Fairmont State University emeritus faculty member and advocate for international students Dr. Tulasi Joshi and his wife Marilyn have committed significant funds to the University to support recruitment of international students. Fairmont State University is recognizing their gift by naming its international student office the Tulasi and Marilyn Joshi Office for Educational Pathways for International Centers & Students.
“This gift from the Joshis will have a profound impact,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “Tulasi and Marilyn understand how energizing and mutually beneficial having a robust international student presence on campus can be. International students coming to Fairmont Sate will benefit from our close-knit Falcon Family and caring faculty, and our community profits from the global perspectives these students provide.”
Joshi said he hopes his gift will provide the chance for other international students like him to seek the dream of education and opportunity and provide the University with a broader global perspective.
“We live in the global environment,” Joshi said. “International students help us to be competitive in the global economy and help to enrich Fairmont State University, the community and our world understanding.”
“This is a remarkable gift that provides the University with funding to support the recruitment of students from across the world to study at Fairmont State,” said Julie Cryser, president of the Fairmont State Foundation. “These funds will ensure that Fairmont State remains a destination for those seeking an education from Fairmont to Kathmandu.”
Born in Tamakhani, Bajhang, a remote part of Nepal, Joshi completed his 10th grade education from Satyavadi High School of Bajhang.
“I grew up high on the mountain side where the house of my childhood still stands and still does not have a heating system or running water,” Joshi said. His family cooked over an open fire and under a thatched roof, and there was no indoor plumbing. “I played with rocks and sticks as toys.”
After his 10th grade school year, Joshi had to travel to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, to take the 10th grade board examination called the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) examination. It took 15 days to reach Kathmandu, 11 days on foot and four days by train and bus.
Joshi remembers the difficulty he experienced as he struggled to receive an education. Students had to write on the back of used paper and often utilized wooden boards to learn the alphabet. He copied entire textbooks by hand because there weren’t enough books for all students, and he studied at night by burning pine kindling for light.
Despite the hardships, Joshi and four other classmates became the first group from the Bajrang district to take the 10th grade board examination and pass in 1957. Joshi stayed in Kathmandu to further his education but struggled. A friend from his village helped him by providing him a place to live, and he managed without any funds.
“I would go to college after having the morning meal and come home in the evening. I would get hungry in the afternoon, but I did not have any money to buy a handful of soybeans, and I would drink some water,” he said.
Eventually Joshi received a master's degree in geography from Tribhuvan University of Nepal in 1963, and for his academic excellence, the King of Nepal awarded him a gold medal with a grand ceremony attended by cabinet ministers, academicians, literary figures and other distinguished guests.
He came to the United States to the University of Hawaii in 1964 under the East West Center Scholarship Program. He went on to earn a master’s from there in 1966 and earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972.
It was in 1972 that a professor recommended him for a job at Fairmont State University and he visited the campus and liked it. He worked for over 42 years as a professor of geography at Fairmont State University and is a life member and former treasurer of the Association of Nepalis in the Americas (ANA).
He has been championing the education cause to empower deserving Nepali students thereby meeting the educational mission of ANA. He established scholarship programs for needy students of Bajhang for their higher education in Nepal, and for Nepali students for their undergraduate studies at Fairmont State University. He was instrumental in the establishment of the International Scholarship Program and the ANA-Tulasi & Marilyn Joshi Scholarhsip Program at Fairmont State. About 50 students have benefited from these scholarship programs.
He also received the Cyrus R. Vance Award for International Education in West Virginia in 2003 among several other awards and recognitions, including honor and recognition from the United States president, Nepal’s president and the Association of American Geographers for his dedicated contributions to the field of geography.
Joshi met his wife, Marilyn, in Morgantown and they have been married for over 45 years. Mrs. Joshi is originally from Core, located about 20 miles north of Fairmont. She received her master's and bachelor's degrees from West Virginia University. She also has a certificate to teach gifted students. She is a retired teacher after teaching more than 30 years in the West Virginia school system.
“She has been a source of inspiration for my passion and undertaking the educational endeavors,” Joshi said.
Fairmont State University School of Nursing receives funding from Milan Puskar Foundation to provide care to local homeless population
The Fairmont State University School of Nursing received a $40,000 grant from the Milan Puskar Foundation to support nursing students who will provide clinics and COVID-19 health and safety kits for the homeless population in Marion and Harrison Counties.
“One of the major directives that Milan Puskar wished to address through the Milan Puskar Foundation is the growing issue of homelessness in West Virginia,” said Kyle Pratt, the foundation’s President. “The grant to the Nursing Homeless Outreach Program will help provide basic healthcare needs to the homeless and education to nursing students and RNs on how to better understand the challenges that such individuals face in order to improve the healthcare they receive.”
Fairmont State nursing students will provide services to homeless individuals in both Marion and Harrison Counties. Pratt said the Milan Puskar Foundation board members hope that the grant to Fairmont State University will result in significant personal connection and interaction with homeless individuals that improves their lives by helping to meet some basic healthcare needs.
“We also hope that the educational sessions for the nursing students and RNs that treat the homeless and provide awareness on COVID, including mask use and care, handwashing, and an array of other imperative information, will be valuable training that results in other meaningful and life-changing impacts,” Pratt said.
Pratt said the goals that Fairmont State University presented were thorough, measurable, and the Milan Puskar Foundation believes that this grant will assist the University in improving the lives of homeless individuals in the North Central West Virginia region.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to provide our students with a comprehensive nursing education while assisting those in need within our local communities,” said Laura Clayton, Fairmont State School of Nursing Dean. “This project will allow us to further serve our mission to improve the health of West Virginia and the global community through a commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching, scholarship and service.”
The Milan Puskar Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in West Virginia. This grant not only provides funding for the basic healthcare needs of the homeless in the region but also extends first-hand learning experience to existing and future healthcare workers to further improve such care.
The Milan Puskar Foundation believes this grant encapsulates the legacy of a man who worked tirelessly throughout his life to enrich the lives of countless individuals, including the homeless.
“Experiential learning is the hallmark of a Fairmont State education,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “This generous gift will not only give our students real-world opportunities to apply classroom knowledge, but it also gives them the chance to do what Fairmont State does best: Change lives. With the help of this grant, the Nursing Homeless Outreach Program will have an immeasurable impact on the lives of so many in our community.”
This gift was made through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.
Established in 1960, the Fairmont State Foundation identifies, establishes and cultivates meaningful relationships with Fairmont State alumni and friends to further the mission and purpose of Fairmont State University. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization guided by a board of directors to steward contributions from our donors and maximize the impact of financial support for the students, faculty and staff of the University. For more information about our organization and ways that you can provide support, visit www.fsufoundation.org or call 304.534.8786.
In 2016, a Philippi, WV, native and his wife established an endowed scholarship supporting education majors at Fairmont State University. The couple has recently arranged a planned gift as part of their estate plan and additional cash funds to further support aspiring teachers through the existing Dr. Bob and Susan Hawkins Endowed Scholarship.
Dr. and Mrs. Hawkins, now living in Virginia Beach, VA, are retired educators who are committed to the education profession and the support of future teachers. They have a strong desire to help students who are devoted to a teaching career but unable to afford a college education.
“College is much more expensive today than when Susan and I were undergraduate students,” said Dr. Hawkins. “I can’t stand the thought of a person who could become such a fine and caring classroom teacher as my wife being unable to get a degree because of finances.”
A planned gift, either through a will, making the foundation a beneficiary of an IRA or other retirement account, ensures that funds will be available even after the donor has died, said Fairmont State Foundation President Julie R. Cryser.
“To give not only additional funding but to ensure that the fund grows after they pass is generous, thoughtful and strategic,” Cryser said.
Dr. Hawkins, a Fairmont State University alumnus, began his career as an educator at Fairmont Senior High School before teaching at Hampton University in Hampton, VA., and as an adjunct professor at Virginia Wesleyan University. During most of his career, he served as an Education Specialist for the Department of Defense, Defense Acquisition University, serving as the Director of Faculty Professional Development designing curricula, conducting educator training, and designing and delivering management and executive level training programs and seminars.
He credits his success to his experience at Fairmont State. In particular, he remembers Dean George Turley, who was an advocate and mentor to Hawkins throughout his undergraduate experience. “I really did not realize what a quality education and preparation for life I received at Fairmont State until much later in my life,” he said.
Mrs. Hawkins’ introduction to Fairmont State came through Dr. Hawkins and especially by attending his annual Theta Xi Fraternity, Kappa Gamma Chapter Alumni Association events. Her college experience took place at larger institutions, including the University of North Carolina, and Virginia Tech, where the couple met when studying in the doctoral program together. She has been fascinated with the small and close-knit community that Fairmont State offers and the resulting connectedness on campus. For this reason, they chose together to support Fairmont State with their initial endowed scholarship in 2016. They consider Fairmont State University to be a place to belong, to be involved, to be connected, and to receive an excellent education.
“The heart of the Falcon Family knows no limits,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “By including Fairmont State in their estate planning, the Dr. Bob and Susan Hawkins Endowed Scholarship will inspire and support tomorrow’s educators for years and years to come. The Hawkins’ selfless generosity will have an immeasurable impact, as our students entire the education profession and make their own contributions.”
The Dr. Bob and Susan Hawkins Endowed Scholarship is available to Fairmont State University students who are West Virginia residents majoring in education.
This gift was made through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.
Fairmont State philanthropists, alumni and Harrison County natives, Rusty and Kimberly Hutson were honored during a press conference on Tuesday for a series of gifts totaling $500,000 to benefit the School of Nursing. The celebration included the unveiling of the newly named Rusty & Kimberly Hutson Family Nursing Simulation Laboratory.
“The Hutsons have demonstrated, once again, the true spirit of the Falcon Family, a spirit of generosity; a spirit of compassion” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “Their gift highlights the essence of their humanity and supports their desire to invest in the next generation of leaders. As alumni of Fairmont State, Rusty and Kimberly understand the importance of ‘passing it forward.’ Through the Hutson’s generosity, the University will be able to employ faculty to increase our Nursing program. Also, the Rusty and Kimberly Hutson Family Nursing Simulation Laboratory will prepare countless nursing students to achieve their dreams while having an immeasurable impact in their communities. The Falcon family is forever grateful to Rusty and Kimberly.”
The event recognized two separate gifts from the Hutson Family made to the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc. The first is a $200,000 gift to create the Rusty & Kimberly Hutson Family Fund for Nursing which was created to match a similar gift made by Mon Health this summer. The second gift of $300,000 is for the creation of the Rusty & Kimberly Hutson Nursing Discretionary Endowment. Both gifts will provide support to the School of Nursing with a goal of hiring additional faculty in order to increase student capacity and purchase equipment to continue training students at an elite level.
“Kimberly and I are thrilled to be investing in the Fairmont State Nursing program and giving back to another academic curriculum that is near and dear to our hearts. Kimberly graduated from the Nursing School and she knows first-hand the quality in the education she received and the opportunities it presented her. We see this as giving back once again to the institution that presented us with so many opportunities in life. With this financial support, we are excited about the increase in the number of nursing students that can be trained here at Fairmont State and are hopeful that they will stay in West Virginia and apply their skills to providing quality health care to our state’s most precious resource, it’s people.”
Fairmont State’s School of Nursing was recognized as the No. 1 nursing program in the state. Through leadership gifts like those from the Hutson Family, Fairmont State will increase student capacity to help fill a dire need within West Virginia to provide proficient and compassionate nurses to the field.
“The Hutson Family recognizes the need for more nurses in West Virginia and that these caregivers need to receive the best training possible,” said School of Nursing Dean Laura Clayton. “An old Chinese proverb says ‘Tell me and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.’ The use of simulation in nursing education allows nursing students to be actively involved in learning and develop their clinical decision-making skills.”
These contributions are the most recent in a series of gifts totaling nearly $1 million in support to Fairmont State. Previous gifts include the establishment the Rusty & Kimberly Hutson Family Endowed Scholarship for the benefit of School of Business and a multi-year commitment for scholarships from the Hutson’s business, Diversified Gas & Oil Co.
“We can’t thank the Hutsons enough for the support that they are providing to Fairmont State University through these generous gifts and their previous giving,” said Julie Cryser, Fairmont State Foundation president. “Because of the Hutsons’ most recent gift, Fairmont State will not only have additional funds for the next two years to support the expansion of its nursing program, but an endowment that will last in perpetuity and provide for the program long after we are all gone.”
The Hutsons give back to Fairmont State in many ways, including Rusty’s appointment to the University’s Board of Governors, where he serves as the vice chairman.
A 1991 accounting graduate and certified public accountant, Rusty spent 13 years working in the banking industry in Ohio and Alabama. In 2001, he founded Diversified Gas & Oil, where he serves as chief executive officer. The company began with the purchase of 40 wells in West Virginia and now operates throughout the Appalachian Basin.
Kimberly, a 1994 graduate of the nursing program, worked as a registered nurse before they settled in Birmingham, Alabama in 1999. After the move, she became a full-time mother to the couple’s four children. She serves as a mentor and example to many young mothers and she is passionate about realizing their true value in today’s society.
Fairmont native honored with scholarship for students pursuing a graduate degree in Healthcare Management
The daughter of a Fairmont native has established a scholarship in her mother’s name to benefit students pursuing a master’s degree in health care management.
Anne M. Schneider, M.D., has created the endowment in memory of her mother, honoring their shared interest in encouraging women to pursue medical and healthcare leadership careers. The Rosita Alvarez Schneider Scholarship for Healthcare Leadership will provide financial support for students enrolled in the Healthcare Management graduate program at Fairmont State University’s School of Business and Aviation, with a preference for assisting female students.
Rosita Alvarez Schneider was born in Fairmont, WV, to Spanish immigrants. After completing her high school education at Fairmont Senior High School, Mrs. Schneider left the Mountain State to pursue a healthcare focused education in Chicago, studying radiology technology at Illinois Masonic Hospital. Upon completion of her training, Mrs. Schneider started her career at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI. She served as an advocate for women seeking careers in healthcare until her passing in 2016.
“I feel this scholarship is a great fit for Mom,” Schneider said. “Among her highest ideals were education, women’s independence, health care, and generosity. She both valued and embodied them. I’m so glad to honor her this way.”
The Master of Science in Healthcare Management at Fairmont State is ideal for working professionals. In addition to being affordable, the program offers online coursework, mentorships, and a curriculum that emphasizes real-world application.
“I’ve designed the program to be accessible for the working professional who may not have time to otherwise participate in on-campus courses,” said Professor M. Raymond Alvarez, program coordinator for the MSHM and brother of the late Mrs. Schneider.
The Rosita Alvarez Schneider Scholarship for Healthcare Leadership will be awarded to two students with a preference for women. Students enrolled in their second term of study in the Healthcare Management program with a minimum GPA of 3.0 are eligible and the scholarship is renewable as long as a recipient remains in good academic standing.
This endowment was created through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.
The Mon Health Foundation has provided an unprecedented $400,000 investment to the Fairmont State University Nursing Program to be utilized to increase hiring capacity for faculty and adjunct staff with real-world experience. Combined with a $200,000 gift made in May 2019, and the value of student scholarships and clinical rotation oversight time committed through the recently announced Mon Health Scholars Program, Mon Health System has invested nearly $1 million in developing nursing students at Fairmont State University.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Mon Health Medical Center Foundation, I am proud to be able to provide such a wonderful investment in north central West Virginia,” said Luella Gunter, Executive Director of Philanthropy at Mon Health. “We recognize the importance of ensuring that West Virginia has excellent nurses in our hospitals and clinics. Our gift to Fairmont State University demonstrates our commitment to the future of healthcare in north central West Virginia.”
Fairmont State President Mirta M. Martin says the magnitude of this gift is only exceeded by the enormity of her gratitude and that of the entire Falcon Family. “We are so very grateful to the Mon Health Foundation, its officers and Mon Health System CEO David Goldberg. This is an extraordinarily generous series of gifts that has had and will have immeasurable impact not only on our academic programs but also on the region. Through this generosity, more students than ever before will receive an extraordinary education, graduate and transform healthcare in their communities.”
The United States is facing a nursing shortage, and north central West Virginia is no exception to this shortage. However, Mon Health System and Fairmont State University have partnered to address this challenge head-on.
“Nurses are in critical need throughout the United States and here in north central West Virginia,” said Dr. Krystal Atkinson, Mon Health System Chief Nursing Executive. “We are dedicated to investing in our future nurses and making sure that our best and brightest have the opportunity to stay in the region to work after graduation.”
Fairmont State Foundation President Julie Cryser recognizes the transformational investment Mon Health continues to make at Fairmont State. “While these investments will allow the University to grow its nursing program and provide well-trained, thoughtful nurses to the local and regional medical community, it’s also an investment in the future of Marion County and the region.”
Recently named a top nursing school by RNCareers.org, The Fairmont State University School of Nursing has long been an incubator of highly skilled healthcare professionals. The program’s graduates are well-trained, empathetic nurses and healthcare professionals who have a tremendous impact on their communities.
“Mon Health’s generosity has allowed us to expand enrollment in our nursing program by 23% over last year,” Fairmont State School of Nursing Dean Laura Clayton said. “This fall we admitted 32 students for the hybrid weekend program. In the Spring we will admit a second cohort of 32 LPN to ASN students who will complete their program in three semesters. Each year we turn away highly qualified LPN to ASN students due to limitations on the number of students we can admit. Admission of a second cohort of LPN to ASN students doubles the number of students that we can accept into that program track.”
The parents of a former Fairmont State University student who died last year have created, with the help of several other donors, a new scholarship to support students studying occupational safety and to honor their late son’s memory.
Ellen and Ronnie Shaffer topped off a scholarship fund raising effort to endow the Bradley Parker Shaffer Scholarship. The endowment will provide scholarships to Fairmont State University students studying occupational safety, preferably from Tucker County. If no student is eligible from Tucker County, first preference is for a student from West Virginia. Students must have a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average. The scholarship fund will provide about $1,000 annually for scholarships.
“We had life insurance money in place to repay any loans borrowed for his education, which we learned would be discharged due to his death,” said Ellen. “We felt the best thing to do was to give the money that would have been used to repay his loan to Fairmont State University to provide an opportunity for others to reach their goals. We could not think of a more fitting tribute to honor Bradley’s memory.”
Ellen described Bradley as a vibrant young man whose life was cut short at the age of 24. He was a graduate of Fairmont State University, class of 2018. He graduated with a bachelor’s in occupational safety and an associate’s in safety engineering technology and held the designation of a Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP).
“He had many talents, including intelligence, humor, compassion and adventure, but his greatest attribute was the gift of seeing what was in the heart of others and providing them with what they needed, whether that be attention, time, advice, understanding or acceptance,” Ellen said.
As a student in occupational safety, Bradley fulfilled an internship requirement under the direction of the Fairmont State Safety Manager Craig Crimm.
“He was an exceptional intern and was a tremendous help with the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) program on campus,” said Crimm. “ He was very detailed in his work and was always eager to learn more. You couldn’t ask more from an intern.”
When Bradley’s family notified Crimm of Bradley’s death, he initiated fund raising for a one-time scholarship in memory of Bradley.
“Our hearts were so touched by his act of thoughtfulness in honoring the memory of our son that we decided to pass along the opportunity to friends and family to contribute as well.”
After those contributions were made, the Shaffers added the additional funds required to permanently endow this scholarship. They also provided funding to allow the first scholarship to be given for the 2020-21 year.
“Because Bradley was unable to live out his passion for workplace safety, it was important to our family for Bradley’s vision to be extended to a student who also had the same desire,” Ellen said. “By establishing this scholarship, we hope to continue Bradley’s legacy of reaching out to care for others. Even though we lost our beautiful son, there can still be something positive to come from this. Hope for the future is given by sharing his legacy and his story.”
The Shaffers said they also want to thank those who contributed to Bradley’s scholarship fund.
“I extend to each of you a sincere ‘thank you’. Whether you gave $5 or $1,000, he would be so proud to know you thought enough of him to give to this fund to help his memory live on,” Ellen said.
“We are so appreciative of this gift to support occupational safety students,” said Julie R. Cryser, Fairmont State Foundation president. “Out of tragedy, the Shaffers and other donors have created a legacy for Bradley that will assist future students for years to come.”
Fairmont State offers both a two- and four-year degree in occupational safety.
The endowment was created through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.
Tyler Lucas is not your typical pilot. You’ll often find the Fairmont State University alum flying around the East Coast in a Lear Jet. Sometimes, he has corporate clients on board. Other times, he has organs – hearts, kidneys, lungs, livers – nestled safely on dry ice inside a Coleman brand cooler. That’s because he’s rushing the much-needed organs to help save the lives of sick patients at nearby hospitals.
“It’s just like flying any other passenger,” says the humble 25-year-old who still lives in Fairmont. “The most rewarding part of my current job is just knowing that people are receiving these organs that they waited on lists for. I have a hand in making sure that people are getting the healthcare they need, especially when there's something as important as internal organs.”
Lucas, a native West Virginian, always knew he wanted to be a pilot. He enrolled in Fairmont State’s Aviation Technology Program at just the right time, as there is a shortage of pilots in America. “The numbers are staggering,” says Jason Vosburgh, an assistant professor of Aviation Technology at Fairmont and chair of the department. “The last number I heard was around 800,000 – so there is an opportunity to fill this need.”
It’s a recent Sunday afternoon and Vosburgh is giving a tour of the school’s hangar near the North Central West Virginia Airport. The 48-year-old looks the part of a pilot straight out of central casting: a bomber jacket over a white shirt and striped tie, perfectly coiffed hair. He climbs into a twin-engine Piper Aztec, one of seven planes owned by the university, each one emblazoned with the Fairmont State University logo.
After around 10 hours of flight time, students are already getting the keys to fly these planes by themselves. “It’s fantastic seeing the families come from all the counties in West Virginia,” Vosburgh says. “You see Mom and Dad, their eyes sparkle when they know that their son or daughter are going to be flying a $400,000 airplane in the next few weeks. You have your dream and we can create the reality for that dream. We live vicariously through our students.”
Vosburgh moved from California six years ago because he saw something special in this part of Appalachia. “West Virginia is the aviation state,” he says matter-of-factly, noting that Chuck Yeager, a West Virginian, was the first pilot to break the sound barrier. “The personality of the people in West Virginia is self-determinative, confident, stand on your own two feet, self-sufficient. That is aviation culture. And the people here are some of the greatest pilots."
His goal is to help shepherd the department to the next level. “With aviation, you never arrive,” explains Vosburgh. “There’s always something more to learn. There’s another airplane, there’s another airport, there’s another complexity. There’s another level.”
For alumni like Lucas, the degree is their ticket to freedom. A career in aviation means you can be based anywhere. “It’s easy to commute when you’re going Mach .78,” Vosburgh says of the nearly 600 miles per hour speed. “You can fly anywhere in the country and you can live here in West Virginia. It’s like telecommuting, but we go really fast.” The aviation industry is desperate for pilots and, straight out of college, students can secure jobs earning upwards of $100,000 on the ground (airport management) or in the air (commercial pilot).
Asked what he would tell potential students considering a degree in aviation, Lucas is quick with a reply. “Do it and don’t look back because it’s the greatest career on the face of the planet,” he says. “I cannot stress how awesome this job is.”
A 1988 Fairmont State graduate honored his former advisor, professor, and mentor by establishing the Gary K. Bennett Scholarship for students who demonstrate outstanding promise in the field of accounting.
“Gary K. Bennett was my advisor at Fairmont State College (now University) and spent considerable time helping me fashion my schedule and adjust to attending college,” John L. Wilson said. “I took a large class load each semester, and Mr. Bennett helped tremendously in the process.”
Wilson, who lives just outside of Pittsburgh, says his business success and the establishment of this scholarship have been more about the people and the institution that helped him find his way. The endowment will assist junior accounting majors who have a 3.0 grade point average and is renewable for the senior year as long as the student maintains a 3.0.
“John Wilson’s generosity speaks volumes,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “His gift is a shining example of this university’s commitment to providing a transformational education. Our goal is to impact students so that they become citizens who impact their communities. John overcame obstacles, worked hard, leaned on and learned from our expert faculty-mentors, forged a path of success, and now he’s giving back to Fairmont State. He’s a true Falcon.”
Wilson is the fifth child in a family of 11. He grew up in Baltimore and Calhoun County, W.Va., where he graduated from Calhoun County High School in 1978. He left high school and went straight to work, spending several years working in the oil and gas industry as a liquid nitrogen fracking specialist.
In 1986, when Wilson was 26, the oil and gas industry began a steep decline, so he decided to go back to school and chose Fairmont State to study business. It was a great choice, he said.
“When my way of making a living ended abruptly, I was at a crossroads in life,” Wilson said. “Fairmont State and the good people that make the university took me in as part of its family and gave me the environment to work hard and learn.”
Professors like Bennett, Glenn Harman and Joan Lawrence played a tremendous role in helping him to succeed.
“Harman challenged me in the classroom and helped me to prepare for the CPA exam as I finished my college career at Fairmont State,” he said. “Lawrence assisted me in the classroom, as well as intervening to help with schedule conflicts.”
It took a combined effort for him to complete his four-year degree in just two years, graduating Summa Cum Laude. After graduation, the help didn’t end. Bennett recommended Wilson for a graduate assistant position at West Virginia University. Twelve months after graduating from Fairmont State, Wilson completed his master’s in accounting at WVU.
After earning his master’s Wilson worked for Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, a Big 8 accounting firm in Pittsburgh. Three years later he joined the corporate tax department of PNC Bank and completed his master’s of tax program at Robert Morris University.
After 13 years at PNC, in 2003, he started his own accounting practice, Wilson & Schmidt in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. In 2007, he co-founded and co-owned Cox Well Service, LLC (CWS) in Spencer, WV. In 2013, Wilson reorganized the accounting practice as Schmidt & Wilson, LLC, and his long-time associate, Laurie Schmidt, became the partner in charge.
Wilson currently shares his life with Lisa Rahuba. He is the father of four and has helped two of his own children as well as nieces, nephews and extended family attend college.
“I decided to sponsor a scholarship in Gary Bennett's name in recognition of his efforts to assist me on my journey through Fairmont State,” Wilson said. “Through this Scholarship, Gary Bennett’s efforts will help other students achieve their goals as well.”
Karen Poole flipped through her Fairmont State yearbook recently and realized how significant so many professors and friends who she met while attending college were to her success in life.
“Back then, I did not realize how important they were and that someday I would be in a position to give back in such a major way,” said Poole, who recently made Fairmont State University the beneficiary of 5 percent of the residuary of her estate to support the School of Education, Health & Human Performance.
Planned gifts, either through a bequest like Poole’s, making Fairmont State University the beneficiary of an IRA or life insurance policy or even creating an income producing charitable gift annuity help Fairmont State to plan for the future and supports growth.
“A great university is defined by more than a beautiful campus and excellent academic programs. Its most important asset is its people,” Dr. Mirta Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “Karen Poole’s generous gift is a testament to the fact that Fairmont State has long been home to dedicated teacher-mentors who have passionately educated generation after generation of Falcon alumni. And Karen herself is the perfect example of what we hope all our alumni can strive to become – service-minded, caring people who give back to their communities. Her gift will help us continue our tradition of educating civic-minded leaders of tomorrow”
Karen (Lucas) Poole grew up in Newell, WV, and graduated in 1965 from Oak Glen High School, located in the upper tip of the Northern Panhandle.
She had considered going to school closer to home but was afraid that she would be expected to be back home every weekend. Many of her friends chose to go to college in Morgantown, WV, but being a “small-town gal” she wanted a smaller school with a similar environment.
“I liked the community feel of ‘The College on the Hill’ and knew my innate fear of getting lost would not be a problem there,” she said. “I auditioned for and got a spot on the majorette squad of the Fighting Falcon Marching Band, so I packed my bags and headed to Fairmont.”
She started her education as a math major but soon realized that elementary education was a better fit. She lived all four years in Morrow Hall -- the first year as a freshman requirement and the next three years as a resident assistant.
Dr. Edmund E. Collins’ physical science class was her favorite, and he became her unofficial advisor.
“I still think that he was responsible for me being selected as Student Teacher of the Year in ‘69, and I know he was instrumental in getting me my first teaching job in Monongalia County,” she said.
She also has fond memories of Lawrence Wallman who taught speech and was feared by many students for his gruff approach.
“He forced me out of my public speaking fear and helped me develop a new sense of self-confidence,” she said.
The summer after graduating, Karen married William Poole, who still had a year left before graduating from West Virginia University.
“I was the bread-winner,” she said. “I began teaching second and third grades in Summers Elementary, a four-room school located on a mountain beyond Sabraton. The next summer Bill got drafted and joined the Army, so I returned home to teach in the elementary school I had attended, with many of the same teachers who had taught me!”
Karen joined Bill in Frankfurt, Germany, after a year and taught in the Department of Defense elementary school on base. The couple returned to the United States in 1973 and settled in Virginia, where she began an 18-year career of middle school teaching. During that time, she earned a master’s in secondary administration and supervision and soon accepted a position as a middle school assistant principal and finished out the remaining 12 years of her career.
The couple wanted to do something that will impact future generations and hopefully make the world a better place because they were once in it, she said. They have also been impressed with the expansion of programs and facilities at Fairmont over the years.
“Bill and I both grew up as the oldest child in small-town families with financial challenges and would have been unable to go to college without assistance from loans and scholarships,” she said. “Those small towns have not survived well, but because we had good educations, we were able to find employment and opportunities in other locations. We feel very blessed, and fortunate, that we were able to do so and want others to have the same opportunities.”
Poole’s gift was made through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the Fairmont State University.
The Fairmont State University School of Nursing has received $100,000 from grants and private funders to support the purchase of an advanced pediatric patient simulator that will provide its students with enhanced learning opportunities and realistic real-world experiences.
“In the acute care clinical environment we are not able to guarantee that all students can participate in the care of pediatric patients. Many times, if at all, students are frequently placed in the role of an observer,” said Laura Clayton, associate dean of the School of Nursing. “The use of simulated learning experiences will allow the students to assume the role of a registered nurse caring for pediatric clients, including those who are acutely ill.”
The Maier Foundation, Inc, through a $50,000 grant, along with the Carl DelSignore Foundation, through a $25,000 grant, and an individual anonymous funder provided the $100,000 needed to purchase the simulator.
“Our current pediatric simulator is over nine years old and provides limited learning opportunities for our students,” Clayton said. “At the time of its purchase, it was considered the state of the art; however, simulation manikins have progressed in the last couple of years.”
The pediatric simulator will be purchased after the new year and will be available for students by late spring.
“Fairmont State prides itself on the depth of experiential learning opportunities we offer,” said Fairmont State University President Mirta M. Martin. “The hands-on experience our nursing students will get by virtue of this generous gift will not only make them stronger, more well-prepared health care professionals, but it will also help set them apart from other job candidates upon graduation.”
The primary focus of the Maier Foundation, Inc. is on the furtherance of higher education in West Virginia and on the higher education of West Virginia residents attending colleges and universities elsewhere. In addition, the Foundation makes educationally-related distributions to cultural and other organizations in the Kanawha Valley.
“Our hope is that these funds will assist the School of Nursing as it upgrades its simulation laboratory to provide an enhanced learning experience for the students,” said Brad M. Rowe, president of the foundation.
The Carl Del Signore Foundation was created after the passing of Carl Del Signore in 1985. Del Signore was the son of Italian immigrants and hailed from Tucker County. He quit school in the tenth grade, fought in World War II on the USS Harder and later formed the Buffalo Coal Company, as well as many other companies.
“We are glad to be a partner with the School of Nursing in providing the best educational experience for their students,” said James L. Crickard, treasurer of the foundation.
The ASN program was established at Fairmont State University in 1964 and a RN-to-BSN program was added in 1989 and LPN-to ASN program began in 2009. For academic year 2018-19 there were 249 ASN students in the program (178 traditional program, 38 LPN-ASN, and 33 Weekend) and 150 RN-BSN students.
In May, Fairmont State University’s School of Nursing was ranked the No. 1 nursing school in the state by RNCareers.org, a team of nurse educators, nurse practitioners, RNs and LPNs who work to provide the information they wished to have when they started their nursing careers -- including credible nursing school rankings.
Also in May, Mon Health Medical Center signed a two-year agreement to provide $100,000 a year for two years to support new faculty positions at the assistant/associate professor rank, which will allow the university to increase the number of students taken into next year’s nursing program by eight and provide advising for nursing students.
Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (15%) than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). West Virginia’s average RN salary is around $58,000, nearly $15,000 more than the state’s median household income.
“In a state where jobs that offer good wages and benefits are hard to find; where the health care industry is growing; and where an aging and unhealthy population will require more care, nursing degrees offer part of the solution,” said Julie R. Cryser, president of the Fairmont State Foundation.
The use of simulation for clinical learning activities provides students with hands-on real-world opportunities that have been shown to enhance skill development in critical thinking decision-making, delegation, prioritization, collaboration and teamwork, thus allowing students to be immersed in the full scope of practice as a registered nurse.
Clarksburg-native Mary Ann Yambrick Sharp never attended Fairmont State University and was unable to become a registered nurse because her family could not afford college.
But thanks to Sharp and her daughter, Kristal Ayres, several nursing students from Harrison County pursing a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Fairmont State will be eligible for a nearly $5,000 scholarship to help them through their junior and senior years. The Sharp’s family created the Mary Ann Sharp Scholars fund to honor her and to help other disadvantaged, high potential students achieve their dream of a career in nursing.
Through the scholarship, four juniors and two seniors from Harrison County will be eligible for the scholarship in fall 2020, and the same four juniors will receive the scholarship as seniors in fall 2021.
“A great education that leads directly to lifelong career opportunities is the ultimate gift,” Ayres said. “We hope that the recipients, when they have the opportunity, will ‘pay our gift forward’ to others in need.”
Sharp, the only daughter of a coal miner, attended Victory High School and dreamed of enrolling at Fairmont State University but couldn’t. As a 5-foot, 95-pound adult without a college education, she knew she would have to be more determined, more creative and have higher energy than her peers to avoid being underestimated and overlooked.
All those qualities were essential when, as a young mother of two, she revisited the idea of a nursing career—but with a twist. Sharp and her husband started a temporary placement agency for nurses which combined her husband’s expertise in the temporary help industry with her passion for nursing.
Starting with just a home office, they launched S.R.T. Medstaff in the Baltimore/Washington market. The directors of nursing at several area hospitals were reluctant to give her a chance until she promised “never to disappoint.” Nurses were thrilled to choose their own schedule and make more per hour, so they recruited their friends. At a time where there were no cell phones or internet, determination, perseverance and tenacity turned her dream into reality.
S.R.T. Medstaff became one of the largest temporary help agencies for nurses in the United States. It attracted the attention of a publicly traded company, and Sharp sold the business.
“Mary Ann Sharp’s story is truly inspirational, and we are forever grateful to her and Kristal for making the dream of a university education and a lifelong career in nursing a reality for Harrison County students,” said Julie R. Cryser, Fairmont State Foundation president.
Sharp retired to Florida to enjoy being with her children and grandchildren, as well as playing tennis and golf. She visited Clarksburg regularly over the years, has wonderful friends there, loves pepperoni rolls from Tomaro’s bakery, and knows that Ritzy Lunch has the best hot dogs.
Sharp was diagnosed with a terminal disease several years ago, but Ayres has continued and pursued her philanthropic interests.
“Everyone has to make their own choices with regard to charitable giving, but helping a talented young person receive a superior education is a gift that lasts a lifetime,” Ayres said. “Education is truly the gift that keeps on giving.”
Kristal is married to Jon Ayres and has two children, ages 23 and 21. Kristal is passionate about education, holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership, and leads a client success team as the chief services officer with BrightBytes, a research-based educational technology company.
Her husband has been in the field of education for more than 25 years and has been a high school and college baseball coach for 30 years. Kristal’s oldest child, Thomas Ayres, earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice and is currently a police officer in Marietta, GA. Saira Ayres is 21 years old and is finishing her senior year at Florida Gulf Coast University studying Psychology.
A Fairmont native and his family hope that through their newly established scholarship, West Virginia students who wish to pursue an education at Fairmont State will achieve their academic and life goals.
“We want to help provide assistance to West Virginia students to avail themselves of the many opportunities that a Fairmont State University education can provide,” said Dr. Errol Reese, who received his bachelor’s degree from Fairmont State in 1960 and his doctorate of dentistry from West Virginia University in 1963.
The Dr. Edgar B. Reese and Elizabeth Reese Scholarship, named for his parents, will provide scholarships to students from West Virginia, with first preference to those with financial need. The first scholarship will be awarded in fall 2020.
“We wanted to honor our parents in a way they would be proud of and consistent with their values,” Reese said.
“Our parents provided me, my brother Charles L. Reese, and my sisters Emmajo Reese Shearer and Jane Reese Oreskovich, who all attended Fairmont State, with endless support and encouragement --simply excellent parents and role models,” Reese said. All four siblings agreed to establishing the scholarship endowment to honor their parents.
Reese’s parents were active in the Fairmont community and his father dedicated his life as a local dentist.
“He and our mother were pillars of the community, always assisting in the schools and local organizations to make Fairmont a better place,” he said.
“Our student population has a higher percentage of native West Virginians than any other school in the state,” Fairmont State University Dr. Mirta M. Martin said. “So, a scholarship like this that enables West Virginian students – with a priority on those with financial need – to pursue their dreams is particularly impactful. In establishing the Dr. Edgar B. Reese and Elizabeth Reese Scholarship, the Reese family said they wanted to honor their parents and make them proud. Fairmont State is committed to making this family proud they’ve honored us and entrusted us with this generous gift.”
Reese began his higher education career at Fairmont State just one week after graduating from East Fairmont High School. His goal was to complete the combined bachelor’s degree program in two regular academic years plus five summer sessions, to help lower the costs for attending college for his parents.
“It was challenging to schedule subjects and prerequisites in proper sequence with the intent of entering dental school before I graduated from Fairmont State,” he said. “Every advisor, department chair and faculty member provided total assistance and supported the attainment of my goals. My educational and life experiences at Fairmont State University and WVU helped me achieve the successes in my long career in dentistry, dental education and university administration.”
Reese started his career in the United States Army Dental Corps. His career took off after serving his country and earning a master’s degree and specialty training in prosthodontics at the University of Detroit. He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland at Baltimore and spent decades in academia as a professor and dean. He ended his career in higher education in the United States as the president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1994 but then worked with the World Health Organization and served as a Visiting Professor at the University of Dublin, Trinity College, in Ireland.
Among some of his greatest accomplishments, Reese was a founding member of the Faculty Dental Service Plan, an incorporated intramural group faculty practice plan at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, where he practiced Prosthodontics from 1968 to 1990. He was also a member of a World Health Organization Expert Panel and assisted in the development of an intra-country education center in Thailand.
He has received many honors, including the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, the J. Ben Robinson Memorial Award presented by the American college of Dentists (Maryland Section), and the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Maryland State Dental Association. He also received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Detroit Mercy.
“There is no greater legacy for our family than assistance to future FSU students,” Reese said. “Just reflect on what FSU has meant and continues to mean to the Reese family."
Fairmont State University professor Dr. John McLaughlin is working to help police officers looking to attend college by creating the Dr. John E. McLaughlin Police Scholarship.
McLaughlin, a criminal justice professor, grew up in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where he started his career in law enforcement after receiving his bachelor’s degree. After 26 years, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees, he retired as a lieutenant in the economic crime bureau heading up the Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
Inspired by the program in Miami-Dade County that allowed him to earn his degree, McLaughlin decided it was time to create a similar program at Fairmont State University. The scholarship will provide funding starting in fall 2020 for students who have worked at least two years as a city, county or state police officer to attend Fairmont State either part-time or full-time.
“I decided to donate to the Fairmont State Foundation after seeing a need in the policing community. This allows officers to get their education and become better officers,” McLaughlin said. "Many of the local departments do not offer tuition reimbursement."
Fairmont State Foundation President Julie R. Cryser said law enforcement is such a noble profession. Having a scholarship that will allow those in the profession to further their education is a great resource.
“We are so appreciative for the support that Dr. McLaughlin is providing for local police officers to ensure they are able to continue their education,” she said. “We hope that others will join in this worthy effort to help our city, county and state police become even better educated.”
Fairmont State University President Dr. Mirta Martin said a chance to help others continue their education is an incredible gift.
“Our nation’s police officers are professionals who selflessly protect our communities each and every day,” Martin said. “They deserve the best our communities can offer in return, and via the Dr. John E. McLaughlin Police Scholarship, worthy law enforcement professionals will have the chance to further their education at Fairmont State – a school that truly appreciates their service.”
McLaughlin completed his master’s at Florida International University, where he began teaching part-time after he finished, and doctorate at Lynn University.
“Miami-Dade had a program where they provided tuition reimbursement for all employees. After you completed each course, they would reimburse you 50 percent of your tuition,” he said. “For that reason, I started taking graduate classes and got into a routine and did not stop until I got my master’s and doctorate. I was working two jobs while earning my doctorate. I used the money that I received from teaching and the reimbursements to pay for my education, so I did not have to take out loans.”
In 2013, he came to Fairmont State University as a professor in the Criminal Justice Program, teaching police operations, criminal investigations, crime scene investigations, Spanish for law enforcement, terrorism, advanced criminal law and homeland security.
He also serves, for the past two years, at the Rivesville Police Department and is currently the police chief.
“Being a police officer is an enormously rewarding career when you get to help people stay on track and not let them go down the wrong path in life,” he said. “I also really like chasing and recovering stolen cars.”
McLaughlin said that he would encourage others who can to give to support scholarships for law enforcement.
Barry Baisden, 1981 Fairmont State University graduate with a degree in Occupational Safety, recently funded the Sam Baisden Scholarship in Occupational Safety to honor his son, who died in a tragic accident in 2018.
Baisden went on to a successful career with ExxonMobil, retiring in 2017 as the refining safety, security, health and environment manager.
“The education I received at Fairmont State University provided the foundation for a career where I experienced and achieved more than I ever dreamed possible,” said Baisden, who now resides in Kingwood, Texas. “The oil refining and chemical manufacturing industries I worked in have made significant improvements in worker health and safety through the years. I was blessed to have a career where I could be part of that.”
The endowed scholarship, the first for the occupational safety program, will be for a full-time Fairmont State University student majoring in Occupational Safety with a 2.75 grade point average. The scholarship will be renewable if the student maintains a 2.75 GPA. It will be awarded for the first time for the fall 2020 semester. The $30,000 scholarship fund will provide about $1,000 annually for scholarships.
“Sam was a generous and caring young man and a wonderful son. We wanted to establish this scholarship to honor his life and legacy and to help young men and women get the education they desire,” Baisden said.
Having seen first-hand the devastating impact that industrial accidents can have on families, Baisden is excited to help develop more occupational and safety professionals to support further improvements in the workplace and worker safety.
“We are so appreciative of this gift to support occupational safety students,” Julie R. Cryser, Fairmont State Foundation president, said. “Our occupational safety majors are protecting workers throughout the region, state, nation and world, ensuring they go home each night with their families. That’s an important and noble profession.”
Fairmont State’s Occupational Safety program is accredited by the Applied Science Accreditation Commission. The curriculum teaches safety and environmental composition of industry, safety management and concepts in accident prevention, safety law and compliance, construction safety law, industrial hygiene and toxicology and fire prevention.
“Barry Baisden’s gift is not only generous, but it’s also a reminder that scholarships like the one offered in Sam Baisden’s memory aren’t just about providing money, though that’s certainly important,” Fairmont State University President Mirta M. Martin said. “These scholarships serve as a long-lasting reminder of the impact one person can have on a school and on a community. The ripple effect of opportunity provided in Sam’s memory will last for generations.”
Fairmont State offers both a two- and four-year degree in occupational safety.
“Our students are leading efforts for public and workplace safety,” said Steven Roof, interim dean of the College of Science and Technology. “We can’t thank Mr. Baisden enough for the support that he is providing to our students.”