November 8, 2014
Financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. once said that “the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind.”
His grandson and my dear friend, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, certainly heeded that calling, spending 50 years serving West Virginia.
This state lies less than 400 miles from Senator Rockefeller’s New York City birthplace, but the mere geography cannot convey the vast distance that he traveled to arrive in West Virginia.
In 1964, he came to tiny Emmons, West Virginia, as a VISTA volunteer. He descended from one of America’s wealthiest families, but his experiences living and working among poverty-stricken miners would change the course of his life.
Those experiences would also make West Virginia, in his words, his “forever home.”
He served his new home in the House of Delegates, as secretary of state, and as a two-term governor. Since 1985, he has represented West Virginia in the United States Senate, acting as a leading champion for health care reform and working hard to help children, families, veterans, and senior citizens.
As he prepares to retire from the U.S. Senate and launch a new phase of his life, he says he still feels a commitment — and a calling — to serve our state.
“I will not be leaving West Virginia,” he said when he announced his retirement. “West Virginia will always be my home.”
I know his lovely wife, Sharon, who joins us today shares those feelings, as well.
So, I am honored to announce that, in three landmark ways, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV will have a “forever home” at West Virginia University.
First, the University Libraries will be the permanent home of the John D. Rockefeller IV Senatorial Archives.
The archives will include more than 2,000 linear feet of personal and professional papers and memorabilia documenting Senator Rockefeller’s extraordinary contributions as a legislator, statesman, public servant, and private citizen.
It will be housed right here in the West Virginia and Regional History Center, and will be one of the largest collections our University has ever received.
The Rockefeller Senatorial Archives will take its place among nearly two dozen other collections documenting the careers of West Virginia leaders, including governors, senators, and the state’s founding fathers.
Senator Rockefeller is one of most distinguished public servants in West Virginia history, so it is fitting that the Senator’s legacy be forever preserved within the borders of the state he has served so well, and so faithfully, for so long.
As the state’s land-grant, flagship, research university, West Virginia University is uniquely able to fulfill this great honor, not only in terms of providing excellent physical stewardship by expert archivists and librarians, but also by developing academic and outreach programs that will take full advantage of the immense educational and research value that Senator Rockefeller’s papers possess.
The Rockefeller Archives will be a priceless resource for learning and research. Students and researchers from around the world will visit the collection, explore its treasures, and extract novel insights that help us better understand our own history.
We look forward to working with other colleges and universities across the state, especially West Virginia Wesleyan where Senator Rockefeller once served as president, to promote student and faculty research in these archives.
Senator Rockefeller will also have a “forever home” here in the Downtown Wise Library’s John D. Rockefeller IV Gallery, which we are dedicating today to honor his five decades of service to West Virginia.
This will be the collection’s “front porch,” so to speak. It will feature exhibits and displays of documents, photographs, and objects that reflect the Senator’s life and career.
Thousands of students, faculty, alumni, researchers, and visitors will experience the Rockefeller Gallery each year and it is our hope that each of them will learn something new about the Senator’s extraordinary journey.
You will hear a bit more about the Archives and the gallery from Dean Jon Cawthorne in a moment.
The most lasting monument to Senator Rockefeller’s work, however, will be the future leaders he inspires to dedicate their own lives to fulfilling that “common duty to mankind” — service to others.
That is why I am especially pleased to announce the new John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics at West Virginia University.
This school brings together our academic programs in political science, public administration, international studies, and leadership studies — four areas in which Senator Rockefeller has distinguished himself.
The establishment of the Rockefeller School of Policy and Politics will enable West Virginia University to have a much greater impact on policy development and implementation at the local, state, national, and international levels. It will also provide improved academic and experiential opportunities for our students and faculty.
Our goal is for the School to reflect Senator Rockefeller’s career, priorities, and ideals, and we appreciate very much his input, guidance, and expertise, and that of his current and former staff members, as we achieve this goal.
Consistent with Senator Rockefeller’s career in public service, this School will help our University fulfill its land-grant mission. It will capture the breadth and depth of our expertise and apply it to meet the needs of West Virginians.
At the same time, the School will help us raise awareness about the vital role government has in solving society’s problems. Dr. Scott Crichlow will have more to say about the School in just a few moments.
Along with Senator Rockefeller, we at West Virginia University share a commitment to serving West Virginia.
We are proud that the Senator’s papers, the Senator’s gallery, and the Senator’s School will have a “forever home” on our campus — and that his legacy of service will be, forever, part of our identity and mission.
Thank you very much for joining us today for this very special celebration.