The large map of the United States on display at the 16th annual Capital Classic Luncheon Wednesday had a lone gold spot, buried in a sea of blue.

“That’s West Virginia,” West Virginia University President Jim Clements told the overflow crowd of elected officials, alumni and friends. “That’s the only place in the country that believed WVU could win the Orange Bowl.”

“The truth is that no one believes in West Virginia like West Virginians. No state means more to its University.”

The map reflected an ESPN poll that asked the nation who would win the 2012 Orange Bowl battle between the Mountaineers and the Clemson Tigers. West Virginia was the only state that predicted a check in the win column for the old-gold-and-blue.

But that magical Mountaineer victory (a 70-33 record-setting rout) represented something just as important as football. It symbolized the University’s other remarkable victories – the ones in the classrooms and communities.

“It was a WVU victory – just like the quieter but no less important victories we produce every day,” Clements said, “from taking life-saving care to the farthest corners of the state, to igniting the joy of knowledge and discovery in every child, to opening the possibilities of the global economy for every West Virginian.”

The luncheon, sponsored by the WVU Alumni Association, is held in conjunction with the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic men’s and women’s basketball games between WVU and Marshall University. The president shares the University’s goals and accolades with the Charleston crowd at this annual event.

The catalyst to WVU’s triumphs dates back 150 years to the passage of the Morrill Act, a federal statute that allowed for the creation of land-grant institutions, Clements explained. WVU opened its doors in 1867 as a land-grant university focusing on teaching agriculture and engineering. That mission has evolved ever since and WVU has adapted each step of the way, Clements said.

WVU is furthering its commitment as a land-grant institution through its 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, a roadmap rooted in goals that include academic excellence, research and innovation, diversity, global engagement and community outreach.

Clements’ talk followed a video presentation that featured just some of the University’s programs that help enhance the state and the world.

Clements wasn’t short on highlighting WVU’s recent accomplishments.

The football team broke several records at the Orange Bowl, but WVU recently set a new record on the academic side of the house. Ben Statler and his wife, Jo, both Monongalia County natives, pledged $34 million to the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources last week, and the college was renamed in his honor. That’s the largest single gift commitment ever to the University and to a college.

Clements hit on several other bragging points. Among them:

  • WVU has raised $35 million in private giving, enabling it to receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the state’s Research Trust Fund, the maximum possible.
  • WVU was rated No. 2 in the country among public universities as best places to do research and in the Top 20 Best Places to Work in Academia by The Scientist magazine.
  • WVU continues to add faculty and make significant capital investments, such as construction of agricultural sciences and engineering research buildings and a student wellness center.
  • Funding for sponsored research reached $175 million over the past two years – an increase of more than $45 million over the previous 10-year average.
  • WVU has created a Marcellus shale roundtable to help the state address one of its most critical issues and steer sound policy.
  • More than two-and-a-half million YouTube users have viewed the Mountaineer Marching Band’s recent tribute to veterans.
  • WVU has been recognized as a top veteran-friendly school for three consecutive years.

The president introduced Robert Davis, a student-veteran in international studies and Arabic at WVU. Davis’ five-year service in the U.S. Marines included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Knowing that West Virginia has a high number of veterans per capita, we have made a special effort to support these students,” Clements said.

Davis, of Fairmont, offered the audience a candid glimpse into his life as a soldier and his struggles adjusting to college. After receiving an honorable discharge, Davis didn’t find civilian life quite like the way he left it.

“I was experiencing something called, ‘homecoming letdown,’” Davis said. “After enduring years of hardship, many vets expect to return home and find everything the way they left it; however, this is rarely the case. Many veterans find that old friends, who were once such a definitive part of their lives, have vanished. This dilemma can leave one questioning his or her decision to leave the military.”

Davis struggled to find an identity. Through WVU, he helped recapture some of that peace he once had. Last semester, he embarked on an Adventure WV trip. Adventure WV serves as an outdoor orientation for first-year students at WVU; the Boeing Corp. underwrites a special Veterans Adventure WV session so veterans can take the program at no cost.

After a week of whitewater rafting and other high-adrenaline activities, Davis finally felt at home.

“That week turned out to be one of the greatest times of my life, but more importantly I gained a valuable network of WVU staff members, students and incoming veterans like myself before I had even stepped foot inside of a classroom,” Davis said.

He added, “I’m sure that I speak for all veterans when I say, ‘Thank you West Virginia University for enhancing the well-being and quality of life for your sons and daughters – especially those who have served this country.’”

Also among those in attendance were Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin.



CONTACT: University Relations/News

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.