West Virginia State University Mid-Year Commencement is Dec. 18


West Virginia State University Mid-Year Commencement is Dec. 18

INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Approximately 165 students will receive a holiday gift this year that they have earned - - a bachelor's  or master's degree from West Virginia State University.  The University will hold commencement exercises at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 18, in the Charleston Civic Center. Two commencements are held per year in May and December.

WVSU President Hazo W. Carter, Jr. will introduce the featured speaker Dr. Orlando F. McMeans.  Dr. McMeans is Special Assistant to the President for Research and Public Service and Dean and Director of WVSU's Gus R. Douglass Land-Grant Institute.  In his capacity as Special Assistant, Dr. McMeans is responsible for promoting and advancing public service activities and initiatives with the main goal of enhancing the quality of life for West Virginia's citizens.

Dr. McMeans earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Alabama A & M University in Huntsville, and the Master of Science Degree in Horticulture from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he also earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Horticulture.  He has also done post-graduate work at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA.

Upon his employment at West Virginia State University (then College) in 1998 President Hazo W. Carter, Jr. charged Dr. McMeans with continuing the work to persuade the United States Department of Agriculture to restore the University's land-grant status.

West Virginia State University was founded as the West Virginia Colored Institute on March 17,1891 as a land-grant institution by the West Virginia legislature.  The state was following the mandate of the Second Morrill Act of 1890.  This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion for its land-grant college, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color.

Although West Virginia State faithfully served the citizens of West Virginia as a land-grant college, the State Board of Education voted in 1956 to surrender the land-grant status. The land-grant resources were transferred to the state’s 1860 land-grant school, West Virginia University.

When Dr. Hazo W. Carter, Jr. became president in 1987, he began a quest to have West Virginia State’s birthright as a land-grant institution restored. As an educator and a graduate of Tennessee State University, a land-grant institution, Dr. Carter fully understood the importance of the status.  While other 1890 land-grant colleges thrived due to federal funding, West Virginia State was denied the opportunity.  Since "State" was the only institution to have the status removed, there was no historical perspective for recovering it.

With the work of Dr. Carter, Dr. McMeans and others, on August 4, 1999, Senator Robert C. Byrd amended the House of Representatives Bill 1906, to once again establish West Virginia State as Land-Grant Institution, eligible for research and extension funding as established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890.  After approval by Congress, on October 22, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the FY2000 Agricultural Appropriations Bill. Although WVSC received land-grant research and extension funding for FY2000, the University was not recognized as a full federally designated 1890 Land-Grant Institution. 

Beginning with a staff of one and a $10,000 budget in 1998 WVSU's land-grant area, headed by Dr. McMeans, has grown into a thriving operation.  Employees include more than 85 research scientists some of whom are in the Colleges of Natural Sciences and Mathematics or Professional Studies, extension faculty, and staff members with an 8.5 million dollar annual budget.  Since 2000, Dr. McMeans has had administrative oversight of more than 70 million dollars which includes state appropriations to match Federal land-grant dollars.

Dr. McMeans is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades.  Most recently, he was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to West Virginia's Science and Research Council.  He also serves on the Charleston Area Alliance's Vision 2030 Advisory Board.

Teachers of the Year for 2011 will also be recognized during the commencement ceremony.  They are: Jane Kennedy, science teacher at Riverside High School; Mary Jane Anderson from Winfield High School; and Brian Withrow, social studies teacher at Madison Middle School.  The teachers are selected from schools in the Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESA) 3 which serves Boone, Clay, Kanawha, and Putnam counties. 

Dr. R. Charles Byers, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will serve as grand marshal.  He will be assisted by faculty marshals, all of whom are alumni of WVSU. 

Musical selections will be provided by the West Virginia State University Concert Band under the direction of Scott Woodard.

WVSU commencement exercises are open to the public.  A reception will follow.

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