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West Virginia State University

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Title: West Virginia State University  
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Subject: Bluefield State College, West Virginia State Yellow Jackets, Katherine Johnson, Mountain East Conference, List of colleges and universities in West Virginia
Collection: 1891 Establishments in West Virginia, African-American History of West Virginia, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Buildings and Structures in Kanawha County, West Virginia, Education in Kanawha County, West Virginia, Educational Institutions Established in 1891, Historically Black Universities and Colleges in the United States, Land-Grant Universities and Colleges, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Universities and Colleges in West Virginia, West Virginia State University
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West Virginia State University

West Virginia State University
Latin: 200px
Former names
West Virginia Colored Institute
West Virginia Collegiate Institute
West Virginia State College
Motto Find Your Passion
Established 1891
Type Public, Land-grant, HBCU
Endowment $3.2 million[1]
President Brian O'Harold Hemphill
Students 2,847 (Fall 2014)[2]
Undergraduates 2,792
Postgraduates 55
Location Institute, West Virginia, U.S.
Campus Suburban
Colors Black and Gold
Athletics NCAA Division II
Nickname Yellow Jackets
Affiliations Mountain East Conference
Website .edu.wvstateuwww

West Virginia State University (WVSU) is a historically black public university in Institute, West Virginia, United States. In the Charleston-metro area, the school is usually referred to simply as "State" or "West Virginia State". It was one of the original group of African American land-grant colleges established by the second Morrill Act of 1890 and is the smallest land-grant institution in the country. The University is a member-school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund.


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Desegregation 1.2
    • University status 1.3
    • Leadership 1.4
    • Other 1.5
  • Student activities 2
    • Athletics 2.1
    • Music 2.2
      • Instrumental ensembles 2.2.1
      • Vocal ensembles 2.2.2
    • Student life 2.3
    • Greek life 2.4
    • Student media 2.5
  • Notable alumni 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


WVSU is located on Mound Builder Native American land granted to George Washington for his service in the King's Military before the Revolutionary War. As a slave plantation, it belonged to Governor William H. Cabell. His son, Samuel I. Cabell, married one of his slaves, Mary Barnes. After his death she sold the land to the state as the site of the West Virginia Colored Institute. Sam and Mary Cabell and their children are buried on the campus.

Early history

The school was established as the West Virginia Colored Institute in 1891 under the second Morrill Act which provided for land-grant institutions for black students in the 17 states that had segregated schools. The school opened its doors in May 1892 and had an enrollment of over 40 students. The faculty consisted of President James Edwin Campbell, Byrd Prillerman, and T.C. Friend. The curriculum consisted of courses in agriculture, horticulture, mechanical arts, and domestic science. Teacher education courses were added in 1893. Military education became an integral part of the school, and in 1899 the Legislature passed a bill to admit up to 60 cadets. In 1909, Booker T. Washington recommended his friend and noted educator, Byrd Prillerman, to serve as president.[3] Noted African-American educator and statesman, Washington was instrumental in having the institution located in the Kanawha Valley. He visited the campus often and spoke at its first commencement exercise.[4] During Prillerman's 10-year administration, the school established itself as the center of black intellectual life in the state.[3]

From 1891 through 1915, the school provided the equivalent of a high school education, with vocational training and teacher preparation for segregated public schools. In 1915, it became the West Virginia Collegiate Institute and began to offer college degrees. In 1919, John W. Davis became president of the institute. A Morehouse graduate, Davis recruited highly qualified faculty and focused on curriculum development. He persuaded noted historian Carter G. Woodson to assist him as academic dean. In 1927, the school was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, making it the first of 17 original black land-grand schools to be certified by a regional association and one of only four black colleges to gain such status. It also became the first public college in West Virginia to be accredited by North Central. In 1929, the name was changed to West Virginia State College. With an enrollment of 1,000 students, the college contained divisions of Applied Arts and Sciences; Languages, Literature and Fine Arts; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and Social Sciences and Philosophy.[3]

In 1939, West Virginia State College became the first of six historically black colleges to be authorized by the Civil Aeronautics Authority to establish an aviation program. Benefiting from the presence of the Wertz Field airport adjacent to campus, the program supplied a number of black pilots to the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Several college aviators joined the famed 99th Fighter Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group that served with distinction in the European Theater.[3] During World War II, West Virginia State College was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[5] In 1942, a college ROTC program was established as an artillery unit. The ROTC tradition continues today, and the school has claimed 15 general officers who have graduated from West Virginia State, including Major General Charles C. Rogers.[3]


West Virginia State College underwent a significant transformation under the guidance of William J.L. Wallace. In 1954, following the Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate public education, the college transformed from an all-black college with a primarily residential population to a predominantly commuter school with mostly white students. Nearly 400 white students applied for admission. By 1966, African-Americans represented but 20 percent of the total student population. This unique case of "reverse integration" garnered national attention and President Wallace hailed it as "a tribute to the character and courage of the people of Kanawha Valley." As a result, West Virginia State adopted the motto "A Living Laboratory of Human Relations." Enrollment substantially increased after the removal of racial barriers; in 2011–2012, WVSU's student population was 61 percent white, 12.5 percent black, 1 percent Asian, 1 percent Hispanic, 0.5 percent American Indian, and 24 percent who preferred to not identify race.[3]

In 1957, the school lost its land grant status in part due to desegregation efforts. The West Virginia Board of Education voted to end state funding needed to match federal land-grant aid to West Virginia State, the only 1890 land-grant institution to ever lose such funding. Although land-grant university funding is governed by federal laws, the federal aid is conditioned upon matching state funds. Under the leadership of President Hazo W. Carter, Jr., a 12-year quest was begun to restore the land-grant designation. The first step toward regaining the status came when Gov. Gaston Caperton signed a bill on Feb. 12, 1991, that had been passed by the Legislature to recognize the land-grant status on the state level. With the assistance from WV Senator Robert C. Byrd, the U.S. Congress fully restored land-grant status in 2001. West Virginia State's birthright was restored and is recognized as an 1890 land-grant institution with recognition at the Federal level along with funding to carry out the mission of teaching, research, and public service. The land-grant institution of WVSU is named the Gus R. Douglass Land-Grant Institution.[3]

University status

In 2003, the school's community college, established in 1953, was separately accredited as the West Virginia State Community and Technical College but remained administratively linked to West Virginia State College. In 2008, the legislature fully separated the community and technical college. However, both schools continued to share the same campus. In 2009, the Community and Technical College went through a name change and it was announced on April 20, 2009, as Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College. In the fall of 2012, KVCTC moved its campus to South Charleston, West Virginia, and in 2014, KVCTC merged with Bridgemont Community and Technical College to become BridgeValley Community and Technical College.[3]

In 2004, under President Carter's leadership, West Virginia State College gained university status, becoming West Virginia State University and began to offer graduate degrees in Biotechnology and Media Studies. In the fall of 2011, WVSU began to offer a graduate degree in Law Enforcement.[6] In the spring of 2014, WVSU began offering a graduate degree in Education,[7] and in the fall of 2015, WVSU began offering a graduate degree in Public Administration. As of fall 2015, West Virginia State University offers 22 bachelor's degrees and five master's degrees. Under President Brian O. Hemphill, the university's goal is to become the most student-centered research and teaching, land-grant university in West Virginia and beyond.[3]


Brian O'Harold Hemphill is the tenth president of West Virginia State University. Hazo W. Carter, Jr. was the university's ninth president and first to serve under the "university" status. In August 2011, the faculty voted no confidence in Carter's leadership, and Carter retired on June 30, 2012.[8] He was president emeritus until his death in February 2014. Hemphill was inaugurated on September 21, 2013.[9]

Past presidents of the university include James Edwin Campbell (1892–94), John H. Hill (1894–98), James McHenry Jones (1898–1909), Byrd Prillerman (1909–19), John W. Davis (1919–53), William J.L. Wallace (1953–73), Harold M. McNeill (1973–81), Thomas Winston Cole, Jr. (1982–86), and Hazo W. Carter, Jr. (1986–2012). Several buildings on campus are named after them including Campbell Conference Center, Hill Hall, Jones Hall, Prillerman Hall, Davis Fine Arts Building, Wallace Hall, McNeill Facilities Building, and Cole Complex. John W. Davis is the longest serving president in the university's history, having served for 34 years.[10]


East Hall and the Canty House, home of "Colonel" James Munroe Canty, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.[11]

On October 19, 2009, West Virginia State University dedicated a monument to the memory of noted African American educator and statesman Booker T. Washington. The event took place at West Virginia State University's Booker T. Washington Park in Malden, West Virginia. The monument also honors the families of African ancestry who lived in Old Malden in the early 20th Century and who knew and encouraged Booker T. Washington. Special guest speakers at the event included West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III, Malden attorney Larry L. Rowe, and the president of WVSU. Musical selections were provided by the WVSU Marching Yellow Jackets.[12]

February 24, 2010, was named WVSU Day by the West Virginia legislature. President Hazo W. Carter, Jr. and other WVSU officials were on hand to witness the declaration. WVSU Gus R. Douglass Land-Grant Institute extension agents and staff members presented various demonstrations and interactive displays throughout the day with a performance by the WVSU Jazz Band.[13]

In October 2011, Sandra Orr, professor and former Chair of WVSU's Department of Education, was listed as one of the 50 most influential professors in education on the website, Masters In Education.[14]

West Virginia State University and the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs partnered to sponsor a ceremony on August 28, 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, D.C. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The "Let Freedom Ring" ceremony was held at the West Virginia State Capitol building. The WVSU Jazz Ensemble provided musical selections. The event was part of a nationwide celebration brought about by The King Center, in which every state was asked to join in a bell-ringing commemoration at 3 p.m. to pay tribute to the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. This demonstration was the largest ever seen in Washington, D.C., attended by an estimated 250,000 people, and was the venue where Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.[15]

On November 11, 2013, WVSU received a national award for alumni engagement during the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) annual conference in Washington, D.C. WVSU received the award during the inaugural 1890 Land-Grant Universities Teaching, Research and Innovation Awards. Under the criteria of this award, the institution demonstrated significant growth in the number of alumni engaged when compared to other land-grant colleges and universities. WVSU is one of 18 land-grant universities founded by the Second Morrill Act of 1890 that were eligible to compete in the awards ceremony.[16]

WVSU's Fall and Spring Commencement Ceremonies were held in December and May, respectively, at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston. Until 2009, WVSU and WVSCTC had joint commencement ceremonies. To cut back on spending, WVSU now holds its commencement ceremonies on campus. Until the completion of the new convocation center, the December commencement was held in the P.A. Williams Auditorium of Ferrell Hall, while the May commencement was either on the large lawn in the center of campus (also called the quad), or in the P.A. Williams Auditorium, pending weather. Commencements are now held in the D. Stephen and Diane H. Walker Convocation Center (Walker Convocation Center for short), a new addition/renovation to Fleming Hall. The Spring 2014 commencement was the first commencement held in the Walker Convocation Center.

Student activities

Official Athletics logo


The athletic teams are known as the Yellow Jackets. WVSU athletic teams include men's football, baseball, basketball, golf, and tennis, and women's basketball, golf, softball, tennis, and volleyball. During the segregation era, the school competed in athletics as "West Virginia" and played other segregated schools as a member of the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association. After desegregation, the school withdrew from the CIAA (today's Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and competed as "West Virginia State" to avoid confusion with West Virginia University. The school then moved to the formerly all-white West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which competed in the NCAA's Division II. After the dissolution of the WVIAC, WVSU joined the new Mountain East Conference in 2013, which is part of the NCAA Division II.

During the segregation era, black high schools were barred from competition in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, and State therefore sponsored an unofficial "state colored championship" from 1932 to 1959.


Instrumental ensembles

In the mid-late 1990s, the band saw a period of resurgence under the direction of Chris Card. From 1995 until 2000, the band had an enrollment of between 35-50 members. Many of the members during this time period were scholarship recipients, and the band often contained 5-10 veterans or active members of Drum Corps International. The band was known for its small size and huge sound. The band marches in a "corps-style" fashion, the only band of its type at an HBCU, as most have a "show-style" band.

Since 2006, the Yellow Jackets Marching Band, known as the "Marching Swarm", has broken enrollment records by over 800% under the direction of Dr. Scott E. Woodard. Dr. Woodard has been the Director of Bands since 2006 and became the Chair of the Music Department in 2010 (as of fall 2014, he is the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and Mr. Christopher Clark became the Chair of the Music Department). When he became the Director of Bands, only 7 students were enrolled. The band tries to do a different marching show at every home football game, with the exception of homecoming as half-time is taken up by the presentation of the homecoming court and a short speech by the president.

The marching band performs in one parade unless invited to others: the WVSU Homecoming Parade. The band has also played for the president's "State of the University Address" and for WVSU's ROTC Hall of Fame Ceremony (in 2011, they played for the Founder's Day ceremony). They have served as the exhibition band at high school marching band festivals, including Nicholas County's Mountain Band Spectacular (2008–2010), Poca High School's Heritage Day Festival in Poca, WV (2009–present), the 2013 WV Marching Band Invitational, and the 2015 Sissonville High School Band Festival. On October 12, 2013, WVSU, in co-sponsorship with the St. Albans High School Music Department, hosted the first annual Cavalcade of Bands Southwest Regional Band Festival, which has continued since. In 2008, the band was invited to go to Chicago with the football team for the Chicago Football Classic to participate in the Battle of the Bands competition; the only competition the band has competed in.

At the end of the marching season, the marching band becomes one of two of the school's Symphonic Wind Ensembles; during the spring semester, there is only one Symphonic Wind Ensemble. The Wind Ensemble formed from the marching band performs a concert at the end of the fall semester, while the other performs two concerts during the fall semester, and two during the Spring Semester. Students of the Advanced Conducting studio may also conduct on a concert. The Advanced Conducting studio is a unique feature of WVSU as not many colleges offer it at the undergraduate level. The Wind Ensemble has also performed at WVSU's commencement ceremonies. Beginning with the fall of 2013, WVSU offers a chamber orchestra, named the Charleston Chamber Orchestra. The need for the second Wind Ensemble during the fall semester arose from WVSU's approval of its new music performance degree. In the spring of 2015, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed at The Hamilton in Washington, D.C. as part of D.C.'s 153rd Emancipation Day Celebrations, and for the 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Assassination.

The Jazz Ensemble is one of the most visible groups performing for various events on and off campus. In November 2007, the WVSU Jazz Ensemble traveled to Austria to perform in Vienna, Graz, and Salzburg. On April 12 and 13, 2012, the Jazz Ensemble played two concerts for Washington, D.C.'s 150th Emancipation Day celebrations at the Lincoln Theatre. The April 12 concert featured the WVSU Jazz Ensemble and saxophonist Brian Lenair[17] and the April 13 concert again featured the WVSU Jazz Ensemble and Brian Lenair, but also featured a comedy show by famed comedian, Dick Gregory.[18] The Jazz Ensemble returned the following year to perform for the 151st Anniversary on April 16 at Freedom Plaza. The Jazz Ensemble, along with the Concert Choir, performed at The Greenbrier on November 22, 2013, as part of the West Virginia Reading Association (WVRA) conference.[19]

Other instrumental groups at WVSU include the Brass Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, and Woodwind Ensemble. In addition, WVSU is home to the community group, the Mountain State Brass Band.

Vocal ensembles

In addition to the instrumental ensembles, WVSU also features the WVSU Concert Choir, the "State" Singers, a female vocal ensemble, and a male vocal ensemble. The State Singers consists of eight to ten vocalists with a required audition. The State Singers also perform as the WVSU Vocal Jazz Choir. The State Singers act as ambassadors for the University and frequently perform off campus for important community and cultural events. Every spring, the State Singers go on tour. Recent tours have taken the group to Cleveland, Ohio, Virginia Beach, St. Louis, Missouri, and New York City. On April 13 and 14, 2012, the Concert Choir had the unique opportunity of singing the music of "Queen" with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The Concert Choir again sang with the WVSO for the symphony's 2012 holiday concerts, and have continued since. Dr. Dirk Johnson is the Director of Choral Activities for WVSU and has been at that position since the fall of 2009.

Student life

Many of the students who live in dorms on campus are from large urban areas outside of West Virginia or from the rural counties in the state. Those who stay on campus generally congregate at Wilson Student Union.

Greek life

Student media

The campus radio station at WVSU can be heard locally on 106.7 FM or over the internet. The station has hosted live music and interviews with recording artists. The campus newspaper, The Yellow Jacket, is published and edited by students and can be picked up in major buildings across the campus.

Notable alumni


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009.
  2. ^ As of September 4, 2014.
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External links

  • Official website
  • WVSU Athletics website
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