John McConnell, founder and chairman emeritus of Worthington Industries Inc. and majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets, has made a $1 million gift to the West Virginia University Foundation to endow the Peggy Rardin McConnell Chair in Speech Communication. McConnell is establishing the chair in honor of his wife Peggy Rardin McConnell, a WVU alumna.

The McConnells are natives of Pughtown, now called New Manchester, W.Va., and currently reside in Columbus, Ohio.

The McConnell Chair, housed in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will support a distinguished faculty position, with an emphasis in speech communication and performance, in the Department of Communication Studies.

The discipline of speech has roots in the university dating back to the institution’s beginnings in the 1860s. Today the Department of Communication Studies has more than 500 students earning bachelor or master’s degrees, and offers the university’s most popular minor course of study. Several of the department’s faculty members have national reputations for excellence in research within the discipline, and the study of communication apprehension and anxiety, effective communication in interpersonal relationships and in work settings, and the role of communication in the teaching profession have been emphasized for several decades.

The McConnell Chair will provide resources to assist the department in maintaining a faculty position focused on enhancing the speech communication abilities of WVU students.

“We have been demanding higher standards among our undergraduate students in the essential areas of effective writing and mathematical problem-solving for several years and recently enhanced these efforts through the establishment of the Center for Writing Excellence and the Institute for Math Learning,”said M. Duane Nellis, dean of the Eberly College.

“The establishment of the Peggy Rardin McConnell Chair in Speech Communication will ensureespecially in this period of more limited state support for higher educationthat WVU will have new resources available to expand these high standards to the area of public communication.”

Peggy McConnell earned a degree in speech from WVU in 1946. As a high school and university student, she acted in several plays and went on to direct drama productions as a teacher in Michigan.

John McConnell served three years with the U.S. Navy during WWII before earning a degree in business administration from Michigan State University in 1949. Through his leadership, Worthington Industries has grown to become the nation’s leading intermediate steel processor and manufacturer of metal-related products and has 59 facilities in 10 countries.

McConnell, who also serves as chairman and governor of the National Hockey League franchise, founded the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation and the McConnell Heart Health Center at Riverside Hospital in Columbus. He is immediate past chairman of the board of the Ohio Health Corp., chairman emeritus of the Law Enforcement Foundation of Ohio, and a director of GMI Engineering and Management Institute of Flint, Mich.

He is a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award and the National Football Foundation Gold Medal Award, the foundation’s highest honor.

The WVU Foundation Inc. is a private non-profit organization that generates, receives and administers private gifts from individuals and organizations for the benefit of West Virginia University. The McConnell gift is included in the $250 million Building Greatness Campaign, which concludes in December 2003.