OVU community celebrates Sturm’s retirement

PARKERSBURG – About 100 members of the Ohio Valley University community gathered to celebrate the retirement of a lifelong professor.

Philip Sturm has spent the past 44 years as a history professor with the Christian-based university and will no longer teach with the end of this spring semester.

“Philip Sturm is a wonderful man who has a remarkable legacy of teaching and as a historian – not only at Ohio Valley University, but also the Wood County and Mid-Ohio Valley community,” said Marty Davis, marketing director with OVU.

Not only has Sturm been a teacher for 50 years – 44 years at the university and the first six within the local community – but is also listed as the first student enrolled at the school. Sturm was the first person to sign on as a student at the then-new Ohio Valley College in 1960, which was located in an abandoned church in south Parkersburg, Davis said.

“It’s not often a university has a professor who is also their first student,” said OVU president Harold Shank. “The remarkable influence this man has had on this college, his friends and thousands of students is limitless.”

During Saturday’s program, Sturm was recognized by Shank as well as fellow early OVU students John Gill and Jon Ashby and his own daughter, Leslie Fossey.

“I am totally overwhelmed seeing so many people here to celebrate the next phase of my life,” Sturm said. “This is a wonderful beginning.”

Sturm said his signing to take classes at Ohio Valley College was a sign from God.

“It was a God thing,” he said. “I had planned to go to another college and God let me know He had a different plan for my life.”

In the five decades since, Sturm has become a well-respected teacher and historian, having written a number of books about the history of Wood County. Sturm was named the 2000 West Virginia History Professor of the Year as well as chosen as teacher of the year six times by the students of OVU.

“I have had a lot of people ask me what my plans are for retirement and they suggest I write more books, but I have no plans to write,” Sturm said. “I do plan to spend more time with my wife and family. I have a big family and plan to be with them.”

Sturm received a number of gifts from the university, which included a photo of him teaching with his favorite Bible verse printed over the chalkboard and another photo of him with notes of thanks written around it by those who attended the celebration.

OVU also used Saturday’s party as a 50th anniversary class reunion for the first students to get together and reminisce.