The West Virginia University Alumni Association will induct four new members into its Academy of Distinguished Alumni at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at Erickson Alumni Center. A reception will precede the ceremony beginning at 6:30 p.m.

This year’s class is a rich blend of alumni representing excellence in international relations, financial planning, the medical profession and communications, said Executive Director Steve Douglas. They are:

  • Ambassador Joseph Simpson Farland

Ambassador Farland received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1936 and a law degree in 1938both from WVU . He completed postgraduate studies at Princeton and Stanford Universities, and launched a distinguished career in 1942 as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He became an officer in the U.S. Navy in 1944.

Farland was appointed ambassador to the Dominican Republic by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957 and ambassador to the Republic of Panama in 1960. He was reaffirmed to the latter position by President John F. Kennedy a year later and served until 1963.

His work with the people of Panama in the mid-1960’s to diffuse building anti-American sentiment was chronicled in Reader’s Digest.”When he resigned, 35,000 people gathered in mass meetings to bid him farewell,”the article stated.

Farland also served as ambassadorto Pakistan from 1969-72, and ambassador to Iran from 1972 to 1973.

In addition to ownership in various coal companies, he served as president of Farland Fuel Co., Farland Coal Corp. and Christopher Fuel Corp., operating coal properties in northern West Virginia and western Maryland.

The ambassador lectures extensively on the topic of economic development in Central and South America and Southeast Asia.

He was born in Clarksburg, WV, and now resides in Virginia.

  • Stuart M. Robbins

Robbins earned a bachelor’s degree in history from WVU in 1965. Now retired, he spent much of his career building one of the most successful equity businesses in the securities industry. His career at Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette took him from a member of the research department specializing in retail stocks to managing director of the Institutional Equity desk to the firms main Board of Directors and strategic management committee.

He currently serves as a member of the advisory board of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and is vice-chair of the West Virginia University Foundation Board of Directors. He also chairs the Boards Investment Committee and is vice-chair of the WVU Foundation’s Building Greatness capital campaign.

“Stu Robbins expertise and knowledge in investments has been invaluable to the Foundation. It has allowed the Foundation endowment to grow substantially to the current $315 million mark and rank 42nd among public universities,”explained Duke Perry, Foundation president and CEO .

In addition, Robbins and his wife, Joyce have created lasting endowments for WVU students, recruited many students to the University and established the first ever chair in the Department of History.

A native of Parkersburg, Robbins now resides in the New England area.

  • Ivan R. Schwab, M.D.

Dr. Schwab is a pioneer with a vision that may help millions who have lost their sight. His groundbreaking efforts in using bio-engineered, or laboratory-grown eye tissue to restore eyesight has received national and international recognition.

Stem cells from a healthy eye are removed and placed on an amniotic membrane. The membrane is obtained from a donor mother after the baby is born. The combination forms a corneal stem cell and grows into a layer much like the outer surface of the cornea. The damaged part is removed and the bio-engineered tissue is sewn onto the eye. Dr. Schwab’s efforts in the process resulted in success for the technique for the very first time.

Schwab’s research may one day lead to using bio-engineered tissue to restore the linings of lungs, the bladder and intestines. This will give people dealing with devastating and often- fatal diseases hope for a better prognosis.

Schwab graduated summa cum laude from WVU in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in biologyfrom the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. He received a medical degree from WVU in 1973. Dr. Schwab says WVU has been the base of his educational foundation.

“Without WVU , I would be working part-time jobs or unemployed. I will be forever grateful for the education,”Schwab explained in a recent WVU Alumni Magazine article.

He is currently a member of the renowned eye research team and faculty at the University of California at Davis Medical School, and has been published extensively in some of the world’s leading medical journals.

He hails from Kingwood, WV.

  • Loretta M. Ucelli

Ucelli received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism (News Editorial), from WVU in 1976. She has more than 20 years of experience in issue strategy, reputation management, crisis communication and media relations.

Most recently, she served as Assistant to the President and Director of White House Communications during the final 22 months of President Bill Clinton’s term. In that capacity, Ucelli served as one of the closest advisors to the president, handling communication issues that included the economy, trade, crime, education, health care and foreign policy.

A letter of recommendation from President Clinton for the honor of WVU Distinguished Alumna states:”I deeply valued her wise counsel and professional expertiseLoretta brings great pride to West Virginia University and to our nation.”

Ucelli currently serves as chair of the crisis management sector of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide based in New York City. This position requires her to oversee a team of organizational crisis specialists. Together, they assess clients’needs and provide strategic counsel and response services when crises occur.

She is a native of Long Island, N.Y.

The Academy of Distinguished Alumni brings special recognition to WVU graduates who have made exceptional achievements and contributions to mankind. Past recipients include Jerry West, member of the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame; pro football Hall of Famer Sam Huff; best-selling author Stephen Coontz; actor David Selby; and Pulitzer Prize winning journalists George Esper and Terry Wimmer.

“This year’s additions will continue to honor our tradition of excellence at West Virginia University,”said Douglas.”We are extremely pleased these outstanding graduates are members of the university family.”

For more information on the induction ceremony, call Mary Kinsley at 304-293-4731.