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Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) has announced Friday, Oct. 6, as the date for the 10th annual West Virginia Makes Festival, the state and region’s largest maker fair. Officials say this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever thanks to a sizeable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation.

The Foundation, the charitable arm of American Water, parent company of West Virginia American Water, has awarded $14,000 to the Marshall University Foundation to support RCBI’s annual community-based event that promotes innovative West Virginia-based STEM entrepreneurship.

“Our future leaders in West Virginia are significantly better off and will be more prepared for their careers with strong STEM skills thanks to access to the outstanding programming provided by community partners such as RCBI,” said Robert Burton, president of West Virginia American Water.

The annual Makes Festival attracts hundreds of students and innovators of all ages from across the region, providing them the opportunity to demonstrate their own creations, compete for prizes and engage in STEM-focused activities during the annual celebration of creativity and ingenuity in all forms.

“Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the American Water Charitable Foundation, people of all ages will have the opportunity to demonstrate their creations and ingenuity, engage in hands-on STEM activities and revel in the joys of discovery during the 2023 West Virginia Makes Festival – our 10th anniversary – set for Oct. 6 on the campus of Marshall University,” said Derek Scarbro, RCBI deputy director. “This support is another example of the American Water Charitable Foundation’s and West Virginia American Water’s commitment to strengthening our communities by investing in those they serve.”

Registration is now open for makers of all ages, exhibitors and groups that want to attend the free event this fall. Details at

Marshall University and the Marshall University Alumni Association (MUAA) are set to host the 84th annual Alumni Awards Banquet on Saturday, April 1, beginning at 6 p.m. with a reception followed by dinner and awards at 7 p.m. at the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

The Marshall University Alumni Awards Banquet recognizes outstanding alumni, university supporters and students during an evening of celebration and reverence of the great things being accomplished by the Marshall University alumni community.

Highlighting the list of more than a dozen honorees at the 2023 awards banquet are Bill Noe and Dr. Randi D. Ward as the recipients of the Marshall University Distinguished Alumnus and Alumna award. Randy Dunfee has been selected as the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Marshall University award. Mendy Aluise has been selected as the recipient of the Outstanding Community Achievement award, and Christopher Taylor will receive the Distinguished Young Alumnus award.

Other awards scheduled for the evening will include the MUAA Chapter of the Year, this year being a tie and awarded to the Marshall University Alumni of the Mid-Ohio Valley and the Southern Coalfields Alumni and Big Green Chapter located in Parkersburg and Beckley, West Virginia, respectively.

Individual Awards of Distinction will also be presented during the event to honorees from each of Marshall’s schools and colleges. This year’s Awards of Distinction will go to Sassa Wilkes (College of Arts and Media), C. Zachary Meyers (College of Business), Lucianne Call (College of Education and Professional Development), Adam Weibel (College of Engineering and Computer Sciences), Denise Hogsett (College of Health Professions), Dr. Janine Janosky (College of Liberal Arts), Jody Ogle (College of Science), Dr. Robert J. Cure (Marshall University School of Medicine), and Dr. Sarah Dunaway (Marshall University School of Pharmacy).

“We’re so excited to welcome alumni back to campus for our annual awards banquet” said Matt James, executive director of alumni relations. “This event is an opportunity to recognize the remarkable achievements of our awardees while also highlighting the important work our alumni chapters are doing across the country. I can’t wait to honor some of the very best members of our Marshall Family.”

Born in Ashland, Kentucky, and raised in Huntington, Bill Noe is the chief aviation officer for the division of aviation at Marshall. Noe, an accomplished pilot and business executive, is the former president and chief operations officer for NetJets, a global private jet company based in Columbus, Ohio.

Before Noe reached for the skies, he dove below the waters of the Huntington Olympic Pool at the tender age of 4. He was noticed by Huntington YMCA swim team coach, Bob Shaw, who approached him about competitive swimming. Noe began breaking local and state records at a young age, which led him to attending Marshall and joining its swim team. One of Noe’s biggest accomplishments while at Marshall was the 1983 Southern Conference Swimming Championship, where he set six pool, six school and six conference records while leading Marshall to the championship. He also won the “Most Valuable Swimmer” award. Noe was inducted into the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020.

Noe left Marshall his junior year, though he returned and earned his Regents Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005, to work for an industrial contractor. The owner of the company was a pilot who invited Noe on his plane one day, which led to his decision two years later to attend the FlightSafety Academy in Vero Beach, Florida. Noe later worked for American Flyers, a well-known training academy, but had his eye on a bigger prize – working for NetJets – which he ultimately achieved. He climbed the NetJets ladder, eventually becoming president and COO in 2006.

Before becoming chief aviation officer at Marshall, Noe served on the university’s board of governors. Marshall’s flight school is named in his honor.

Dr. Randi D. Ward is an educator, chancellor of World University of Leadership and Management, best-selling author, editor and entrepreneur. She graduated from Marshall in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in language arts, setting forth her 37 years as an educator in West Virginia and Georgia.

In 2011, Ward taught English as a second language in Cairo, Egypt. Her time in Egypt had a profound impact on her, and as such wrote her memoir “Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True).” In 2013, Ward founded Rise Up, an adult English language center, with Ahmed Mohamed and Ehab Mohamed, as well as 6 October English Institute with Samar Farouk, which opened in 2014.

Ward has many varied interests and passions. She is a world traveler and has toured and visited 61 countries on four continents, including four trips to Egypt. She penned a second book, “Dream Bigger,” and is working on a new novel “Random Wanderings.” She is also a writer and the chief editor for Morocco Pens, an online Moroccan magazine featuring educational articles and essays in English.  She is a professional motivational speaker and dreams of having her own interview platform to feature talented people around the world and plans to pursue these goals in the near future.

In addition to receiving the Distinguished Alumna award, Ward is the recipient of many other awards and accolades, most recently being recognized as Strathmore’s Who’s Who 2022 Lifetime Achievement award and Hoinser Group’s 2022 Inspirational Leader of Excellence.

In other categories, Randy Dunfee is the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Marshall University award, Mendy Aluise is the recipient of the Outstanding Community Achievement award, and Christopher Taylor is the recipient of the Young Alumnus award.

Dunfee is a Huntington native, entrepreneur and businessman. He graduated from Huntington East High School while working in the afternoons and evenings. His ambition led him from being a stock boy at Fabric Town Interiors to purchasing the company when he was just 21 years old. He is still president of the company and fully active in the day-to-day operations. What began as a business specializing in fabrics has grown to include flooring, carpet, window treatments, upholstery and more. Dunfee has worked with notable clients, including Jay Rockefeller when he was governor of West Virginia and Warner Bros. where he provided set décor for “We Are Marshall.” The famous green carpet at the movie’s premiere in 2006? That was all Dunfee.

Dunfee is a lifelong Marshall fan, and his support for the university has only grown the more involved he has been through the years. Dunfee has worked extensively with the Big Green Foundation and the Quarterback Club, as well as supporting Marshall through the Vision Campaign. In addition to his support to Marshall, Dunfee also supports Hospice of Huntington, Facing Hunger Foodbank and the Boys and Girls Club.

Aluise is a partner at the Huntington-based accounting firm Somerville & Company PLLC. Aluise began her career with Somerville after she graduated from Marshall in 2004. During her career, she has been involved with several professional organizations, including the Huntington Chapter of the West Virginia Society of CPAs, which she served as president from 2015-2016, and currently serves as treasurer of the West Virginia Society of CPAs and is slated to become president in 2025.

Aluise has also been involved with several local nonprofit organizations, including Hospice of Huntington, Marshall Artists Series, Generation Huntington, which is a subcommittee of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, and she served on the Marshall University Alumni Association board of directors. For many years, Aluise was a long-time board member and vice president of Girls on the Run of Cabell and Wayne County, which aims to empower elementary school-aged girls.

Taylor is the chief technology and information officer at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina. He graduated from Marshall in 2008 and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer forensics. After leaving Marshall, he worked with the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security. As part of his work, Taylor, who grew up in Keyser, West Virginia, was able to travel to several major cities across the country. At present, Taylor has visited 43 states. He also owns his own company, Melanin Travels LLC, which encourages all people, but specifically people of color, to travel more. Through his company, he has traveled to Aruba, Dubai, Rome, Lisbon, Barcelona, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Mexico and Jamaica.

After leaving TSA and DHS, Taylor moved to South Korea and taught English as a second language at Noble Academy. When he returned to the U.S., Taylor moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission as a government contractor. In 2014, he received his Cisco Certification and moved to San Francisco. In 2017, he returned to the East Coast and moved to North Carolina. His ultimate goal is to become the chief technology officer or chief information officer of Google or Samsung, which are his two favorite tech companies.

Other honorees at the annual alumni awards banquet include Tia Wooding (Fran Jackson Scholarship), Jaedyn Harris (Janis Winkfield Scholarship), and Destinee Leggett (Nate Ruffin Scholarship).

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According to Jan Haddox, nothing in his life has been planned.

Haddox, a long-time resident of Mason County, West Virginia, built a career as an educator and later as an artist. Haddox graduated from Marshall University in 1970 with degrees in art and language arts.

“I had just gotten out of the service,” Haddox said, of his decision to attend Marshall. “I had always been a Marshall fan, and I have two brothers-in-law who had athletic scholarships to Marshall. I have a brother-in-law who played football for Marshall in the ‘70s. Actually, my mother-in-law wouldn’t have allowed me to go anywhere else.”

Haddox said he always knew how to draw, which is why he chose to major in art, but he double majored in language arts on a bit of a whim.

“Most of what I’ve done in life just happened,” he joked. “Not a lot of planning.”

Nonetheless, Haddox took those majors and ran with them, eventually obtaining a master’s degree from Marshall in vocational education, and certifications in gifted education, elementary education, a principal’s certification, and lastly, a certification in social work.

During his time at Marshall, Haddox taught a class as a graduate assistant on the personalities in West Virginia History, which later inspired the subjects of many of his paintings.

“We talked about the history of West Virginia, and the reasons why they came here,” Haddox said.

After graduating, Haddox worked in the Mason County school system. He started as a reading teacher before becoming a vice principal and principal. He then served as an attendance director overseeing attendance and social work.

“I did get to help a lot of kids,” Haddox said. “I was an advocate, and kids need an advocate more so today than ever.”

Haddox retired in 2000, but taught nights at Marshall’s Mid-Ohio Valley Center from 1999-2016. Once retired from education, Haddox turned his attention to a new passion.

“I didn’t really paint until I retired,” Haddox said. “I’d always done artwork. I did the logo for the Point Pleasant River Museum and other businesses. I did whatever people needed, and if I didn’t know how to do something I learned on the job.”

Haddox’s work, which can be found on his website, initially combined his love of history and art when he first began painting regularly. Many of his paintings feature historical figures in West Virginia history, including Mad Anne Bailey, Cornstalk, Simon Kenton and Chief Logan. Haddox has since branched out to feature landscapes and still life, as well as pet portraits and wildlife, affectionately called “Janimals.”

Haddox’s work has been exhibited at the Tamarack’s Fine Arts Gallery in Beckley, West Virginia, as well as the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, the West Virginia Cultural Center and State Museum in Charleston, and outside the state in Columbus, Ohio, and Chillicothe, Ohio. Haddox also offered historical insight to Robert Griffin, who painted the mural along the floodwall in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Though his work stretches across many counties and cities in the Ohio River Valley and is considered in-demand by those around him, Haddox creates his artwork primarily for the good of the community.

“I do some commissions, but it’s mostly free,” Haddox said. “One of my favorite presents is just to give somebody artwork.”

In addition to Haddox’s well-known career as an educator and artist, he is also heavily engaged in different service projects and giving back to his community.

Haddox has served on the Mason County Public Library board, during which the library board built three new libraries, and he also served on the Mason County Development Authority board. The MCDA focuses on fostering new businesses and a strong economy in the Mason County region.

Perhaps Haddox’s biggest passion project of late is the Mason County Veterans Memorial. The Veterans Memorial will establish a permanent tribute honoring all Mason County, West Virginia, veterans from World War I to present day that have been honorably discharged, all those who currently serve, and those who will serve in the future. Haddox, who is a United States Army veteran and served during the Vietnam War, is the art consultant for the project.

Steve Halstead, president of the Veterans Memorial project, said Haddox is a true asset to their community.

“Jan was the first person I thought of for the project because of his art abilities and history awareness,” Halstead said. “He’s been a staple and is always involved in the community.”

The Veterans Memorial project began in February 2022 and is divided into two phases. The first phase will recognize Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients, including a bronze statue of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart, a recipient and Mason County native who was killed in the Vietnam War. Phase one will also honor the fallen veterans from Mason County who were lost in battle from World War I to present day, as well as list the names of the POW-MIA, and the six branches of service. Phase two will honor all Mason County residents who served in the U.S. military and were honorably discharged.

Haddox and Halstead said they are pleased with the positive response they’ve received regarding the memorial.

“It’s a huge project,” Haddox said. “We’re shocked at how much support we’ve gotten from the community, it’s just super. That’s the kind of community we live in here.”

The committee broke ground on the project in November 2022, and is planning a dedication on Veterans Day 2023. The memorial will be located next to the Bridge of Honor in Mason. More information about the Mason County Veterans Memorial can be found at

The pageantry and excitement of Homecoming will return to Marshall University beginning Monday, Sept. 25 and culminating with the crowning of Mr. and Miss Marshall at halftime during the game against Old Dominion University on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Slotted between early-season matchups against Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, this year’s celebration will mark the earliest Homecoming has come to the Huntington campus since a victory over Toledo in the 1977 Homecoming game on Sept. 24.

“Homecoming is such an integral part of the Marshall University calendar for our alumni, our supporters and our student population,” said Matt James, executive director of the Marshall University Alumni Association. “It is a unique time where the entire Marshall family comes together to celebrate the rich history and proud traditions of our university. And this year we are excited to shake things up a bit with an earlier date right in the heart of the schedule. So, mark your calendars and join us in September for as many events as your schedule will allow as we prepare for another wonderful week of Homecoming activities.”

Several pillar Homecoming events will highlight the week-long celebration, including the annual Unity Walk, Homecoming Parade, Picnic on the Plaza and numerous tailgates and gatherings throughout the day on Sept. 30. The week will conclude with the Thundering Herd taking on the Old Dominion Monarchs in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“We are super-excited to welcome everyone back to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Homecoming 2023 on Sept. 30,” said Athletic Director Christian Spears. “The Sun Belt schedule has offered us a unique opportunity for a late September Homecoming game against a familiar conference foe in ODU. We look forward to seeing all of Herd Nation join us at The Joan for a beautiful day of football on Sept. 30!”

The Thundering Herd is coming off a 9-4 season, highlighted by a historic win over Notre Dame and a victory in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. Marshall finished third in the East Division during its inaugural season in the Sun Belt Conference.

Since the opening of The Joan in 1990, Marshall is 27-6 in Homecoming games and 9-1 over its past 10 games. This season will mark the third time the Monarchs have come to Huntington as the Homecoming opponent, with the Herd taking victories in 2021 and 2017.

For more information about Marshall’s 2023 Homecoming celebrations, contact the Marshall University Alumni Association at (304) 696-3424 or for ticket information call 1-800-THE-HERD.