PARKERSBURG - West Virginia University at Parkersburg continued its Founders Week Celebration and its 50th anniversary with a gala dinner Friday evening in the college's Activities Center.
The event featured current and past members of the college's faculty and staff with community members and local dignitaries.
WVU-P President Marie Foster Gnage welcomed guests to the dinner program Friday night, giving special attention to two of her predecessors in attendance, former presidents Eldon Miller and Erik Bitterbaum, and their contributions to the foundation upon which the college has continued to grow.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Jane Graham, at left, of Parkersburg, gets food during the 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday evening at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
"Tonight, we are having fun," Gnage said. "This is an opportunity to say 50 years is something to definitely celebrate."
The Founders Week Celebration concludes today at 10 a.m. with a convocation program at the college commemorating 50 years since the first class at the Parkersburg Branch of West Virginia University took place.
Gnage said the gala and the convocation are the culmination of a series of activities, programs and celebrations beginning at the start of this year to celebrate the college's anniversary.
As part of Founders Week, West Virginia University at Parkersburg held a 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday evening in the college's Activities Center.
About 85 people attended the event, including current and former staff and faculty, community members and local dignitaries.
Founders Week will conclude today with a convocation program at 10 a.m. recognizing 50 honorary degree recipients.
"It's been a great year of celebration and I hope we don't forget it when we leave this year," Gnage said.
WVU-P has grown throughout its first half-century and is poised to continue that growth. In addition to a groundbreaking ceremony in the spring for two new buildings on the college campus and the upcoming opening of the downtown center on Market Street, the college will be moving forward with plans to renovate and update its science labs in the tech wing.
"For the most part, we've just had cause for celebration over and over again," Gnage said.
Miller served as the college's president from 1982 to 2000, during the time when it changed from Parkersburg Community College to a branch of WVU in Morgantown.
When he first arrived, Miller said he only expected to stay about five years before moving on toward his home in Dayton, Ohio. However, he ended up staying 18 years with the college.
"There were so many different things happening for us," he said. "I liked this group so well, it was like a family to me. I stayed and I'm glad I did."
Miller said he was enjoying the opportunity at Friday's gala to meet and talk to people, including many old friends. He is scheduled to receive one of 50 honorary degrees at today's convocation.
He was glad to see WVU-P celebrating its 50-year milestone and is certain the future holds much more for the college.
"Not only does it have another 50 years, but I see it having a bigger role (in the future) than it currently has. This community needs more than just a two-year college, as it always did. Most communities that are growing and accomplishing things have a university in them, do I need to say more," Miller said.
Among those attending Friday night's event was Bernard L. Allen, a retired history professor at WVU-P. Allen spent 30 years teaching at the college before retiring in 1999, having started when the college was still on Emerson Avenue. He lives in South Carolina where he continues to teach in retirement at a local university.
"I think it's fantastic," Allen said of the college marking its 50th anniversary this year, adding he was part of the faculty in 1966 when it had about 300 students and about 12 faculty members. "It's fantastic to see the growth and see how well some of the students have done."
Joe Campbell, chairman of the WVU-P Board of Governors, has been involved in the college for about 15 years. Prior to serving on the current board of governors for the independent campus, he also spent years as a member of the Board of Advisors when it was a branch of WVU.
"It's hard to believe the number of people that are impacted by the college," Campbell said of the college's 50-year history.
Campbell cited not only those affected by the two-year and four-year degree programs, but many others who have taken classes, received certification or taken training through the college's industrial training programs.
"It's impressive. I don't know where the community would be without this school. The community recognizes that and supports it as well, it has for 50 years," Campbell said.