PARKERSBURG - West Virginia University at Parkersburg today will celebrate its 1961 beginnings as a branch college.
Fifty years ago today, the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation allowing the creation of "community branch colleges" in West Virginia and making it possible for West Virginia University to establish a branch in Parkersburg.
House Bill 189 outlined provisions for two-year branches of state-supported institutions of higher education. Signed by the late Gov. Wallace Barron, the bill went into effect 90 days from its passage on March 3, 1961.
The Parkersburg Branch of West Virginia University opened in September 1961 with 104 students. It was located in an abandoned elementary school, provided by Wood County Schools, on Emerson Avenue, Parkersburg, the location of the current Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library. The late Dr. Todd Bullard served as its director from 1961 to 1963.
"We are so very proud to celebrate 50 years of providing higher education in the Mid-Ohio Valley," WVU Parkersburg President Marie Foster Gnage said.
"It is indeed a milestone with many stepping stones, including our beginnings as a branch campus of WVU," she added.
A 10 a.m. today campus brunch is planned to celebrate WVU Parkersburg's beginnings. Billy L. Coffindaffer, the college's second director from 1963-68, will be in attendance. The college's name changed to West Virginia University-Parkersburg Center in 1963.
Also, in conjunction with the celebration, WVU Parkersburg will recognize J. Frank Deem for his contributions in making it possible for the college to feature a clock tower as part of its recently completed student plaza.
WVU Parkersburg is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a series of events and activities. The college began as a branch of WVU in 1961, became Parkersburg Community College in 1971 and was redesignated WVU Parkersburg in 1989. It has grown to be the fourth largest public college in West Virginia.