branch of West Virginia University opened in a former elementary school in Parkersburg with 104 students enroll in classes. Four years later, Wood County residents passed a bond issue that, with matching federal funds, provided $3.6 million to build an educational complex on land provided by the Wood County Commission on Route 47.
In 1966, the name was changed to West Virginia University-Parkersburg Center.
Construction was completed in 1969 on the campus and two years later it was renamed Parkersburg Community College following legislative action to create a comprehensive community college system for West Virginia of the three free-standing community colleges. It remained PCC until 1989 when the name was changed again to West Virginia University at Parkersburg when the West Virginia Legislature made it a regional campus of WVU.
"By commemorating 50 years of helping students pursue and achieve their dreams, we honor those citizens who had the foresight in the 1960s to recognize the importance of public high education to the economic vitality of this region," said current college president Marie Foster Gnage, the sixth person to hold that title in WVU-P's 50 years.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our mission of meeting the higher education and training needs of area communities with quality, accessible and affordable education. We strive to continue the legacy of those faculty, staff and administrators who preceded us in fulfilling the noble mission of the college," Gnage said.
Kim Jones, executive director of WVU-Parkersburg Foundation, said a variety of events are scheduled for 2011 with the kickoff occurring this month when students returned for the spring semester. Among the first events will be a "Border Battles Basketball Tourney" with WVU-Parkersburg hosting a tournament between Ohio and West Virginia colleges at the Parkersburg High School Fieldhouse.
Jones said the college is also working with the county governments served by WVU-Parkersburg to have proclamations issued recognizing the anniversary.
"Thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents have gone through this college," Dziagwa said. "We started from 104 and now we're over 4,500. We're the fourth largest college in the state. We're really reaching out to the communities that have been touched by WVU-Parkersburg to have them also celebrate with us," she said.
Exhibits will also be on display at the college during the year and there will be special events for students, alumni and current and past employees and staffmembers.
Jones said a special "legacy weekend" is planned in August to honor those who have donated to the college, including those who have established endowments and scholarships at the college. The schedule of anniversary activities is expected to conclude next fall with a special gala.
"Probably the biggest thing is to get our alumni involved, re-ignite our alumni's love of this institution through some of the activities that we plan on having, through some of the reunions that some of the academic divisions are planning for the students who have come through their programs," Dziagwa said.
"We also want to have this opportunity to thank the community for what it has done for us to become what we have become. It really is remarkable that in the early 1960s that the citizens of Wood County taxed themselves, they passed a bond levy to create this institution," she said.
"We're the only institution that has that legacy and we want to celebrate that legacy," Dziagwa said.
The website for the anniversary is www.wvup.edu/50th-Anniversary/index.html. It has information about the college's history and that will be updated throughout the year, she said.