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WVU: Mountaineer Spirit, Pride and People Make W.Va. Special

Published in the July 17, 2017, edition of The State Journal .

I have served as president of five universities — from large publics to small privates — and each has its own unique personality and characteristics.

But what makes West Virginia University so special is the spirit, pride and passion of the people.

I see it every day. It is that intangible that brought me home three years ago to the place that gave me my start in higher education as a young man of 36. And it is that spirit that inspires me to work tirelessly alongside our students, faculty and staff to advance the University’s land-grant mission and open doors to the American dream.

We are a family. We are there for each other.

When devastating floods tore through southern West Virginia last June, the University community responded immediately with compassion and concern. The outpouring of support, from donated supplies to fundraisers to plain hard work, is what it means to be a Mountaineer. And that selflessness continues today as we help our friends and neighbors on their path to recovery.

That spirit is also reflected in our students. One recent graduate in particular demonstrates how her interest in math and science — spurred by the encouragement of WVU engineering professors — led her to not only earn Truman and Goldwater scholarships and to pursue post-graduate work at MIT, but also to host Xploration Outer Space, a popular Saturday morning TV show on Fox.

Emily Calandrelli is also writing children’s books, the Ada Lace series, which features a female sleuth from West Virginia who loves to build gadgets, gizmos and robots to solve mysteries and challenges in her life.

Emily is truly making engineering and science fun for children and young adults, and she credits her West Virginia University experience for her inspiration.

The drive of our innovative faculty to forge partnerships and engage in cutting-edge research is also a testament to the unique essence of our University’s people. From detecting and studying gravitational waves, to addressing the health issues affecting West Virginians, to studying and improving the shale gas process, the success of these activities has led WVU to become a premier research institution.

One project with which most West Virginians are familiar is the headline-making work of researchers at our Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions. Their discovery of elevated levels of nitrogen oxide emissions from Volkswagen diesel vehicles eventually resulted in the automaker fixing or flying back vehicles, compensating car owners and paying for environmental cleanup and research.

I point to the University’s outreach, student success and faculty innovation not just because it makes me proud, but because West Virginia University is making a difference for West Virginia and our 1.8 million citizens.

We are creating opportunities for students like Emily, reaching out to those in need in southern West Virginia and tackling problems facing West Virginia and the world.

That unique Mountaineer spirit is the best thing about West Virginia University — and the people of this state, for that matter. It is our proudest distinction dating back to our humble beginnings in 1867. And it is the spirit that will drive West Virginia University’s work for the next 150 years.

E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University