Celebrating West Virginia University’s birth

When students arrived at the Agricultural College of West Virginia 150 years ago, they could never have imagined what would become of their brand new school, in a new state, in a newly reunited nation. Certainly when I arrived at West Virginia University (the school was renamed in 1868) more than 125 years later, I had not yet imagined what would become of me.

As the newsroom worked over the past couple of weeks to put together material for a publication celebrating WVU’s 150th anniversary, I had an opportunity to learn volumes about my alma mater. Every little tidbit touched a memory; and I realized just how great a role my time in Morgantown played in what and where I am today. The same can likely be said by hundreds of thousands of alumni around the world.

Maybe that’s why, on fall football Saturdays, you can find so many people wearing shirts that say things like “Forever a Mountaineer,” or “Take Me Home” accompanied by the Flying WV or The Mountaineer statue.

If home is where the heart is, then for most alumni there is still a piece of their hearts in Morgantown, and they are happy to take whatever country road will get them there.

Why? Oh, the answer is different for everyone. At WVU we had a chance to be part of an institution doing great things — in teaching us all, in healthcare, in athletics, in engineering. Imagine the surprise for the folks at Volkswagen when a group of researchers for the flagship university of a state built on coal called them out for fudging their environmental data a couple of years ago.

There were opportunities to be great, ourselves — opportunities to become outstanding individuals. But there was also a community unlike any we had been part of before or since. Sure, that community has a mixed reputation — a little couch-burning, No. 1 party school; a little 25 Rhodes Scholars, ten governors, 110 patents; and a dash of The Pride of West Virginia. But it is our community.

Go anywhere in the world wearing an Old Gold and Blue shirt, and if a fellow Mountaineer spots you, he or she will smile, nod, and maybe even shout “Let’s Go!” expecting a hearty “Mountaineers!” in return. When you identify yourself as a Mountaineer, your fellow alumni know something about who you are. Maybe just a little something, but something.

And then, as Jerry West said in an interview with one of our reporters, “There’s something about the university that I think represents the best of the state.”

West, who most certainly could not have imagined the life before him when he arrived in Morgantown in the 1950s, said despite all he has accomplished, all he he has been able to do and be, “first and foremost, I’m a product of West Virginia.” This is a man whose talent and time at WVU propelled him to such heights that he became the logo for the sport in which he excelled. Though he could live where ever he wished, West comes home, for at least a few months, every year; because he, like the rest of us, is forever a Mountaineer.

So I want to join the chorus of folks wishing a happy 150th anniversary to my alma mater — the place where many of my friendships were born, where my career began, and to which I am lucky enough to be able to return a few times a year to recharge.

Hail, West Virginia!

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com