WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 36th annual West Virginia University Alumni Luncheon on Capitol Hill honored West Virginia’s congressional delegation, including long-time senator John D. Rockefeller IV. In addition to Rockefeller, Sen. Joe Manchin and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, David McKinley and Nick Rahall were in attendance.
The luncheon also serves as an event that reconnects WVU alumni and friends in the D.C.-area, and offers the University president a platform to address key issues relevant to the gold-and-blue community.
WVU President Gordon Gee delivered a message looking toward the future – one that contributes to “One West Virginia.”
Gee told the 300-plus attending the luncheon, hosted Thursday (July 10) by the National Capital Area Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association, that the University and the people of West Virginia can embark on a journey to prosperity together.
It was also a coming-home, of sorts, for Gee. It has been more than 30 years since he stepped on the podium at the annual event.
“So here I am, back where I started – at a university that gave me an unusual opportunity to respond to the issues of the day – and the blessing of being part of an institution at its time of transformation,” Gee said.
Since Gee first served as WVU president in the early-1980s, the University’s enrollment has doubled and the campus landscape has changed dramatically.
Gee reassured the audience that his ultimate goal remains the same since he returned as president in January.
“I will work tirelessly until all 1.8 million West Virginians believe in their hearts and in their minds that West Virginia University is the most important thing in their lives,” he said. “They are counting on us.”
On Capitol Hill, where policymakers can influence all components of American life from economics to education, Gee asserted that West Virginians needed jobs and opportunities. And he stressed the role that higher education plays in those areas.
“We can cure cancer. We can write the great American novel. We can discover new galaxies — because we are Mr. Lincoln’s university,” Gee said. “Imagination today is what steel was 120 years ago—the very building block of progress.
“We have moved from a hardware to a thoughtware society. That is not to diminish the importance of coal and oil, gas and energy. But in order to compete worldwide in any industry today, West Virginians must out-think in order to out-perform.
“Fortunately, West Virginia University can help our state do just that. Education expands individual opportunity, stimulates the economy and creates jobs. In fact, West Virginia University is the largest employer in the state.”
Gee provided examples of Mountaineers who are already leading the charge in elevating West Virginia.
The president highlighted Jordan Lovejoy, a Wyoming County native who is a senior triple major in English, Spanish and women’s and gender studies. Earlier this year, Lovejoy became the University’s third-ever Udall Scholar, due in part to her motivation to study the environment, which stemmed from some infamous moments from her past.
She lost two friends to mining disasters.
Lovejoy is someone who is answering a calling, Gee said.
“Being at West Virginia University, at this time, is not only an opportunity and a responsibility – it is a calling,” Gee said.
“That calling is to rise above ourselves, to put people ahead of personal gain, and to place progress and leadership as our polar star. In so doing, we can cause West Virginia to seek its higher angels. That expectation is as it should be of a great land-grant university in this century at this time.
“We must all now focus on the daily task of that higher calling. And it must start with the university itself.”
Proceeds from the luncheon benefit the John F. Nicholas Jr. National Capital Area Chapter Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance to WVU students in the D.C.-Metro area. To date, the NCAC has raised more than $150,000 for scholarships, making it the second largest scholarship fund provided by an alumni chapter.
The chapter also donated $7,500 to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for student-athlete scholarships from the D.C.-area.
This year’s event sponsors included: The Hill newspaper, Consol Energy, The Greenbrier, Hamilton Insurance and Widmeyer Communications, a Finn Partners company, as well as nearly 20 WVU colleges and units.
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