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There are many reasons an individual decides to give back to a university.

From their personal experience at the institution as a student, to gifts of impact designed to change the lives of current and future generations of alumni, gifts of any kind are as personal and unique as the individuals that give them.

And then there are some gifts that come about just to say thank you.

When Sarah Shepherd was busy working on her thesis for her M.S. in library science and M.A. in history at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, she reached out to Marshall University’s renowned Special Collections Department for assistance and what she got in return was more than she could have imagined.

“I am very impressed with Marshall University’s Special Collections and have used several collections, such as their amazing oral histories that are available online,” Shepherd said. “I became interested in Lucille Todd, one of the first women lawyers in West Virginia, and searched Marshall’s digital collections. There was a wealth of material from the Mirabilia yearbook to the Longview newsletter from the Owen Clinic Institute. Listed as well was the finding aid for the Nancy Voiers Whear Papers. Whear ran a research project funded by the West Virginia Humanities Foundation in 1985 on ‘History-Making Women of Huntington.’ Lucille Todd was one of the women featured.

“I emailed Special Collections asking for a scan of the folder, ready to pay a significant sum as scanning can be very labor intensive depending on the size of the folder. I’ve had to wait six weeks before for scans at different institutions and yet three days later Jessica Lowman, assistant professor and archivist at Marshall, sent me the entire folder without charge. I was astounded and immediately donated in gratitude.”

Shepherd is currently a graduate student at Simmons University and works as an archivist at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. Previously, Shepherd worked at the Greenbrier Historical Society in Lewisburg, West Virginia, giving her ample knowledge about what it takes to operate libraries and archive facilities. As a former West Virginia resident, Shepherd also recognized the value of supporting institutions from her home state and was proud to make a gift to the department.

Founded in 1971, the Marshall University Special Collections Department is home to the university’s archives, manuscripts, rare books, audiovisual materials and other unique items. The department is charged with collecting, preserving and making accessible all of its collections to support the university’s administration, teaching and research goals. In addition to financial contributions, individuals can donate select items to be housed in the archives, as the department includes many rare and unique items that showcase the history of Marshall and the region that have been donated through the years.

Heading the Special Collections Department is Lori Thompson, an alumna with a passion for preserving the history of our university. She shared that gifts of any amount can go a long way in the mission of her department, which is not only meant to archive, but share that history with the public.

“Much of our work is spent organizing, sorting and inventorying materials in the hopes that just one person will find what they need,” Thompson said. “That could be the voice of a grandparent they never met through our digitized oral history, a photo of an ancestor that attended Marshall, or the missing piece of information to solve a historical mystery. I take great satisfaction knowing that my work can directly impact the happiness of others. It is such a great compliment to myself and team when someone believes in our work so much that they feel compelled to give back.

“Our work requires a lot of resources in time and money. Materials don’t just jump into boxes on their own. When we receive a financial gift, it allows us to purchase archival supplies to store materials in, to upgrade our equipment, especially digitization equipment that changes frequently, to pay for student labor, or attend continuing education courses. These resources directly impact our ability to select, preserve and make accessible the unique and historical materials of Marshall University and the surrounding community.”

Thompson shared the unique nature of her department means that no two days are alike, and that anything can come in the doors of her office at any time. While the primary focus of Special Collections is to collect material related to Marshall, the Huntington region and surrounding areas, they do collect diaries, letters, photographs, business records and personal pages that document the community and people of the area.

Because of the wide range of items housed within their office, Thompson said that many of the materials are used by students for projects such as thesis papers, dissertations, documentaries and artwork. She has also provided materials to ESPN, CBS, PBS, The History Channel and others for historical projects.

“Every day is like Christmas,” Thompson joked. “You never know what will show up. Each box, each item, each patron has a story to tell. As a lover of history and all things Marshall, I have the most rewarding job. I get to share that excitement and experience with each person that requests items or donates materials.”

So what are some of the more unique items that have been donated to Marshall’s Special Collections? Thompson shared that her department has been gifted everything from an entire archive of WSAZ film dating back to the 1950s, artifacts from Chuck Yeager and his time in the military, props from the ‘We Are Marshall’ movie, and even the diaries of Huntingtonian Charles F. Frampton from his time serving in World War I. But there are a few items, not of historical value, but of personal value, that really stand out to Thompson.

“I personally enjoy the items that shed light on an average person’s life experience,” Thompson said. “We have a scrapbook from a female student in the 1920s that I joke was the 1920s version of Instagram where she documented her travels and her friends through photos and mementos.”

Shepherd said the work Thompson and her team provides is invaluable, not just to the university, but to individuals around the country. And the helpful nature of the team is noticed and should be commended.

“The Special Collections at Marshall helped me immediately and graciously with my research,” Shepherd said. “I was inspired to give because of their kindness and support. I hope that my donation will help in paying archivists and librarians so they can continue doing incredible work.

“Libraries and special collections are a vital resource. As an archivist, I understand deeply all the labor and funding required to keep our libraries and special collections running. I always try to give, no matter how small an amount, to support these necessary institutions and I encourage you to do the same!”

Marshall’s Special Collections department is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Marshall University Foundation is pleased to announce the Maier Foundation has pledged $1 million to establish the Sandra D. Thomas Scholarship Fund at Marshall University.

Sandra D. Thomas, a Raleigh County native and 1977 graduate of Marshall University, was a former member of the Marshall University Board of Governors and an 18-year board member of the Maier Foundation. After a courageous battle with cancer, she passed away in 2022. The scholarship fund will benefit need-based undergraduate students from West Virginia, with preference to students from Raleigh County.

Bradley Maier Rowe, chairman and president of the Maier Foundation, said Thomas was a champion for bettering the education of West Virginians, and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for all that she did for the state.

“Sandy had a steadfast commitment to improving higher education throughout the state of West Virginia,” Rowe said. “The Foundation is honoring her legacy by creating the Sandra D. Thomas Scholarship Fund at Marshall University. This endowment will make it possible for Raleigh County students to follow in her footsteps and pursue their education at her alma mater.”

In addition to her time with the Maier Foundation, Thomas was also appointed to Marshall’s Board of Governors in 2019 by Gov. Jim Justice. She served on the Athletics Committee, Investment Committee and was vice chair of the Finance, Audit and Facilities Planning Committee.

“Sandra was a valuable member of the Marshall family,” said Brad D. Smith, president of Marshall University. “We are pleased that she is being honored by providing the gift of an education to a Marshall student. We applaud our friends at the Maier Foundation for recognizing Sandra with this generous gift in her name.”

Patrick Farrell, chair of Marshall’s Board of Governors, added that Thomas was a hard worker and was committed to the betterment of Marshall University as a nationally recognized institution of higher learning.

“The legacy of a great leader is not just the impact they make in their lifetime, but the lasting impression they leave on the institutions they serve,” Farrell said. “The Sandra D. Thomas Fund is a testament to the remarkable contributions of a beloved member of our board. Sandy’s unwavering dedication to Marshall University and our students is an inspiration to us all. As we honor her memory through this fund, we are reminded of her commitment to putting students first and ensuring that their success is at the heart of our mission. The Sandra D. Thomas Fund will serve as a beacon of hope for generations to come, embodying the values and vision of a true champion of education.”

Thomas built a successful 40-year career as a CPA in Charleston, West Virginia, and was widely credited as the first woman to achieve partner status at a major accounting firm in the state. She was also dedicated to non-profit work both in Charleston and across the country, serving as national vice president for the Garden Club of America, chair of the CAMC Foundation, president of the Fund for the Arts, as well as serving on the boards of other area charities. Thomas was also an elder and trustee for The First Presbyterian Church in Charleston.

The Sandra D. Thomas Scholarship Fund is generously supported by the Maier Foundation, a private, non-profit, charitable corporation that is dedicated to the furtherance of higher education in West Virginia and the higher education of West Virginia residents attending colleges and universities elsewhere. The fund will provide each students’ cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and other educational expenses. The scholarship is renewable for four years pending the student maintaining good academic standing.

For more information about this fund, or to make a gift to Marshall University, please contact the Marshall Foundation at (304) 696-6264. For news and information about the Marshall Foundation and Alumni Association, follow us online at

After graduating from Marshall University in 2016 with a degree in psychology and working in the addiction science field for over four years, Abbagael Seidler is back on campus and finally feels she has found her niche in the Master of Business Administration program.

“My favorite part about the MBA program is the different courses that are required. Each course provides a different experience, with a different environment. It gives us students an opportunity to meet other students and explore topics we never knew we had an interest in,” Seidler said. “For example, I fell in love with Accounting 215 with Thomas Norton. He is enthusiastic about teaching his students and is one of the reasons why I fell in love with accounting. He has a welcoming and bright personality and can easily break things down for students who need a little extra help in the subject. I remember being terrified the first day of his course and by the end of his first class, I felt comfortable with trusting him and the class as we took the journey of Accounting 215 together.”

Seidler was born in Portland, Oregon, and moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in 2005 to be closer to her father’s family. She chose to attend Marshall after graduating from George Washington High School in 2012 because it was close to her family’s home.

“I love the old-time feel you get as you walk through campus and see all the brick buildings. Marshall’s campus is a beautiful, quaint gem in the middle of Huntington. I always enjoy being on campus especially when the weather cooperates,” she said.

Seidler has been a member of Delta Sigma Phi since 2021. During her Fall semester of 2022, she was the officer of community service where she used her resource knowledge of the Huntington community to provide members of her co-ed fraternity an opportunity to receive business clothes from either Hire Attire, a Goodwill professional clothing program for men, or Dress for Success, a professional clothing program for women. She has also collected pop-tabs to support the Ronald McDonald House.

“As an undergraduate, I was very reserved and unsure of what life direction I wanted to pursue,” she said. “I flip-flopped from becoming a nurse to going to medical school to biomedical research and then back to psychology. This made me not reach out to people or ask questions. Once I graduated, I realized that I missed the perfect opportunity. The university is the perfect place to be able to meet friends, professors, opportunities for jobs and internships, and even future employees. Campus is full of so many young and bright-minded individuals. All you have to do is put yourself out there! Meeting new people is a must as you try and navigate your time as an undergraduate student.”

Seidler is the recipient of the Frank Deacon Scholarship, which supports graduate students in the Lewis College of Business.  It has provided Seidler the opportunity to grow and learn about her passions and interests without having a high financial burden.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity. This scholarship has helped aid in buying my textbooks, online programs required for homework and to help cover fees in different business competitions provided by Marshall University and West Virginia University,” she said. “It could also help cover the costs of the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) membership where I have access to their Maker’s Vault. I am a very new member at RCBI, however, Deacon Stone has been very welcoming and helpful with showing me around the facility and assisting me in building my prototype for the business competition.

“I have completely fallen in love with innovation and invention and plan to pursue the creation of my own patents, trademarks, and intellectual property. Olen York was my entrepreneurship professor last semester. He is a very kind and knowledgeable man. He has helped me cultivate enough confidence to get out there and make my ideas turn into something.”

Last semester, York had his class submit an idea to the 2022-23 WV Collegiate Business Plan Competition. Seidler was the only student (undergraduate and graduate) to be chosen to represent Marshall University in the semifinals.

“We just submitted our second deadline which will determine if I made it into the finals. Either way, I am grateful for the experience and am excited to see where my idea goes!”

After graduation, Seidler isn’t sure where her degree will take her. She has a wide range of interests ranging from accounting, human resources, and entrepreneurship. Her ultimate dream is to start a clean beauty business with her twin sister, Jessica Seidler who also graduated from Marshall with a master’s in biomedical sciences.

“Using truly clean products and incorporating these into our everyday life is high on our priority list,” she said. “Brands can put whatever they want on the front of their packaging to entice their customer, it does not even have to be true. Flipping the product over and reading the active ingredients is key to finding out what is exactly in these beauty products. Our skin tells us a lot about a person and feeding it natural and clean ingredients that nurture us rather than hurt us isn’t too much to ask for from a company serving in the beauty industry.”

Seidler also dreams of having her own patent or invention.

“My twin sister and I were adopted at the age of three by Donald Seidler. In a sense, he gave us his last name, and being able to create something that is mine and representing that by putting my name on it means a lot more to me than what I ever expected.”

“I am here to chase opportunity and creativity,” she said. “I would love to create a product that would make a simple task less complicated. Convivence is everything and creating a patent with my last name on it would mean everything to me. I come from a family of four females and having our last name ‘Seidler’ on a patent would be an honor.”

Marshall University alumni and supporters will have an opportunity to make their mark on the university during the second-ever day of giving across two days April 26-27.

Hosted by the Marshall University Foundation, this event is an opportunity for the Marshall family to join together and make a lasting impact on the students of Marshall and to help shape the future of the institution. Beginning at noon on Wednesday, April 26, Marshall’s Day of Giving will feature 36 hours of giving thanks, with stories, updates and interactive elements throughout the event on the Foundation and Marshall University social media feeds and websites.

Marshall University alumni and supporters are encouraged to participate in this transformational day by visiting

“Philanthropy is near and dear to my heart,” said Marshall University President Brad D. Smith. “It is an opportunity to give back and support the things we love. On April 26-27, I encourage the entire Marshall family to come together and support our great university on Marshall’s Day of Giving as we recognize those who support our students, our campus and our mission through giving.”

While Marshall has participated in national giving days in the past, this will be the second time the university has set aside its own day dedicated to garnering financial support and highlighting those who give back to the university. The previous day of giving, which took place in October 2021, raised nearly $80,000 for the university. This year’s goal is $100,000.

“Setting aside a day dedicated to recognizing those who make a profound impact on our institution through financial support is just one of the ways we can say thank you,” said Dr. Ron Area, CEO of the Marshall University Foundation. “Marshall’s Day of Giving is a great way for members of the Marshall family to make a difference and show their support for the university. Because all gifts, no matter the amount, add up to making a real difference for the students of Marshall.”

Marshall’s Day of Giving comes on the heels of the highly successful Marshall Rises campaign, the largest comprehensive campaign in the history of the university, which concluded last year. Marshall Rises raised more than $176 million in support of the university, with more than 50,000 gifts recorded during the campaign.

One area most directly impacted in recent years is student support, with more than 500 additional students receiving scholarship aid annually than before the start of the campaign. In total, scholarship aid increased by 44% during Marshall Rises, with $5 million in scholarship aid awarded annually over the past three years from more than 2,200 privately funded scholarships.

Marshall Rises also generated an unprecedented response from the alumni community and supporters of the university, with one-third of all gifts given during the campaign generated by first-time donors.

Additionally, money raised through this, and other initiatives, has helped shape new programs such as the Division of Aviation at the Bill Noe Flight School, and is helping transform the Huntington campus through the building of a brand-new facility for the Lewis College of Business and Brad D. Smith Schools of Business, which is slated to open in 2024.

Through the financial support of a strong alumni community, Marshall has grown in stature and prestige over the past decade, reflected in the university’s designation as a Doctoral University: High Research Activity, or “R2” status, in 2019, and a diverse offering of programs for students.

“In 2021 we broke away from traditional national giving days to create our own special day at Marshall,” said Griffin Talbott, program director of the annual fund at the Marshall University Foundation. “We want to use this day to say thank you to all those who make an impact through giving each and every year. At the same time, we want to educate our alumni community and university supporters on how every gift made to Marshall equals real change in the classroom, on campus, in the community and around the world. We hope the Marshall community will join us on April 26 as we give thanks to our donors and encourage you to join that community with a gift of your own.”

For more information about making an impact through giving, contact the Marshall University Foundation at (304) 696-6264 or visit

Five Marshall University graduates who live in the region and work as State Farm agents recently came together to establish the State Farm Agent’s Alumni Scholarship.

The agents who made this scholarship possible are Rob Bowers of St. Albans, West Virginia; Brandon Huffman of Cross Lanes, West Virginia; Bill Mangus of Dunbar, West Virginia; Jeff Smith of Huntington; and George Swain of Williamson, West Virginia.

“We are all very proud of Marshall and individually contribute to the Marshall Foundation or the Big Green Foundation,” Smith said. “We do our part to give back to Marshall and the community.”

Recipients of this scholarship will be full-time undergraduate or graduate students in the Lewis College of Business and Brad D. Smith Schools of Business who are in good academic standing with a 3.0 GPA or higher and have financial need, per the standards of the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

“Given that all of us are self-employed entrepreneurs with business or marketing degrees, we felt it was important to focus our scholarship on the College of Business in an effort to support future entrepreneurs in the community,” Smith said.

For information regarding the State Farm Agent’s Alumni Scholarship, please contact Marshall University’s Office of Student Financial Assistance by phone at 304-696-3162.

Student scholarship recipients were honored Saturday at Marshall University during the 2023 Scholarship Honor Brunch, hosted by the Marshall University Foundation. This annual event recognizes those students who are beneficiaries of privately funded scholarships, as well as the donors and families who made the awards possible.

Dr. Ron Area, CEO and senior vice president of development of the Foundation, delivered a special welcome to more than 400 students and donors who attended the event in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center. This year’s brunch marked the 28th occurrence of the event, originally started in 1993, missing the annual occasion in 2009, 2020 and 2021.

“The Scholarship Honor Brunch brings together scholarship beneficiaries and award benefactors and highlights our mission to maximize continuous financial support for Marshall University and its students,” Area said. “We are absolutely committed to increasing the accessibility of education for our students and are thankful for the benevolence of our donors who truly support their Marshall family through their donations as well as their presence here today.”

Sophomore Nicolas “Nico” Raffinengo, from Boynton Beach, Florida, served as the student speaker. A double major in political science and international business, Raffinengo is a member of the 35th class of Yeager Scholars, the Charlie and Alma Slack Class of 2025. Raffinengo said he owes his current and future success to the scholarships he has received at Marshall.

Yeager Scholar Nicolas Raffinengo provided remarks about in the impact of scholarships at the annual Scholarship Honor Brunch hosted by the Marshall University Foundation on Saturday, April 1 in the Don Morris Room.

“I think scholarships are something that can even out the playing field,” he said. “A lot of students can’t go to college because of the cost, and when people are able to donate to universities it lowers the cost for students overall, which allows more students to attend university and seek higher education.”

Raffinengo is an ACTA Scholar, presidential ambassador, Pre-Law Club president, and member of the Marshall Student Government. He also volunteers as a local debate coach, which he attributes to the role scholarships play in his student journey.

“I think that it is so helpful and allows me to take on all these things like volunteer in the community and allows me to take part of organizations on Marshall’s campus because now I have all this extra free time where I can do volunteer work and help instead of focusing on how to pay the bills. And I think overall that uplifts the community in a way that you can’t really see anywhere else because a lot of people have scholarships and they want to give back, too.”

Marshall President Brad D. Smith, 38th president of the university, once again served as the featured speaker. Smith and his wife Alys established the Brad D. and Alys Smith Family Scholarship in 2014 prior to serving as the President and First Lady of Marshall University.

Marshall University President Brad D. Smith was the keynote speaker at the annual Scholarship Honor Brunch hosted by the Marshall University Foundation on Saturday, April 1 in the Don Morris Room.