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The Glenville Democrat
Glenville, West Virginia
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March 12, 2009     The Glenville Democrat
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March 12, 2009
 

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B: Life-styles  The Gilmer News Scene & Social Scenes The Glenville Democrat Dr. S im m o n s urge s, 'Don't Be Left Behind. t ,e i;une .5,hNUr ,her 11 lenlie,iir  GVir:aifl:'N:W:I''Tm Volume 105, Number 11 GlenvUle, West Vir inia 263 www.GlenvilleNews.com Thurs., Mar. 12, 200 By William K Simmons, Cox's Mills &former GSC president In recent months, many people from Gilmer County and other communi- ties from Central West Virginia have stopped to talk with me at Walmart, Meadowbrook Mall, Towne Center and on the streets of Glenville and Weston about concerns they have for the future of Central West Virginia. Specifcally,. they point out that the promised economic prosperity that the federal prison would bring has not materialized, and they express the con- cern that Glenville State College has been isolated from its traditional ser- vice areas in Lewis, Braxton and Nicholas Counties. Except for a few short years in graduate school and public school teaching in Jefferson and Wood Coun- ties, I have spent my entire life in Gilmer County. While I have had many wonderful professional experi- ences elsewhere, my greatest satis- faction was teaching students and lead- ing Glenville State College to its his- torically highest enrollment level. Many changes have taken place in this area since 1939 when I was born on Flat Run of Leading Creek, both culturally and economically. The glass factories are no longer, Coal has come and gone, farming has changed and many families have moved to other places over several decades. Two en- tities, however, have remained as stable economic hubs for our county: the oil and gas industry and Glenville State College. The health of both are imperative in 2009 and the years ahead. My professional life was devoted to keeping Glenville State College healthy and. viable in fulfilling its mission of service in higher educa- tion to Central West Virginia. When I retired from the presidency in 1998, the college was active in its seven- county service area, with centers in Lewis, Braxton and Nicholas Coun- ties. The college had an enrollment of nearly 2,500 students, was well ac- credited and had a budget reserve of more than three million dollars. The college was charged with meeting the needs of Central West Virginia with a quality education at an affordable cost. Students today struggle with attempts to balance going to college with fam- ily obligations and jobs. Going away to school is not an option for many. In light of recent news events in the state, I am concerned about the cur- rent condition of higher education in West Virginia in general. A college or university is a very complex and very complicated business. Running one requires a knowledge of the culture of an academic community. Students, faculty, classified staff, the general public, state and local politics all come into play. However, at the heart of it all, good sound academic programs, well-qualified faculty and up-to-date curricula offered in an atmosphere of integrity and purpose makes a college or university. Schools are for stu- dents, are established for the public social good and should grow from the inside and not from external struc- tures: Glenville State College's future is most important for the health of Gilmer County and for Central West Vir- ginia. It is not only the most stable economic engine for the area, but its contribution to providing an educated populace is essential to the over-all quality of life. Without major indus- try and a good nearby transportation artery, the challenges are great. Elmer Keith was an old Idaho cow- boy who lived the real cowboy life. In order to illustrate the difference be- tween real cowboys and Saturday night cowboys, he wrote a book in the 1950s entitled, Hell I Was There. Like Elmer Keith, I was there in West Virginia higher education. Currently, I am a Mountain Stae Professor of English and a member of the graduate faculty at Marshall University. In addition to being a full professor, I served as President of Glenville State College for 21 years. For many years, I served as Chairman of the Council of Public College and University Presidents. I have also served as Act- ing Chancellor and as Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents. I still read French, German, Anglo' Saxon, Old Norse and Middle En- glish. People in higher education in West Virginia frequently consult with me on educational matters. Recently, Dr. James W. Rowley, former president and chancellor, and I met with Gover- nor Manchin, the Chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commis- sion and the Secretary for Education and the Arts on someimportant issues regarding higher education. Yes, I have been there. Since I am in a position to Enow a good number of facts concerning higher education, I have been asked many questions about certain public claims that have been made in recent years, with regard to higher ducation issues. Some questions have to do with WVU, WVUP, Potomac State, Bluefield State, and the Osteopathic School of Medicine. There are, how- ever, some local issues that have raised questions. While I have no purpose to go into detail concerning all the issues that have been raised, there are at least two items that need clarification. Since I was there and know the facts and the documentation, I can address the is- sues in question. First, there have been a number of erroneous claims for the construction of the Music and Art building On the campus of Glenville State College. The building was dedicated on Sep- tember 17, 1990, in apublic ceremony where a number of dignitaries spoke about the development of the project. The building came about as the result of the college's having inad- equate facili- ties for art, music and - business. As President, I proposed a new facility to house these pro- grams to the West Vir- ginia Board of Regents at a level of $4.5 million for inclusion in a general capital bonding program. At a Monday morning board meeting on Kanawha Boulevard in Charles- ton, I was informed that "my" build- ing had been eliminated from the bonding program. I protested, and after lunch, William Watson, Board Chair, asked me to explain to the board what impact this decision would have on the campus at Glenville. At 1:00, I stood up to speak on the mat- ter. At 3:00, I sat down, and the Art and Music Building was back in the bonding program at a level of $2.5 million. Business had to be elimi- nated and other arrangements made. The West Virginia Board of Regents were very supportive of the need for this facility for the educational pro- gram, for the cultural advantage for the community of Glenville and for the Central area of the state. While under construction, a giant sink hole developed on the site. The Bbard pro- vided an additional $400,000 from its contingency fund to fill the sink hole. Today, the Building stands as a real- ization to be enjoyed by students, faculty and townspeople. If one has any question about who "got" this wonderful facility, the bronze plaques peace around this troubled world and violent Middle East! at the entrance should answer those questions. Secondly, I have heard from differ- ent sources that the three natural gas wells that were drilled on the campus at Glenville while I was. President were "donated" to the college. Again, I was there, and I know the entire history, which also has a clear paper trail. I.L. Morris and I had a discus- sion one day about the possibility of the college drilling a gas well. A pri- vate school in the state had already done so. Glenville State owned the royalty under its property and would re- ceive the rev- enue from the well. Since the college needed the money and the potential for a well was good, we decided to pursue it. I put together a proposal to drill a gas well and submitted it to the State Board of Regents for approval. On a Sunday afternoon at a Regent's meet- ing in Charleston, the proposal came up for discussion. Some members of the Board laughed and said the idea was crazy. What if we drilled a well and got a dry hole? Mr. Russell Isaacs was chairing the meeting, and when things settled down, he asked me to explain what we wanted to do. I did explain and at the conclusion of the meeting, we had permission to drill gas well number one. In accordance with established lrocedure, the project was put out to bid with the low bid to be selected. I.L. Morris had the win- ning bid, was selected, drilled the well and was paid $200,669.00 for the construction project. Gas wells num- bier two and three were-also bid, con- structed and paid for by the same process. Gas well number two cost $185,400.00 and gas well number three on the main campus cost $234,440.00. Payment was made from the State of West Virginia Board of Regents account. While the college was happy that a local contractor got the contracts, there was no donation, as documentation will show. The savings to Glenville State from these three gas wells wer e significant. Gas well number one paid the lease for a new facility to house the Nicho- las County campus of Glenville State College. The lease payment was $50,000 per year, and gas well num- ber one more than met this amount. The future ahead poses many chal- lenges, and it will take a concerted effort to meet them. All of the restau- rants, clothing stores, hotels, motels, Walmarts and Kmarts that we were discussing as we anticipated the new prison have not materialized. I was told to prepare for 5,000 students at GSC. This has not happened. The College did, however, have nearly 1,000 students in Nicholas County The first year that we opened in ten years ago, and projections were Summersville there were 300 students enrolled. By the time I retired in 1998, Glenville had nearly 1,000 students enrolled in Nicholas County. We took a natural resource and converted it into a human resource. There would be no way of measuring the value to people whose lives were made richer because Ike Morris and Bill Simmons drilled a gas well. I have had the pleasure of teaching many students there, from freshman English through graduate degrees. Without the Nicho- las County Center of Glenville State College, many would never have been able to go to college. By 1992, the three gas wells had made a savings of $653,835. From 1992 through 1998, the college paid little or no gas bill, which translated into a $300-400,000 per year savings. The idea may have been crazy, but the benefits were good. People are always free to make whatever claims that they wish, but history is hard,to change. The people of Glenville and Gilmer County are polite, but they are also well-informed and know the difference between claims and facts, it is my belief that individuals who take positions of pub- lic service and public trust have a moral obligation to place the public good ahead of their own personal ambitions. for 2,000 students by 2010. That is history now. To date, I have not heard anyone come forth to claim credit for the loss of the Nicholas County Cam- pus, with its enrollment potential and its historic support for Gtenville State college. I am a firm believer that people control much of their own destiny. When change is needed, it is incum- bent upon us to take the initiative. At age 70, I am not working with my graduate students for any selfish rea- sons. Schools are for students, and any student who wants to improve his life and become a better citizen de- serves our time, if we can give it. When we forget the purpose of our schools, they gravitate toward becom- ing social clubs or political destina- tions where academic integrity and professionalism get lost. Whether it is Glenville Or WVU or Marshall or Fairmont, the current chal- lenge is to move beyond politics and economic struggles to a rediscovery of teaching and learning, with a focus on an educated populace that is inno- vative, forward-looking and respon- sible. The challenges are not limited to the central section of our state, but we must do our share to see that our part of the world is not left behind. Thank you for allowing me the op- portunity to give some views from an old professor. :i:i: GSC FINE ARTS BUILDING CONSTRUCTED UNDER DR. SIMMONS I 'New Deal' at 'History Day at the West Virginia State Legislature The CCC Museum at Quiet Dell Eleanor Roosevelt lte.enactor = i i;!!iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!i!iiiiiiiiiiiii!iiiii!iiiiiiiiiiiiiii!{iiiiiiiiiiii{iiiiii!iiiiiiiiiiii I i 00!/12!00.iiiiii?00i0000iiiiiiiiii!00'ii00  i iiiii ii )ii ?ii !iii!ili:i!ilililili!iiiiii!ii!!!ili!i!i!ili!i!i!ii!!iii!iiii)!:::::::::::k '1 ADVOCATES FOR THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS MUSEUM -- At Quiet Dell, just south of Clarksburg at the Stonewood exit, is a very colorful museum, documenting the workers, activities and accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps in West Virginia. During the 19.30s and early 1940s, the "CCC," as it was called, put young people to work during Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and they constructed roads, bridges, state park and forest improvements, sidewalks in Glenville, among other bricks 'n' mortar projects. Trying to keep their "can-do spirit" alive in spite of today's economic depression is the Board of Directors of the CCC Museum at Quiet Dell, including Howard Benedum (I-r), of Clarksburg, and Patrick Corcoran, a Charleston resident and Glenville State College history graduate. Howard comments, "1 wasn't in it, but my brother-in-law was, I admire the CCC workers; they worked hard for their government money and earned it. It wasn't just a big government give-away program as it is today." The CCC Museum is located in the Old Quiet Dell School which is located just to the right after exiting 1- 79. The school also houses a crafts shop, which is open Monday-Saturday. Moreover, the CCC Exhibit was very popular and well attended during History Day at the Legislature. (Staff photos by Dave Corcoran, Sr.) ELEANOR ROOSEVELT VISITS HISTORY DAY -- One of the surprise visitors at this year's "History Day at the Legislature" was Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt; the land's First Lady during her husband, Franklin's administration from 1933 to 1945, Eleanor (far right) had also appeared at the 2008 West Virginia State Folk Festival in order to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the kickoff of the New Deal in 1933. She spoke as a part of the Gilmer County Historical Society's History Series during the Folk Festival. In real life, though, she's Patty Cooper, of Parkersburg, and she whispered to this reporter that at the 2009 Folk Festival, she will be portraying Belle Boyd, the famous West Virginia Confederate spy. Speaking to her here are from left to right: Dewayne Lowther, Donna Jarrell, and Ginnie Lowther, all of whom were representing a United Methodist Church's historical display in the State Capitol's Rotunda in Charleston March 5. Dewayne mentions Gilmer County fondly, in that his grandmother, Alma Rymer, was born on a farm either on Little Cove or Big Cove. Moreover, he's an accomplished photographer, being the owner of "Photographic Journaling" -- "Images to help tell the story." He can be reached at Williamstown at 304-375-4857 or e- mailed at: dewgin @aol.com Help save 'The Old Bridge' in Glenville; see page 4,4 in today's paper for details!