The community of Fairmont State University, and greater Marion County, fostered Elliott’s career as a student-athlete, local high school coach, coach at Fairmont State, and Fairmont State’s Director of Athletics for 27 years. With the love and support of the community shown to Elliott and his family, it was the ability to reciprocate the support to future Fighting Falcons that inspired the creation of the scholarship.
“I loved every minute of it. It was an opportunity for me to fall in love with the school even more after all of those years,” said Elliott. “Mary Jo and I wanted to give back to help students graduate and better their lives, because Fairmont State bettered my life. It made me a better person and helped me provide for my family.”
“With the rising costs of higher education combined with the desire to field competitive athletic teams, athletic scholarships are vital to the success of the teams and ultimately the success of the student-athletes at Fairmont State,” said Greg Bamberger, current Director of Athletics.
“The passion that Rusty and Mary Jo have for students’ success is nothing short of inspirational,” said Rachel Rae Dyer, President of the Fairmont State Foundation. “Fairmont State University student-athletes can learn a great deal about leadership, commitment, and teamwork, as they represent the University in their chosen sport. As Rusty demonstrated throughout his life and career, these experiences will guide Fairmont State student-athletes as they complete their degrees and embark on their professional and personal journeys in West Virginia and beyond. Through this gift, the Elliotts are continuing their legacy of leadership in the Falcon Community. We have a deep gratitude for their continued generosity, and we appreciate their continued commitment to Fairmont State University.”
The Mary Jo and Coach Rusty Elliott Endowed Athletic Scholarship will be available for full-time undergraduate student-athletes in a Fairmont State University Athletics program. Students must be a Junior or Senior, and a graduate of a Marion County, West Virginia High School.
Two Fairmont State alumni will continue to support a scholarship for football players over the next five years.
Jim Ashton, a general partner for NewSpring Capital, a Philadelphia-based private equity firm, and his wife, Debbie (Turney), have committed to continuing the Jim & Debbie Ashton Football Scholarship. The annual impact scholarship supports freshmen football players from Western Pennsylvania who are majoring in business, computer science, engineering, entrepreneurship or information systems.
“The support of Jim and Debbie Ashton will have immeasurable impact,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “Our student athletes work hard, and the Jim & Debbie Ashton Football Scholarship rewards them for them for their diligence and passion, both on the field and in the classroom. This gift is also a reminder of the kind of people that make up our Falcon Family – alumni like the Ashtons who not only remember their precious years here on our cozy hilltop campus, but who also feel a responsibility to give back and lift up another generation of Falcons.”
“Debbie and I both enjoyed our time at Fairmont State University and have always looked for ways to give back,” Jim said. “I was once a recipient of a football scholarship and know how important it was for me at the time.”
Ashton said the couple strongly encourages giving to support Fairmont State students and believe it is especially important to give back when times are tough.
“There have been many successful graduates of Fairmont State,” Jim said. “Many live in different parts of the country now, but their journey started at the beautiful campus on the hill.”
Jim and Debbie both graduated in 1980 with business degrees, which he said was key to obtaining their first jobs out of college.
“We were able to draw upon lessons learned in the classroom and apply them to the real world,” Jim said.
Debbie grew up in Fairmont, not far from campus. Jim grew up in Brownsville, a coal mining town in Western Pennsylvania.
“I thought it was a beautiful campus and was excited to continue my athletic career with the football team,” Jim said. “After a few seasons, our class won the conference championship in my senior year.”
Coach Dave Ritchie was an early mentor for Jim both on and off the field. In the fall of 2019, Jim was able to visit with Ritchie during a 40th reunion of the 1979 conference championship team.
“Other than meeting each other, we both made lifelong friends that we met at Fairmont State University,” Jim said.
“We are so honored that Jim and Debbie have decided to continue their support of our Fairmont State football program and our exceptional student athletes,” said Fairmont State Foundation President Julie Cryser.