A presidential visit to Mason County

Beth Sergent

June 3, 2014

POINT PLEASANT — For only the second time in more than 40 years, a president of West Virginia University has ventured to Mason County.

On Tuesday, WVU President E. Gordon Gee arrived in Mason County as part of his 55-county summer tour.

“I get a full understanding of the value the people put in their communities. I get an understanding of the value of the university in these communities and I get a chance to see West Virginia in a way that very few people get to see it,” Gee said of his tour meant to engage him with the state and allow him to see, firsthand, the impact of WVU.

Earlier in the day, Gee had been in Cabell County and met with Marshall University President Dr. Stephen Kopp. He then traveled to Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School, where he spoke at Wedge Auditorium to students from PPJ/SHS, Wahama Junior/Senior High School and Hannan Junior/Senior High School, about the importance of higher education. He, along with his support staff from WVU, then ventured to Riverfront Park to a reception hosted by the WVU Extension Office of Mason County.

Local WVU Extension Agent Rodney Wallbrown introduced Gee and his staff to local officials gathered at the park, like Mason County commissioners Rick Handley and Tracy Doolittle, Superintendent Suzanne Dickens, Point Pleasant Mayor Brian Billings, Main Street Point Pleasant and Economic Development Director Charles Humphreys and representatives from the DAR and SAR, Darlene Haer, John Sauer and Jack Coles, respectively. Also on hand, local students from Mason County, employees of the extension office, WVU students, 4-H and FFA members and members of CEOS. Haer lead a special historical presentation on Riverfront Park for Gee (see story on Page 1).

This is the 100th year of the establishment of the extension service that tied in with Gee’s visit. When asked how WVU impacts Mason County, Gee was quick to mention the extension service programs, as well as the fact WVU trains many of its students who end up teaching in Mason County, educating physicians who treat patients here and engineers who build the infrastructure.

This is Gee’s second time around as president of WVU. When asked about how the view is this time around, he explained: “The state has morphed and grown in many ways. I think it has challenges which are really opportunities. I’m trying to make sure the university is part of that opportunity.”

Gee said by the end of August he will have been in all 55 counties but, as he put it, “more importantly I’ll meet the leadership in the state, I’ll meet the leadership in the communities, I’ll get a chance to see some of our students. So rather than being isolated (in an office), it’s a way to absolutely connect in the most positive way.”