Jason Parsons has always believed that a little country road would take him anywhere he wanted to go.
Loretta Ucelli knows that she has what it takes to do anything she wants in life.
Parsons, a political science senior at West Virginia University grew up in the small town of Seth, located along Route 3 in Boone County.
Unlike his hometown, Parsons ambitions were never small and his time at WVU has helped to open many doors. Former student body president, Parsons is responsible for bringing President Bill Clinton to WVU in May to speak to graduates of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
“The great thing about WVU is you set the bar wherever you want it. It is a wonderful place full of opportunities, but it is up to you to seize them,” Parsons said.
Parsons first met Clinton when he was campaigning for Hillary in 2008. A friend of Parsons, who was working a campaigning event, invited him backstage to meet Clinton.
“I told him he should come to Morgantown and what a great place it was,” he said.
When Clinton arrived in Morgantown, Parsons introduced him before he spoke to students and community members in front of Woodburn Hall. After his Morgantown visit, Clinton called on Parsons asking him to introduce him when he stopped to campaign in Beckley.
Since then, Parsons has become actively involved in the Clinton Global Initiative University. He has traveled around the state and to various events around the country.
Parsons admires Clinton not just because he was president, but because of where he came from.
“I see a lot of parallels between Hope, Arkansas and where so many of us who go to WVU come from,” he said. “It is all about opportunity and making a difference. President Clinton understands what it’s like to be one of us who are hungry to make a difference at a young age. He’s such a great inspiration because he’s been one of the world’s greatest humanitarians.”
When Ucelli, originally from Staten Island, N.Y., left WVU she had a sense of confidence and conviction that she had what it would take to be successful.
That poise is something she attributes to her time at the University. And the 1976 graduate of WVU’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism has used it to get places – places that most only dream of.
She has been a news editor and on-air reporter for radio stations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and Pfizer Inc. and in 1992 was hired to helped transition Clinton’s cabinet nominees and prepare them for confirmation.
In 1998, Clinton asked Ucelli to be his communications director.
“It is funny because I always did dream that I would be working for the president. It was hard work, but I did it and to have worked in that role for President Clinton was really the privilege of a lifetime,” she said.
Now, as a member of the journalism school’s visiting committee, Ucelli sees the same sense of personal conviction that she had as a student in others at WVU.
“I think many times West Virginia sees itself as a bit of an underdog. I think the approach that ‘maybe we are an underdog, but we are going to be better than anyone and more successful than anyone’ is a pretty good recipe,” she said.
Students leave WVU with the sense that “no matter who you are or where you come from nothing can hold you back,” she said.
That same approach is something Ucelli compares a lot to Clinton.
“There was a time when Clinton was an underdog, when he was young, and he has accomplished so much for the country. That is very similar to WVU’s past,” she said.
On Sunday, May 16 when Ucelli and Parsons gather in the WVU Coliseum to listen to Clinton speak to some of the University’s newest graduates they will be thinking about the possibilities.
“Anything can happen,” Parsons said.
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News and Information Services
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