The Voice of West Virginia
West Virginia has many needs, but one of the most critical is human capital—individuals with attributes that make them, and those around them, successful.
We have lost a lot of that capital over the years as young people have left the Mountain State to pursue their dreams elsewhere, only to return to visit family on holidays.
But occasionally there are opportunities for the best and the brightest to come home, bringing with them their talents, their passion and their hope for a better West Virginia.
Brad Smith is one of those unique individuals who wants to come home to make a difference, and the chance comes today when the Marshall University Board of Governors meets to choose a new president to replace the retiring Jerome Gilbert.
The Board should, and almost certainly will, choose Smith from the five finalists.
The Kenova, West Virginia native and Marshall grad has a thick resume. He served as CEO of the Fortune 500 software company Intuit for 11 years, and now is the board’s executive chairman. Intuit credits Smith with leading the “company’s transformation from a desktop software company to a global, cloud-based product and platform company.”
That success established Smith’s substantial credentials in Silicon Valley and made him very wealthy. Smith and his wife Alys have been generous benefactors for Marshall and the state.
They gave $25 million to the Marshall business school, and they co-founded the Wing 2 Wing Foundation to foster entrepreneurship in the state. One of the signature programs is Ascend West Virginia, which pays talented, hard-working individuals to move to the state.
Granted, Smith has not come through the ranks of higher education, and that works against him. Colleges and Universities typically prefer individuals who have achieved success in academia. However, that should not be a disqualifying factor, especially in the case of Smith.
During the public portion of his interview, Smith was precise about why he wants to return here. “When I stepped down as CEO of Intuit in 2018, I got clear what my purpose was and my final chapter,” he said. “That was to come back to West Virginia and invest in those who invested in me.”
Candidly, this may be a difficult transition for Smith and the University. He is coming from the private sector where transformational change is necessary for survival. In higher ed, the ivy-draped buildings and the ivory towers bespeak of tradition and a certain way of doing things.
But change—and this will be a change—is often difficult.
West Virginia has been held back by the brain drain. It is impossible to calculate how much we have lost because so many talented individuals have put the state in their rear view mirror. Brad Smith, despite his Silicon Valley success, wants to come back.
Marshall should welcome him home.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An arrest has been made in connection to suspicious devices found on watercraft in the Ohio River.
The West Virginia State Police announced the arrest on Wednesday. The person was taken in custody in Marietta, Ohio, before being transported to the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County on probable cause. The suspect’s name was not released.
The arrest comes after authorities confirmed a suspicious device was found on a Marathon petroleum barge, the third instance involving a suspicious device over the last week. Pleasants County authorities found a device on a barge last week, and West Virginia State Police reported two devices were placed on a towboat located near Williamstown on Monday.
Authorities responded to a suspicious device call in Greenup County, Kentucky on Wednesday, but officers determined the situation was a false alarm.
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HAMLIN, W.Va. — An American Legion post in Lincoln County has been renamed in honor of Chuck Yeager, the late U.S. Air Force pilot who became the first person to break the sound barrier.
American Legion Post 111 on Wednesday held a ceremony celebrating the dedication and new name, the Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager Post 111. Victoria Yeager, Chuck Yeager’s widow, attended the ceremony.
Chuck Yeager, a Lincoln County native, died in December at the age of 97. He became the first person to fly faster than sound during an October 1947 flight.
Matthew Burton, the Legion’s vice commander, said he contacted Victoria Yeager about a possible name change two years ago. She supported the idea, but it could not happen at the time.
“In the rules, you can’t name a post after a living veteran,” he said. “We had to wait until Gen. Yeager passed in order to rename the post.”
Chuck Yeager was a member of the post for 42 years.
“Growing up, that’s our hometown hero,” Burton added.
“The people here adore him,” Victoria Yeager said. “He’s their family. He’s them. I knew that they would be more honored than any other group of people, and they’ve been so kind and warm to be, it’s just great. They love him.”
The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center hosted a memorial earlier this year for Chuck Yeager. Then-President Mike Pence was among the speakers at the service.
MetroNews’ Chris Lawrence contributed to this story.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Multiple parts of the state have yet to pass the peak of fall colors, according to the West Virginia Department of Tourism’s latest fall foliage report.
The agency with the state Division of Forestry releases the report every week to help travelers plan autumn trips around peak foliage.
Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said Wednesday colors have been slower to peak because of a warmer-than-average fall.
“Color is arriving a little late this year, so travelers still have time to experience the beautiful warm hues of fall,” she said. “Whether you prefer to get outside and hike or just enjoy a leisurely drive, you’ll find plenty of scenic leaf-peeping destinations in Almost Heaven.”
While higher elevations in the eastern mountains have already experienced this year’s peak, the north-central region, the panhandles and southern West Virginia have yet to reach the mark.
The state Department of Tourism’s recommended drive of the week is state Route 310 in Fairmont to Grafton through Valley Falls State Park.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials at Yeager Airport are eager to take steps in leading the aerospace industry’s electric infrastructure.
On Wednesday, the airport’s board approved entering into a contract with The Thrasher Group. Airport Design Consultants Inc. and Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research will be sub-consultants. The agreement means a team of consultants will be fully engaged to prepare the airport (CRW) and West Virginia for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) infrastructure, a release said.
Yeager Airport is working on multiple funding opportunities for the build-out of electric infrastructure at multiple West Virginia locations to operate eVTOL aircraft.
“These are battery-powered aircraft that don’t have engines but battery-powered motors. They take off and land vertically like helicopters but fly like an airplane. it’s the forefront of new and emerging technology that has zero emissions,” Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller said.
The contract signed Wednesday will build on work conducted over the last six weeks where Thrasher and CRW, along with Marshall University, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute, have been working on, including: establishing air Taxi intrastate air service and an eVTOL Center of Excellence, creating the first aerospace battery research center, identifying potential sites and conduct design work for aerospace components manufacturing facilities, and designing electric infrastructure including charging stations, landing pad facilities, vertiports, heliports, and flight simulators.
Another opportunity includes an Airport Electrification Project that includes the design and construction of electrical infrastructure, landing pad, and aircraft charging stations. It also includes the design and construction of the aerospace economic development center, which would consist of a 10,000 square foot hangar for electric and other aircraft, a terminal building for general aviation users, an innovation center, and aerospace business incubator and accelerator that will serve as a hub for the state.
“The airport wants to be a center of excellence, we want to be the hub for this emerging industry. We want to bring it to West Virginia,” Keller said.
“What we need to do is make the infrastructure happen, we need to have the proper electric charging stations at multiple locations throughout the state of West Virginia.”
Keller said his team was recently at a national airport conference and it led them to believe they have been ahead of the curve in this industry.
“A lot of airports have never heard of this technology, they are not sure how to respond. At the same time, we already have consultants working on it, we’re already having meetings with these companies to plan for the future and how we can attract them here,” he said.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three weeks remain on the calendar before the WVU women’s basketball team opens up their regular season against St. Francis. As Mike Carey prepares for his 21st season leading the Mountaineers, he believes that time is not necessarily on his side to blend four returning starters with seven newcomers.
“I am starting to get real hyper about it,” Carey said. “I really am getting nervous about it because I really thought we would be a little farther along right now. We have talent. I told the team yesterday, ‘Talent doesn’t win. You can have all the talent in the world. If you don’t play together, if you don’t space, do all the little things, you are not going to win’.”
Expectations inside the Coliseum are elevated after last year’s 22-7 season where the Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 in both the regular season and the conference tournament. West Virginia is ranked 19th in the AP preseason poll.
“It is going to be a lot of pressure but it is good pressure,” said WVU senior point guard Madisen Smith. “Teams are going to be gunning for us like coach said. They are going to try to come for us every night because we are ranked. So we have to give it right back to them.”
Kysre Gondrezick was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, but the rest of the WVU starting lineup returns.
“If you are asking me right now, ‘What is the best combination?’ I don’t know,” Carey said. “You’ll see signs that this is a pretty good group right here, and then it is not, and then another group. Rotations are going to be very important for this team.”
Fourth-year starting point guard Madisen Smith is back at full strength after suffering a leg injury that cost her all but four minutes on the floor in the final nine games of last season.
“It became apparent in the NCAA’s that we needed her leadership at the point,” Carey said. “The ball wasn’t getting reversed. The ball wasn’t getting to the open man. It made a big difference last year when she wasn’t in there.”
K.K. Deans and Kari Niblack return for their third seasons as starters. As a sophomore, Esmery Martinez averaged a double-double with 11.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. Depending on lineups, Martinez could slide out to small forward and play at various spots on the floor.
“It was just all a matter of confidence for her. When she first got here, she was pretty uncertain about herself. Coming to West Virginia, she didn’t know anybody,” said Niblack.
“She is comfortable playing with us now. I think that’s really all it was, becoming comfortable and having the confidence to play with us. That’s how she blossomed so quickly.”
The Mountaineers will host WVU-Tech Thursday at 7 p.m. in their annual ‘Haunted Hoops’ game. It is the lone preseason game open to the public.
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KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The Detroit man charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of a Maryland man in Preston County has waived his preliminary hearing in magistrate court and the case has been forwarded to a grand jury.
Damon Lamont Hudgens, 21, is accused of ordering the kidnapping of Jimmy Lee Barkley, 41, from his Oakland, Maryland home to a remote cabin in Preston County where court documents say Hudgens shot him for “retribution.”
According to authorities, Andrew Wassick, 24, of Morgantown, Dashawn Scott, 25 and Roy Cheshire, 20, located Barkley in Oakland on Oct. 12, brought him to the cabin and turned him over to Hudgens. Shortly after they turned Barkley over to Hudgens multiple gunshots were reported. Authorities said Barkley died in the early morning hours of Oct. 13.
Wassick, Scott and Cheshire have been charged with kidnapping and assault.
Barkley’s body was recovered after information was gathered during a separate drug raid.
That information was given to Preston County sheriff’s detectives who, along with a K-9 officer, found Barkley’s body and turned the crime scene over to state police.
Hudgens remains in the North Central Regional Jail without bail.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Revenue from neighborhood limited video lottery machines continued its strong showing in September in new financial numbers released Wednesday by the West Virginia Lottery.
LVLs have been producing increased revenues for more than a year. The uptick began in the summer of 2020 after LVL parlors were allowed to reopen after being shutdown in the early weeks of the pandemic.
The machines brought in $39.5 million in September, outpacing racetrack video lottery machines located at the five casinos operating in West Virginia.
State Lottery Director John Myers said there are several reasons LVLs are performing well including their location in smaller venues that produce smaller crowds.
“I think that’s accounted for some of this,” Myers told reporters Wednesday. “You’ve seen it in other venues, such as movie theaters, people avoid going into a crowd but feel more comfortable going into a venue where 10 people are playing.”
However, according to Myers, the lottery is also beginning to see a financial bounce back from the casinos with video lottery. Those machines brought in $38 million in September.
The LVLs locations have also benefited from a year old state law that allows some locations to have up to 10 machines. The limit was seven.
Revenues from iGaming continue to perform better than sports betting. Revenue from iGaming for September was $757,000 while sports betting garnered approximately $541,000. Myers said those numbers may be surprising to some.
“I think there’s a little surprise from the original development of the game but after we started seeing the size of the sports wagering market, the number of participants, iGaming certainly has an edge on it and I think we’ll continue to see it outperform, maybe two to three times what we see in sports wagering.”
The Lottery Commission approved licenses for three additional iGaming service producers Wednesday including Fan Duel, Golden Nugget and Rush Creek. All three will be skins on casino apps. The commission also approved a license for Golden Nugget for a sports betting skin connected to the casino at The Greenbrier.
Myers also said Wednesday there’s a delay in the production of new video lottery machines that are part of the recently awarded 10-year licenses for LVL locations. He said a shortage of computer chips is causing the delay. He said it may result in some revenue loss early next year but it’s not likely to be significant.
“They’re (the machines) in the pipeline. It’s just going to delay things maybe a couple of months getting those new machines here,” Myers said. “I don’t think it’s going to affect our revenues because we still have the majority of those machines, 8,000 or so, still out in the field.”
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Neal Brown has had success recruiting the transfer portal for defensive playmakers and it appears he has found another in junior cornerback Charles Woods. Arizona transfers Scottie Young and Tony Fields made impacts in their first seasons of eligibility. Woods jumped up a level from FCS school Illinois State to become a Mountaineer in the summer.
“I decided to de-commit from SMU. Me and my family thought it was the best choice to come here to the Power 5 level. I was excited to play Big 12 football. It has always been a dream to play in the Big 12, especially playing Texas. It was a dream to come to West Virginia and play for this program,” Woods said.
“They brought me in day one and treated me like I was here for four years. I have been loving it here. I am enjoying the process and I am ready to see what is next.”
Woods has seen added playing time in West Virginia’s last two games against Baylor and TCU. Brown and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley knew the adjustment for Woods would take time.
“He is getting more comfortable in our scheme,” Brown said. “He got here in the summer but the summer is different though because you really can’t work with them as far as schemeatics. He got in shape and all that kind of stuff. But other than a meeting, two hours a week or whatever they allow you to have, there’s not a whole lot else you can learn. So you can see him getting better.
“And the other thing is we played him more. We played him more against Baylor. And he has taken advantage of the opportunity. When Nicktroy [Fortune] got injured, he was forced in there and I thought, ‘You get your opportunity, now what do you do with it?’ He made the most of his.”
“Charles is a transfer and it doesn’t matter where you come from, every system is different,” Lesley said. “It takes time to get accustomed to that system. I think it is always four to six games when it clicks, it clicks. I think Charles is a guy who was in that situation.”
On Saturday night at TCU, Woods received added snaps after starting corner Nicktroy Fortune was lost to injury. Woods collected five tackles and a pair of turnovers with an interception and a fumble recovery in the second half. It was a homecoming game for the native of Dallas.
“It was special because it was one of my first times playing back in Texas since high school. It was special with my mom being able to see and my family to see me play,” Woods said.
“The fumble recovery kind of put the nail in the coffin for the game and we were able to secure the win. But the interception was big too because it got the ball back to the offense in the red zone.”
The step up from FCS football to FBS football is not only about the level of play on the field. Off-field resources have been well-received by Woods.
“At the lower level you don’t have all of the recovery, weights, food. You don’t have all that so I definitely appreciate it. Especially, our strength coach Mike [Joseph], he definitely changed my life. He taught me the importance of taking care of my body.”
Woods has developed a bond with a fellow former FCS-level player in the Mountaineer secondary. Alonzo Addae transferred in from New Hampshire in 2019.
“Me and him are very close,” Woods said. “That’s my dog. He has been like a brother to me. That’s the one I respect and look up to.”
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Thursday is set to be the day that the Marshall University Board of Governors (BoG) selects the 38th president of the institution.
Current President Dr. Jerome Gilbert announced in April that he would not seek a contract extension when his current term expires in July 2022. In June, the BoG approved the search process for a new president which included listening sessions around Marshall’s campus communities.
After listening tours, releasing a preferred qualities list for the next president and going through more than 100 applications in the summer, face-to-face interviews were conducted and five finalists were announced Sept. 30.
The presidential finalists are, in alphabetical order: Bernard Arulanandam, vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise, The University of Texas at San Antonio; Bret Danilowicz, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Florida Atlantic University; Robyn Hannigan, provost, Clarkson University; Kathy Johnson, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); and Brad D. Smith, co-founder, Wing 2 Wing Foundation.
State Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, a graduate of Marshall and representative of the Huntington area told MetroNews the next president must understand Marshall is the economic engine of the region.
“As Marshall goes, Huntington goes. When I say Huntington, it’s a regional place. It’s not just a city of 50,000 people. Huntington is 200,000 people that live right in the tri-state area,” Woelfel said.
Woelfel acknowledged the leadership of Gilbert over the past five years. Gilbert came to Marshall in January 2016 from Mississippi State University, serving as a provost and executive vice president for nearly six years there.
“He’s a gentleman, he’s bright, he’s very empathetic, he’s innovative. I’m a big fan of Dr. Jerry Gilbert,” Woelfel said.
Each candidate visited the South Charleston and Huntington campuses in separate visits from Oct. 11 to Oct. 19. MetroNews was at every meeting on the South Charleston campus and interviewed each finalist.
On Oct. 11, Hannigan described Marshall as being nimble and ready to expand programs quicker than other institutions.
“As your president, I am here and I am and present. I will act on behalf of the institution, bringing everything I know about higher education and about entrepreneurship, innovation, economic development to help us be successful,” she said.
Hannigan, who was also the founding dean of the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston before going to Clarkson, told the crowd she was attracted to Marshall because of its dedication to the community and inclusion. She also viewed Marshall as being ambitious and hungry to grow.
“This institution is centered on access and opportunity,” Hannigan said.
The following day, Oct. 12, Marshall alum and donor Brad Smith was on campus. The former Intuit CEO is the only candidate that does not come from a background of higher education, having a background in philanthropy, leadership and entrepreneurship. He is the executive chairman of the board of Intuit, chairman of the Nordstrom board and a board member of Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey). He formerly served on the board of Yahoo as well.
Smith complimented the other four finalists for the position, saying Marshall will be in great shape no matter the selection. He added that while he knows he’s the only non-traditional candidate, he has a background that makes him unique.
“What I think helps me in the situation is I am also a native of West Virginia, I am a graduate of our public education system in West Virginia, I’m a proud son of Marshall. None of those things qualify me to be president but they prepared me for a 36-year career that led large complex organizations through transformational change while preserving the core mission of that institution,” Smith said.
“That’s what Marshall is facing now. We are in the 21st century where higher learning is being changed and disrupted. It’s important to preserve who you are while adapting and evolving to who you need to become.”
One of the highest-ranking academic officials at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in Dr. Kathy Johnson visited the day after Smith.
She serves as executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a core campus of Indiana University and the state’s urban research and academic health sciences campus.
Johnson told MetroNews that her understanding of enrollment management strategy, understanding of how to improve an institution’s climate to better recruit students and understanding of strategic international partnerships could set her apart from other candidates.
“I work very closely with deans, with associate vice-chancellors and other academic leaders in trying to position our programs that students can be successful,” Johnson said.
“I am also responsible for our research arm. Make sure we are doing everything in our power to increase faculty’s ability to get external grant funding and make discoveries that will translate into patents.”
To round out the week, Arulanandam spoke to Marshall faculty, staff and community members Oct. 14 at the South Charleston campus.
His portfolio is highlighted by being an established immunologist and co-leading the Public Health Task Force for the COVID response and recovery efforts at UTSA, an institution with more than 34,000 students.
As an immunologist, Arulanandam is focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the induction of immune responses against infectious diseases, Marshall’s presidential search page stated.
He has served as the director of the South Texas Center of Emerging Infectious Diseases and is currently an administrator for the Vaccine Development Center of San Antonio.
“I have led by coming up with protocols and strategies that we can implement to keep students safe,” Arulanandam said to MetroNews of COVID-19 response. “And then allow for research operations and other pieces of the institution to slowly open up again as safety became prominent with the rollout of vaccines.”
Arulanandam highlighted the need for Marshall to strengthen both regional and international partnerships. He said he believes all institutions should have strategic partners abroad to diversify the brand of the university and bring visibility.
The fifth and final candidate visited the Mountain State on Oct. 18 and 19, Dr. Bret Danilowicz.
Before joining Florida Atlantic, Danilowicz served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University, according to Marshall’s presidential search page. Previously, he was associate dean, then dean, of the College of Science and Technology at Georgia Southern University.
Danilowicz said an enrollment strategy that he would like to implement at Marshall is career-aligned employment. For example, he said an accounting student should be able to work part-time with an accounting firm during their undergraduate years and not in retail or fast food.
“We need to be attracting businesses that would be able to employ students in their selected career field when the student starts freshman year,” he said of the strategy. “This really gives the students the applied experience when they come to Marshall. These are things that are starting to be done, I’ve implemented elsewhere and can do so here.”
Danilowicz was also critical of Marshall’s ability to attract students from community colleges and dual enrollments from local high schools to the Huntington campus. He noted that in his interview preparation, he did not see the proper links on the institution’s main web pages for branding a pathway to Marshall for those specific students.
“We need to be providing those students with access to athletic programs, student clubs on campus and to integrate them as part of the Thundering Herd. From the first day they are signing up at those other institutions,” he said.
The BoG meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday and can be streamed on Marshall’s website. An executive session is scheduled before an open session that includes a resolution and appointment of a new president.
The university may also announce a new athletic conference affiliation on Thursday or in the days following the naming of a new president. Marshall BoG Chairman Patrick Farrell said the board will give the new president a chance for input on the decision that is likely to come between Conference USA or the Sun Belt.
Here is the agenda for tomorrow’s Marshall Board of Governors meeting. #WeAreMarshall
— Patrick Farrell (@FarrellPatrickJ) October 27, 2021
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