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Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Prepared Remarks
February 21, 2014

Welcome to West Virginia University and the Academy of Distinguished Alumni Dinner. Tonight, we will honor four people who launched extraordinary lives and careers thanks to their experiences here.

As someone who also launched a career here, I understand the mixture of nostalgia, emotions, and pure Mountaineer pride our honorees are feeling.

To Bernadette, Gopala, Joe, and Vince, I offer a special welcome and my congratulations. Your accomplishments have earned you membership in an elite group.

Now, I am not a mathematician, but I have done a little calculating. In terms of West Virginia University alumni, tonight’s honorees are in the top 1/20th of 1 percent. The academy has inducted fewer than 85 people from among the University’s 190,000 graduates.

You should feel very proud.

I would also like to welcome your family and friends. I know they have contributed much to your success — and share in this moment with you.

West Virginia University also shares in this moment with you. A university’s reputation is built largely through the accomplishments of its alumni.

For nearly 150 years, our University has been graduating men and women who distinguished themselves and their alma mater.

But though we take pride in their successes, we cannot take credit for them. We do all we can to encourage mastery of subject matter, inform character, offer opportunities for intellectual growth, and foster civic and professional engagement.

In the end, though, graduates decide to succeed. They decide to apply what they learned here, set ambitious goals, work long hours, and take the risks that define leadership.

Since West Virginia University’s founding, thousands of graduates have chosen success.

I have traveled around the world, and everywhere I go, I find West Virginia University alumni who are putting their education to work for society.

I have even met Mountaineers like Bernadette among the Buckeyes at Ohio State.

Each graduate has a unique story. Tonight, we will hear four especially powerful ones.

All of tonight’s honorees came to this University from outside West Virginia. Three of the four, in fact, were born outside the United States.

Each of them, however, embodies the Mountaineer spirit — a spirit of daring and determination that fuels pioneering discoveries.

These Mountaineers have made the world a better place.

Throughout three decades in higher education, I have seen the impact alumni make.

Alumni often assume leadership roles in areas critical to the University — serving, for example, on our college and school visiting committees, the Alumni Association board, the boards of our hospitals, the WVU Foundation, and of course, the Board of Governors.

They often return to share their expertise with students, which we very much appreciate.

Alumni also contribute to the institution financially — a contribution that is more important than ever in the current budgetary climate.

Graduates have played key roles in our State of Minds capital campaign, helping the WVU Foundation near our goal of $750 million for enhanced facilities, better library resources, new faculty positions, and scholarships for students.

Most importantly, alumni strengthen our reputation by communicating our value to others. They are our best recruiters because they are living proof that West Virginia University launches successful careers. And, to current students, they are role models and inspirations.

An institution’s greatness comes from its people.

And tonight, we are honoring four great people who have helped to make this a great University.