Graduate research at West Virginia University will take a major step forward with a $4.6 million gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, which combined with matching dollars from the state Research Trust Fund will create a nearly $10 million endowment in support of exceptionally talented graduate students from all over the world.

The gift creating the WVU Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program announced Monday (March 14) is the largest ever benefitting graduate research fellowships at the University.

Click below to hear Steve Farmer with the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust explain why this gift came about.

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“The goal of this new program is to attract and assist exceptionally talented graduate students from across the country who show extraordinary promise in scholarship, research, leadership and service to further develop these talents through the graduate school experience,” Stephen B. Farmer, member of the McQuain Trust board of trustees, said in announcing the gift.

“The Trust’s financial support will enable the WVU Ruby Scholars Graduate Research Fellows to commit themselves to expanding their talents and using those talents to benefit the people of West Virginia, present and future, as well as the nation and world,” Farmer said.

“This commitment, of almost $10 million, from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and the state’s Research Trust Fund is a game-changing investment in WVU’s graduate education experience for many exceptional students in the years to come,” said President Jim Clements. “For many students, a graduate fellowship will be a pivotal moment in their lives and give them wonderful opportunities to study and conduct research with some of the world’s top faculty right here at WVU.

“I thank the members of the Trust for believing in the goals of our strategic framework for the future, which at the very core seeks to enhance academic and research opportunities for our students.”

One only needs to hear the life-changing stories of students like Kerri Phillips, now a doctoral student in WVU’s aerospace engineering program who spoke at Monday’s announcement, to know the impact faculty mentors and research opportunities can have on one’s life and future career, Clements said.

Click below to hear Kerri Phillips discuss how thankful graduate students like her are for support as they pursue their education.

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Phillips said WVU’s graduate education has changed her life and opened unimagined doors.

“This gift will help students like me for years to come,” she said. “They will have the chance to study, research and to publish. This gift will change their lives and they will have a chance to change the world.”

Specifically, the endowment will create graduate fellowships and advance research in energy and environmental sciences; nanotechnology and material science; biological, biotechnological and biomedical sciences; and biometrics, security, sensing, forensic sciences and related identification technologies.

Click below to hear Provost Michele Wheatly describe the importance of graduate education at WVU.

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“Nurturing the ‘thinkers’ of tomorrow is a major part of the new strategic plan, specifically the first two goals,” Provost Michele Wheatly said. “Discovery and creative activity are the backbone upon which economic development is built. This transformational gift will enable us to recruit and retain outstanding graduate students, which will accelerate our progress towards Research Very High.”

“The impact will cut across the University and strengthens our commitment to intraprofessional and multidisciplinary research,” said Health Sciences Chancellor Dr. Chris Colenda. “The endowment – and the match from the State’s Research Trust – will allow us to carry this work forward for generations.”

The fellowships will be merit-based with consideration for graduate students with exceptional talent. Financial limitations or hardships also will be considered. The specifics of how students will apply and be selected will be determined in the coming months.

The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, a renowned WVU and community benefactor, was established by Mrs. McQuain, who died in 2002 at the age of 93. The retired president of Ruby Enterprises, Inc., Mrs. McQuain engaged in philanthropic endeavors of benefit to the University and local organizations for more than 20 years, including an $8 million gift toward construction of Ruby Memorial Hospital, which was named after her late husband, J.W. Ruby.

“This is truly a transformational gift that will provide tremendous research opportunities for graduate students at WVU while helping to make this a better world in which to live,” said Wayne King, WVU Foundation president and CEO. “Our sincere thanks to the McQuain Trust and its leadership for creating this research fellowship program.”

In 2008, the state created the Research Trust Fund with an initial appropriation of $50 million ($35 million for WVU, $15 million for Marshall) to leverage public and private investments that will transform West Virginia’s economy. WVU is able to tap into the fund to double private gifts that support expansions to research faculty and infrastructure in key areas linked to economic development, health care and job growth. To date, private gifts and pledges approved for RTF match total more than $16 million.

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University.



CONTACT: Bill Nevin, WVU Foundation

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