A $6.7 million gift to West Virginia University from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust will transform the equine educational facilities at the 995-acre Reedsville Experiment Farm in Preston County into a new, modern teaching, research and extension center.
The center will increase student and community opportunities for learning, provide applied research opportunities for faculty and provide an example of how a sustainable farm is managed, officials say.
In recognition of the gift, WVU will name the center the Hazel Ruby McQuain Equine Education and Resource Center and will name the farm the J.W. Ruby Research Farm. Before being purchased by WVU, the farm was owned by the Ruby family and operated as Sterling Farms. WVU’s Board of Governors approved naming of the facilities at its meeting today (June 5) at Glade Springs Resort.
“The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust’s continued commitment to investing in the University and the state supports our vision of providing well-designed facilities and spaces that enhance learning and research opportunities for our students and faculty,” said WVU President Gordon Gee. “And I love that this beautiful farm and equine facility will be a lasting legacy to a couple who loved the horse industry and the important economic and educational roles it plays in our state.”
Stephen B. Farmer, a member of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust Board of Trustees, said, “The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust was impressed with the proposed renovations and additions to the University’s farm in Reedsville. Knowing of the importance of the farm to the education and research mission of the University and the potential economic impact of the farm to the region, we welcomed the opportunity to help make these improvements possible.
“Mr. Ruby would be pleased to know that the property is once again going to be a showcase facility. He would be honored to have the farm carry his name,” Farmer said.
In keeping with WVU’s and the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust’s vision for equine education and outreach, revitalization projects will be designed to
- Enhance and support activities by providing improved arenas, classrooms, housing and meeting spaces;
- Create a model and sustainable farm environment program;
- Improve security and visibility; and
- Create opportunities for economic growth in the community.
Honoring a legacy
WVU and the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust have a shared history with the Reedsville Farm.
The gift provides a homecoming of sorts for the legacy of J.W. Ruby, a West Virginia entrepreneur who founded the Sterling Faucet Co. in Morgantown. As an entrepreneur, Ruby became involved in enterprises including agriculture, mining, road paving, poultry processing, feed mills and racehorses.
By the 1960s, Sterling Farms was a fixture in the community and a state-of-the-art horse farm that was home to prized Quarter Horses, Saddlebreds and Standardbreds.
Today the overall farm is home to horses, cattle and forage crops managed by WVU in partnership with the WVU Extension Service. The front of the farm, along the Kingwood Pike, is where the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust’s investments will be made in support of the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences equine studies program and the WVU Extension Service Equine Arena. Phase 1 of the project will be substantially completed by December 2019.
In addition to supporting WVU’s teaching and research mission, the farm and arena will host equestrian competitions, horse shows, livestock sales, agricultural festivals and other public events.
Building for the future
The total impact of the equine industry on the United States economy is $102 billion with the inclusion of supplier and employee spending, and the industry directly employs more than 460,000 people.
West Virginia’s equine industry has grown into a significant economic driver for the state with more than $500 million in total output and nearly 13,000 jobs.
WVU’s equine program is growing in number and interest. In 2014, WVU launched an equine studies minor that prepares students for careers in the diverse and competitive horse industry. The curriculum combines equine science, equine management and equine-assisted therapy with hands-on experiential learning.
“WVU’s equine studies program is gaining national recognition for producing marketable graduates,” said Crystal Smith, teaching assistant professor of Animal and Nutritional Sciences. “The new center will build on our success by attracting quality students, providing rich learning opportunities and empowering our students to become future leaders in the horse industry.”
The growth of the equine industry in West Virginia has increased the demand for modern horse-showing facilities and programs in the state. The new center at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm will support in-state equine programs and draw out-of-state interest.
“We have a tremendously active equine industry in and around our state,” President Gee said. “Our facilities at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm are used year-round and the programs we manage play an important role in the success of the industry in West Virginia. This generous gift will allow us to continue meeting the needs of our state’s citizens by increasing our capacity to support this growing, vibrant industry.”
Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust
Following the extraordinary example of its founder, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust is one of the University’s largest benefactors, having made donations to a wide variety of causes and programs across the University, including WVU Hospitals, School of Medicine, College of Law, WVU Alumni Association, Athletics, as well as the establishment of the cross-disciplinary Ruby Scholars Graduate Research Fellowships.
Mrs. McQuain, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 93, and the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust have endowed six chairs in the University; created the Hazel Ruby McQuain WVU College of Law Dean’s Endowment Fund; and generously supported various University programs and facilities. Mrs. McQuain also made an $8 million gift toward the construction of Ruby Memorial Hospital, which was named after her late husband, J.W. Ruby. She served as an 11-year member of the WVU Foundation Board of Directors.
In 2012, the West Virginia University Foundation recognized the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust by permanently naming one of its annual philanthropic awards in the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust’s honor. Established in 2005, the Foundation’s outstanding philanthropic foundation award is now known as the Hazel Ruby McQuain Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation Award.
The most recent gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.
CONTACT: Bill Nevin, WVU Foundation
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