Nestled among the West Virginia hills is Boone County, a small bedroom community just south of Charleston named for Daniel Boone, who often explored there.

There you will find a tight-knit community that is moving mountains to encourage academic success, build a greater sense of community and embrace the true spirit of outreach and service that is the backbone of West Virginia University’s land-grant mission.

The Boone County Alumni & Friends Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association was formed by a small group of alumni who moved back to the county to begin their professional lives after graduating from WVU. The group quickly identified a purpose: to improve the opportunities for Boone County students who wanted to go to college.

“We knew we wanted our focus to be on education because it represents an opportunity to see the world,” said Charlie Piccirillo, president of the Boone County Chapter and a WVU alumnus. “Our students not only get a first-class education, but WVU is truly a global gateway for them. The entire community – grads and non-grads – has embraced our commitment and has been instrumental in helping us succeed.”

To achieve that goal the group planned and implemented its first golf tournament and picnic in 1988 with approximately 50 attendees. The following year, a pig was added to the mix and the Boone County Pig Roast was born. On June 30, the chapter will celebrate its silver anniversary at Riverview County Club in Madison with more than 300 alumni, students, parents and friends.

The Pig Roast and other support of alumni/friends have enabled the chapter to give more than $500,000 to students through the group’s scholarship fund – an amazing feat for a county numbering fewer than 25,000 residents.

“Our goal is to be broke,” Piccirillo explained. “If a student wants to go to WVU, we make sure he/she receives the funds to do so.”

And the students are going. Through the group’s efforts, the number of students attending WVU has increased dramatically. In the late 1980s, only eight students attended the University. This year, 25-30 Boone County students will be heading off to WVU, scholarships in hand. Today, the chapter’s endowed scholarship fund totals more than $180,000, providing financial assistance for every Boone County full-time student attending WVU, ranging from $800-$2,000 per year. Additionally, every full-time WVU student who comes to the Pig Roast receives a $50 gift card to buy books at a campus bookstore.

The students have also left their mark on the University. Many have been involved in the marching band, athletics, student organizations and student government, where more Boone County students have served in leadership roles than any other county in West Virginia. The alternate Mountaineer, B.J. Hatfield, is also a Boone County native.

Some Boone County WVU graduates, like Dr. Amy Sayre who runs a family practice in Chapmanville, even return home to give back to their communities. Aaron Gillespie, one of the first recipients of the Boone County scholarship, graduated from WVU 1994 with a degree in engineering and now works for the West Virginia Department of Highways in Charleston. He helped plan this year’s event, and notes how integral the scholarship was in helping him achieve his goals.

“I knew I wanted to go to college, earn my degree and return to the Boone County area to live and work,” he said. “The scholarship was the biggest blessing I have received, and it enabled me to accomplish those goals. There is a young person out there, like me years ago, who needs an education. Now I’m in a position to give back.”

The reach of the chapter also extends to other worthwhile programs and activities, including service to the National Alumni Recruiting Network where volunteers assist in recruiting WVU students to campus; participation in local Boone County Mountaineer Parents Club activities/sendoffs; financial support to the “New Home for Mountaineers” campaign for the new alumni center; and, most recently, a $10,000 gift to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Fund. But, Piccirillo is quick to note that academics remain the foundation of their mission.

“Our community is uniquely bonded together to help future generations of Boone County residents,” Piccirillo said. “We have been very fortunate to have an incredible network of people who believe that academic success opens doors. That is something that is deeply engrained in our small community, and we’ll keep working to send more students to WVU.”

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CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Alumni Association

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