A favorite expression among West Virginia University alumni are words to live by for a College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences graduate. The sentiment, “Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,” lands close to the heart for CPASS grad James Higginbotham and has led him to establish a new scholarship for the College.
Higginbotham is quick to credit his experiences as a WVU student as the “best four years of my life. The friends that I made almost 50 years ago in Morgantown remain as my closest companions today,” Higginbotham said.
The scholarship, the Jim and Jeannie Higginbotham Endowed Scholarship, will support CPASS students from West Virginia. A 1961 graduate of WVU, Higginbotham earned his B.S. in Physical Education. The endowment gift amount to CPASS is $100,000. Higginbotham has also established a planned gift to benefit the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
“My decision to create the scholarship grew from both my wife’s and my desire to help students earn a college degree. My wife and I were both educators and we decided many years ago that we wanted to give back to the state and University and encourage other educators to help students in need,” Higginbotham stated.
Higginbotham grew up in Nitro, W.Va. and now lives close by in Cross Lanes. He played sports through high school and recounts playing basketball against legend Jerry West.
“We were in school together at WVU. The team had special players; those were magical times in Morgantown,” Higginbotham explained.
Upon graduation, Higginbotham joined the Marines and was assigned to Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, N.C. After completing his duty, Higginbotham returned to West Virginia and started teaching and coaching, ultimately earning the head coaching position at Nitro High School. He then went into school administration, retiring as principal of South Charleston (W.Va.) High School.
Jeannie Higginbotham was a special education teacher with a degree from Glenville State College, Glenville, W.Va. She retired in 2005.
“We didn’t have children. The students were our children. We talked about establishing this scholarship to help students who might not otherwise afford it,” Higginbotham explained. His wife passed away in January 2016.
“This gift offers excellent opportunities for our students. The funds fill an ongoing need at CPASS as we expand our programs and learning experiences for students on their way to launching meaningful careers,” said Dana Brooks, CPASS dean and professor of Physical Education.
Higginbotham recently visited Morgantown to celebrate Founders Day with his Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity brothers. They talked about their days as WVU students.
“We would return to the fraternity house, after our dates reported back to their dorms for curfew, to gather around and sing songs. Those friends remain close to this day. Wherever I travel around the country, I know I can count on spending time with my former fraternity brothers. They’re there when I need them,” Higginbotham added.
The Foundation, in partnership with the University, is currently conducting A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The goal of the largest fundraising effort in the history of the University is to raise $1 billion by December 2017. For more information on the campaign, visit www.astateofminds.com.
CONTACT: Kim Cameon, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences
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