The Sincell and Wagoner families of western Maryland have strong multigenerational ties with West Virginia University that have helped them go places in life.

The families are now giving back to WVU – to help current and future students find their own success – by pledging $25,000 to the College of Creative Arts to establish the Sincell-Wagoner Family Travel Endowment.

The endowment will assist students in the schools of Art & Design, Music, and Theatre & Dance who wish to travel in the United States or abroad, for study, research and performance opportunities.

It was established by Donald W. Sincell, Suzanne B. Sincell, Mary Sincell McEwen, and John McEwen, owners of Sincell Publishing Company and publishers of The Republican newspaper in Oakland, Md. The company has been owned by the Sincell family since 1890.

According to Dean Paul Kreider of the College of Creative Arts, travel grants make a profound impact upon the lives of students who receive them.

“The learning that occurs when students travel abroad fosters both personal and artistic growth,” he said. “International travel opportunities enable students to gain global perspectives in their disciplines, which help them significantly in their career endeavors. Every year, the Sincell-Wagoner Endowment will literally change lives as students are empowered to travel internationally to pursue their dreams as aspiring visual and performing artists.”

Don Sincell, editor of The Republican, graduated from WVU in 1974 with a degree in psychology, and his wife Suzanne, a retired educator, is a graduate of Waynesburg College (now University), but took some classes through WVU during her career to maintain her certification.

His sister Mary Sincell McEwen and her husband John McEwen both graduated from the WVU College of Creative Arts in 1985. A well-known columnist and writer, Mary earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater, with an emphasis on playwriting. She studied three years with internationally known playwright Frank Gagliano, who was Benedum Professor of Theatre in the College of Creative Arts until his retirement in 2010. John, who has been the newspaper’s photographer for 17 years, also earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater. While at WVU, he studied with acting professors Don Biehn and Alex Golson. He has written more than 700 movie reviews for the newspaper (

The late Robert B. Sincell, father of Don and Mary, who was the advertising manager of The Republican, graduated from the WVU School of Journalism in 1950. Their brother Ben Sincell graduated in 1990 with a master’s degree in set design from the School of Theatre & Dance. He is currently director of theatre studies at Garrett College.

An older brother, Jeffry Sincell, graduated with degrees in electrical engineering and psychology in 1974, later becoming one of several WVU engineering graduates who have worked on the NASA Rover and a number of satellite projects.

Don and Mary’s mother, Hannah Wagoner Sincell, earned a two-year degree at Potomac State College of WVU and also has several siblings who are graduates of WVU, and for whom the Travel Endowment is also being named.

Her late brother Alec Wagoner was a 1945 graduate of the School of Agriculture & Forestry, and her brother Loy Wagoner, who played football for WVU, graduated in 1947.

One of the most notable graduates of WVU is Hannah’s younger brother, Dan Wagoner, a 1954 graduate of the WVU School of Pharmacy. Wagoner became a renowned American modern dance choreographer and teacher who danced with Martha Graham and Paul Taylor in the 1950s and 60s. He first began dancing as a member of the Orchesis ensemble at WVU.

He formed his own New York-based company in 1969, which performed for 25 years throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia. Now on the dance faculty at Florida State University, Wagoner returned to WVU in 2012 as featured guest artist in the annual WVU Dance Concert and also taught a master class with students.

Don and Suzanne’s son, Matt Sincell, also came back to share his knowledge with WVU students after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of Theatre & Dance in 2001 and embarking on a successful acting career. He returned to the Creative Arts Center in 2009 as guest artist to perform the lead role in “Hamlet” and was perhaps the youngest graduate ever invited to be guest speaker at the College graduation convocation.

A couple of years after graduating, Matt Sincell was selected for a leading role in “Shakespeare’s R&J,” a retelling of Romeo and Juliet by Joe Calarco. It was a major off-Broadway hit that premiered in the United Kingdom as part of the Bath Shakespeare Festival and then went to Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and London’s West End, where it was described as a knockout and Matt received rave reviews.

In 2004, he was one of only two actors from the United States selected for a residency at the Globe Theatre in London, where he worked for a month with actors from other countries and performed a showcase of Shakespeare works.

Matt developed a strong interest in Shakespeare at WVU, where he performed in “The Taming of the Shrew” in 1998. He also got his first taste of international theater when he performed one of the leads in “Macbeth,” which the School of Theatre & Dance took to Germany as part of WVU’s exchange program with the E.T.A. Hoffmann Theater.

Robert and Alex McEwen, sons of Mary and John, are currently students at WVU. Robert is a junior in music education in the percussion department, and Alex is a freshman Presidential Honors Scholar in electrical engineering. Both have been members of the Pride of West Virginia Marching Band.

According to Dean Kreider, one of the key goals of the University, and for the College of Creative Arts, over the next few years is to advance international activity and global engagement for students, such as the experiences Matt had as a student.

“Travel experiences are at the very least eye-opening, and in some cases, truly life-changing,” said Don Sincell. “However, travel is often not affordable during one’s college years, so it is a pleasure to be able to help provide such experiences to deserving WVU students.”

The Sincell-Wagoner family contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts

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