November 8, 2014
I feel privileged to be here tonight as we honor Senator John D. Rockefeller IV for his half-century of service to West Virginia — and celebrate his ongoing commitment to serving this state as he retires from the U.S. Senate and embarks on a new phase in his life.
For generations, the Rockefeller name has been synonymous with generosity, public service, leadership, and commitment to the advance of knowledge and understanding.
Senator Rockefeller has more than lived up to his family’s legacy of service — and he has done it in West Virginia, a place far removed from the world he was born into — yet a place he has come to love.
It is impossible to sum up 50 years of public service, but we have prepared a video tribute about the many ways Senator Rockefeller has helped West Virginians — and the ways he will continue to help us.
That video brings back many memories for me, as I am sure it does for all of you.
During my first tenure as West Virginia University president, Jay Rockefeller was serving as our state’s governor.
Jay recently presented me with a picture of the two of us together from that time.
I can date the photo quite well from the tie I wear in it. It is NOT a bow-tie, which means the photo was taken in the early months of my presidency, when I was still trying to look and act like a traditional college president, instead of the quirky young leader that I was.
In that photo, Jay and I are sitting together — and it is good that we are sitting, because when we stand next to each other, the height differential makes it hard to capture our heads in the same frame.
But we are both smiling, an expression that reflects that fast friendship that grew up between us and our families.
My late wife, Elizabeth, and Senator Rockefeller’s wife, Sharon, worked together in support of public broadcasting, and we are so delighted Sharon could be with us tonight, as well.
And, in that photo, we are both sporting typical 1980s eyewear — glasses with huge, dark, plastic frames.
He may have needed glasses, but Senator Rockefeller has always had vision.
He has always looked ahead, around the corner, into the future — and he has always urged us to do the same.
And throughout his career, as the pace of technological change and the need for high quality research and education have reshaped America and the world, Senator Rockefeller’s visionary leadership has benefited our university, our state, and our nation.
Throughout his career in the Senate, he has been a leading proponent for the Experimental Program to
Stimulate Competitive Research — or EPSCoR — which the National Science Foundation created to help build research capacity and competitiveness in all states.
At the heart of the Senator’s support for EPSCoR is the belief that faculty and researchers, students and scholars, from every state
have valuable contributions to make to the research enterprise and to helping our nation achieve its full potential.
As a result of EPSCoR and related programs and the Senator’s support, faculty and students at West Virginia Universitys and across the state are key players in maintaining America’s competitiveness.
Before “STEM” became a popular acronym, Senator Rockefeller understood the importance of good teaching in science, technology, engineering, and math.
A tireless advocate for STEM education,
he helped to create the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program to attract more STEM majors into teaching in K-12 schools.
As a result, our University received a major Noyce grant in 2009.
Senator Rockefeller also championed the Math and Science Partnerships Program, designed to promote innovative partnerships to bolster student achievement in these subjects at the K-12 level.
The America COMPETES reauthorization in 2010, led by Senator Rockefeller, demonstrated his dedication to promoting our nation’s competitiveness, essential to a vibrant economy. COMPETES was a comprehensive package that supported continued growth in math, science, and education initiatives.
Senator Rockefeller has also been a strong defender of key research infrastructure.
That includes the radio telescopes located in Green Bank where our faculty members are leading an international team in cutting-edge astrophysics and the exploration of the universe.
It also includes the National Energy Technology Laboratory facility here in Morgantown, where key questions about the future of energy are being studied and answered.
And during Senator Rockefeller’s term as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, the Committee has held hearings on other critical issues such as research parks and their role in job creation, the value of space exploration, aviation safety, and building a national ocean policy.
The breadth and depth of the hearings and the Committee’s agenda is a reflection of its Chairman’s deeply-held conviction that science, technology, and innovation are keys to improving the quality of life for all citizens.
Introducing the Broadband Opportunity and Affordability Act in 2009, Senator Rockefeller observed, “As more aspects of 21st century life become dependent upon Internet access, it is crucial we help to provide all families with the high-tech resources they need to succeed in the workplace and in school — and for the United States to continue to be a competitive, global economic leader.”
The Senator’s bipartisan work with Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe in the 1990s to create the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, better known as E-Rate, serves as the perfect example of the Senator recognizing the need for universal access to the latest technology and taking decisive action to meet it.
Every school and library in West Virginia, and thousands of others across the nation, have benefited from E-Rate and the Senator’s commitment to harnessing the power of technology to improve society.
Though his work in the U.S. Senate is coming to an end, Senator Rockefeller still has a vision for West Virginia’s future.
Two people who are here tonight can tell us more about Senator Rockefeller’s impact and vision — political science student Stephen Scott and Provost Joyce McConnell.
Please join me in welcoming Stephen Scott.
(Scott and McConnell speak)
The word “vision” is derived from the Latin videre, meaning “to see.”
Throughout his career, Senator Rockefeller has seen gaps and he has sought to fill them.
He has seen disparities and he has worked to reduce them.
He has seen the potential of West Virginia and he has helped us to achieve it.
It is often said that if a person sees further, it is because he or she is standing on the shoulders of giants.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we celebrate the life and career of a giant, and we express our gratitude to him for enabling us to see further, dream bigger, and be better.
Through the partnerships we announced earlier today — serving as the permanent home to the John D. Rockefeller IV Senatorial Archives; the dedication of the John D. Rockefeller IV Gallery in the Wise Library; and the naming of a new school, the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics at West Virginia University — we look forward to a continued long relationship with Senator Rockefeller as we help make his vision for a better West Virginia a reality.
Thank you to all for joining us this evening.