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The Marshall University Foundation hosted its annual Donor Recognition Dinner Oct. 20 at the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall on Marshall’s Huntington campus. The event recognizes the generosity of donors with lifetime giving of $100,000 or more to Marshall University.

Over the past fiscal year from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, 37 new members entered the Foundation’s major gift societies and 22 moved into higher giving levels. There are also 495 members in the Foundation’s Old Main Society, which recognizes planned gift intentions.

“We are honored to celebrate our donors during our Donor Recognition Dinner,” said Ron Area, CEO of the Marshall University Foundation. “Their charitable giving toward Marshall University is not merely a financial investment; it is a testament to their belief in the power of education and its ability to shape a brighter future.”

Area began the event by welcoming the donors and their guests, followed by an invocation from Rex Johnson, a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. President Brad D. Smith gave remarks about the current status of the university as well as recent developments including the investment of $45 million from the State of West Virginia to build a state-of-the-art institute for cyber security. Smith also shared his excitement for the launch of Marshall For All.

Marshall For All is an initiative announced last year by President Smith to help students earn a bachelor’s degree debt-free. Marshall For All launched this fall with 100 students participating in the program, and Marshall plans to grow the program over the next 10 years. A handful of Marshall For All students were present for the dinner and met with several of the donors.

“Through the steadfast commitment of our generous donors, we are not merely building structures or endowing scholarships; we are sculpting the very foundation of possibility for each student at Marshall University, including those in the Marshall For All program,” President Smith said. “Our donors’ contributions are the catalysts for innovation, the keys to unlocking potential, and the bridge to a future where education transforms lives.”

The Foundation’s Board of Directors meets three times a year, and on those occasions, the Board meets annually in the fall on Huntington’s campus. This year, the Board of Directors’ fall meeting coincided with the event, which returned after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Foundation calculates lifetime giving totals annually.

The Marshall University Foundation, Inc. is excited to announce the establishment of the Jerry R. Keyser Scholarship for $300,000 designed to support and nurture aspiring biology majors at Marshall University.

Of the $300,000, $250,000 will be put into the Foundation’s endowment, with the remaining $50,000 going toward the expendable to be awarded $10,000 per year for the first five years. The renewable four-year scholarship aims to foster the growth of exceptional talents and empower the next generation of scientific leaders who will make groundbreaking contributions to the field of biology and environmental sciences.

“I have heard the inner calling of my faith to give this generous contribution to Marshall University,” Keyser said. “I have been blessed to have had a successful business career enabling me to contribute to the scholarship fund and give back to those residents of West Virginia who wish to work hard to further their education and make a difference.

“It is my intent and hope these scholarships be awarded to those who want to pursue a degree in biological science to develop careers in researching natural and metabolic treatments for cancer and other diseases. Also, environmental science to help preserve our environment.”

The scholarship is generously endowed by Jerry Keyser. Keyser was born and grew up in West Virginia and attended Marshall University where he received his bachelor’s degree in social studies in 1971. After a successful business career, Keyser traveled the country where he developed a love for art and the outdoors. Toward the end of his career, Keyser began to pursue his passion for painting, particularly of the Rocky Mountains and western landscapes.

“I had a great time while attending Marshall and made many long-lasting friends,” Keyser said. “After college, I moved away from West Virginia to other places to pursue my corporate business goals. I am now retired and reside in Montana and Colorado. I often attend Marshall’s Homecoming weekend to see old friends. It always brings back old memories of when I attended school, and how much I miss the people and beautiful places in the Mountain State. Marshall University and West Virginia have a special and deep place in my heart.”

The Jerry R. Keyser Scholarship was established to support undergraduate students in the College of Science. First preference goes to biology majors, and second preference goes to environmental science majors. The award is renewable as long as the recipient maintains a good academic standing.

To donate to this fund or to learn more about philanthropic support of Marshall University, please visit or follow us on social media @ForMarshallU.

Marshall University has announced its 2023 Homecoming activities, promising a week filled with nostalgia, camaraderie and spirited festivities for students and alumni alike. The theme this year is “Super Marco: Level Up,” which celebrates the history of video games throughout the years, as well as celebrating Marshall “leveling up” in stature.

“We are thrilled to announce Marshall University’s Homecoming is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to welcome back our alumni family with open arms,” said Matt James, executive director of alumni relations. “Get ready for an unforgettable week filled with time-honored traditions as we come together to celebrate our beloved alma mater.”

Please see a full list of events and activities below:

Monday, Sept. 25

Activities for the week begin at 5 p.m. with the Unity Walk, an annual event celebrating unity, inclusion and oneness on campus with music, fellowship and fun. Community members are invited and encouraged to participate. The walk begins at the Marshall Rec Center and ends at the Memorial Student Center Plaza. Marshall’s Homecoming Court will also be announced at the event.

Tuesday, Sept. 26

Intercultural and Student Affairs will host Penny Wars from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Memorial Student Center Plaza Monday through Thursday. Chalk the Walk will also take place Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with judging taking place at 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 27

Intercultural and Student Affairs will host a window display contest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the second floor of the Memorial Student Center. Judging will take place at 3:30 p.m.

Black United Students Miss Captivating Pageant will take place at 7 p.m. in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center.

Thursday, Sept. 28

The Marshall University Alumni Association will host its annual Office Decorating Contest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Any department or office is welcome to participate. There will be prizes offered in three categories in each of two divisions, and two grand prizes. Winners will be announced during Party on the Plaza on Friday.

WMUL will host its annual Car Bash from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Buskirk Field. Join us as participants pay $1 to bash the car, painted in Old Dominion’s colors, with a sledgehammer for two minutes. Sledgehammer, gloves and goggles will be provided.

Hoops in Huntington returns at 6 p.m. along Third Avenue across from Pullman Square. Hoops in Huntington event highlights Herd athletics, including introductions from student-athletes and coaches, fun activities for families and more!

Intercultural and Student Affairs will host Herd Pop Trivia at 6 p.m. in the Memorial Student Center.

Wild N’ Out, an annual event full of fun and laughs centered on improvisational comedy, will take place at 9 p.m. in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center. For more information on this event, contact Corey Cunningham at

Friday, Sept. 29

Party on the Plaza returns from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event, hosted by University Communications, features free food, music, a pep rally and photo booth. The event is free and open to students, alumni and the campus community.

Parent and Family Weekend also returns Friday and concludes Sunday, Oct. 1. Food trucks will be onsite at Joan C. Edwards playhouse from noon to 8 p.m. for students and their families.

At 4 p.m. Friday, the Marshall University Foundation and Alumni Association will celebrate the 25th and 50th classes on the patio of Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall. The 1998 and 1973 class members are also invited to participate in Marshall’s Homecoming parade at 6 p.m.

The Homecoming parade will march down the streets of Huntington, featuring Gary G. and Jo Ann White as grand marshals. Gary White served as interim president of Marshall University from December 2014 to January 2016. A Marshall graduate, White is a former member and past chair of the Marshall University Board of Governors, as well as an accomplished businessman and leader in the coal mining industry.

The parade will begin on Fourth Avenue at 10th Street and travel east to Hal Greer Boulevard, where it will move up to Fifth Avenue and continue east to 17th Street at Harless Dining Hall. For those who are unable to attend the Homecoming parade in person, a livestream of the event may be viewed at

The annual bonfire is scheduled to take place immediately following the parade on Harless Field (located between Harless Dining Hall and City National Bank). Music will be played onsite by Kindred Communications. There will be special appearances by coaches, players, cheerleaders and more.

From 6:30-11 p.m., the Marshall University Alumni Association Board of Directors will host Homecoming StamFEED. Experience downtown Huntington as alumni, family and friends will tour the city’s best drinks and eats. Tickets are $60 and include a commemorative Homecoming 2023 glass. To purchase tickets, visit

At 7 p.m., Marshall University Black Alumni will host its inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony in Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall. Honorees include Mr. Roy Goines, Mr. Joseph Williams, Mr. and Mrs. William Redd, Dr. Kimberly Austin, Mr. Edward Starling Jr., Mr. and Mrs. William Smith, Mrs. Katherine Dooley and Mr. Sean Hornbuckle.

From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., The Glow Up Sneaker Ball, an event that encourages guests to wear their best fashions and coolest sneakers, will take place in the lobby of the Memorial Student Center. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For more information on this event, contact Corey Cunningham at

Saturday, Sept. 30

At 12:30 p.m., the annual Marshall Alumni and Family Tailgate will take place in the Joan C. Edwards Stadium East Lot, beside the Chris Cline Indoor Athletic Complex. The tailgate is hosted jointly by the Marshall University Alumni Association and Marshall University Black Alumni, and presented by Woodlands Retirement Community. The tailgate features food, drinks, music and special guest appearances. Tickets to attend are $20. For tickets, visit

A tailgate accompanying Parent and Family Weekend will take place on the Memorial Student Center Plaza at 12:30 p.m.. Intercultural Affairs will have a family gathering at 12:30 p.m. on the East Lawn.

The Thundering Herd will take on Old Dominion University at 3:30 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. During halftime, the Homecoming Court will be crowned on the field.

Greek life at Marshall will compete in the Greek Stroll-Off Competition at 8 p.m. in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center. A stroll-off competition showcases a team’s agility, creativity and understanding of rhythm and dance as they show precision, synchronization, originality and showmanship. For more information on this event, contact Corey Cunningham at

Marshall University Black Alumni will host its annual Black Out Alumni Party from 8-11 p.m. in BE-5 of the Memorial Student Center. There will be a DJ, food and more!

To learn more about the week’s calendar of events, visit

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).

For more information visit

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.

Dr. Friday Simpson had an unconventional path to becoming a doctor.

Originally from Biloxi, Mississippi, Simpson flew from Panama City, Florida, to Phoenix, Arizona, as a commercial charter pilot for 14 years. After so long, Simpson decided to pursue what she had always loved – medicine.

With some encouragement from her late husband Ted, a Huntington native, she applied and was accepted at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine with dreams of becoming a physician. The process is a bit different than learning to fly.

“In medical school, it just seems like it never quits. Twenty-nine graduate hours in medical school per semester, that was a lot tougher, much, much tougher than an undergraduate course. So yeah, the discipline was different,” Simpson said.

Simpson now has a scholarship for medical students who commit to practicing in rural West Virginia. She hopes to be a small part of keeping talented physicians in towns where they are needed the most.

Simpson knows the battle of completing medical school firsthand. She was diagnosed with lymphoma during her time in medical school, which forced her to put a pause on her studies. She believes her experience with cancer has given her compassion for her patients that she could have never had otherwise.

“That gives me a new perspective on compassion for people who are ill because nobody really knows what’s that’s like unless you’ve been there,” she said. “You know you go to a doctor; you’re having a checkup and they say you have cancer. That didn’t happen to me like that, but I know what happens to my patients a lot. And when they hear that word it is very devastating. It was devastating to me.”

Simpson now aims to give back in more ways than one, with compassion for her patients, and financial assistance that will empower the next generation of healers.

“You know, I could leave here today and not take a thing with me or whatever and make three times as much money working 40 hours a week and let everybody else take care of all the rest of it and not have a thought about it. But it doesn’t help our medical community if I do that.”

Simpson knows the financial strain placed on medical students after they graduate often makes them more likely to be forced to leave West Virginia or other rural communities. She believes scholarships will help more students say yes to staying where many want to be all along – home.

“So it may not be a whole lot, but every time that you lower $1,000 for them, it’s more likely that they might stay in this area to practice,” Simpson said.

Simpson now practices privately in Huntington and prefers the advantages, including the unconventional aspects she is allowed to bring into her office. Upon walking into her office, one will quickly see a few feline friends roaming the halls, and her reception area is less like a traditional doctor’s waiting area, but more like a living room in a home. Across the walls are photos of her and her husband taken on their many cruise trips. She says patients prefer the less intimidating feel of her office, and that private practice gives her more time to spend with each patient.

Simpson said she prefers working this way, even if she could make more money elsewhere. She knows where she is needed, and where she will make the most impact.

Simpson, like any doctor, knows the ups and downs that accompany the territory. Being a doctor comes with hard work and often having to give bad news.

“I’ve known when some of them are leaving here that it will be the last time I will see them. And we’ve told them that. That’s the hard part,” she said. “I’ve said, ‘This will probably be the last time that I see you as a patient.’ And then some of my patients have spouses that are ill that aren’t even my patients. And you can help them along to understand what they’re going through a little bit more.”

Although being a doctor has its heavy moments, there are also moments of success, healing and fun. Simpson’s personality and style have become a part of her everyday work.

“I think my patients see me a little bit differently, as more of a friend-kind of a doctor,” she said “In fact, they tell people this is my friend…I’m a family doctor. I enjoy joking…In fact, we were talking yesterday, if somebody comes in and I’m not joking, or laughing with them, or some sarcasm, that they think I’m ill, because they expect that after a while.”

Simpson doesn’t expect future students to follow in her exact footsteps but hopes some will be inspired to stay in the Mountain State. A little can go a long way, and it might be the difference for someone else.

Growing up, they all looked to the sky. When others dreamt of careers on the ground, they dreamt of soaring with the birds.

Many didn’t think they would do more than dream until they heard the announcement that changed their lives – Marshall University was opening a flight school.

“I was set to study biology,” said Kristen Sayre, a member of the inaugural class of the Bill Noe Flight School and St. Albans native. “I planned to obtain my undergraduate degree out of state. Throughout my senior year of high school, my sights were set on leaving my home state because I did not yet see the opportunities it had for me.”

Sayre isn’t the only one who changed her plans.

Ben Epperly graduated from George Washington High School in Charleston in 2020 and didn’t know what he was going to do. He knew he was interested in aviation, but it wasn’t until Marshall opened the flight school that he could pursue the dream.

Josh Lucas grew up wanting to be a pilot and a police officer. With no path toward the former, he followed the path of law enforcement, serving Marshall’s campus, the cities of Milton and Hurricane, and the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General. The support of his wife and family led him to pursue his other dream of flying.

“Flight instruction has been a dream of mine since I was little,” Lucas said. “But I didn’t want to leave West Virginia. I got married, I have my house and eventually I want to have a family here. It was a no brainer as soon as Marshall opened.”

The Bill Noe Flight School welcomed its first class in the fall of 2021. Housed at West Virginia International Yeager Airport in Charleston, the four-year program leads to a series of Federal Aviation Administration certifications and prepares graduates to become commercial pilots of single and multi-engine aircraft. Lucas and Epperly are among the first students to receive their private pilot licenses.

Amelia Earheart said, “The lure of flying is the lure of beauty,” and that is true for the students at the flight school.

“When you take off and go through the clouds and get above the cloud layer, the scene you see is breathtaking,” Lucas said. “Down on the ground it can be raining, dark and gloomy, but in just a few minutes you pop above the clouds to the sky.”

Scholarships have assisted in helping make these local students’ dreams come true. Sayre, Lucas and Epperly are all recipients of the Lemotto Smith Trust Scholarship, a general scholarship created by the estate of Mr. Lemotto Smith, a Huntington business owner who died in 1987 at the age of 103.

“Scholarships have given me the promise that my family and I will be able to make my attendance in this program work despite the fact that aviation is financially demanding and our socioeconomic status traditionally does not support such a lifestyle,” Sayre said.

Scholarships helped Lucas make the decision to leave his full-time job to go back to school.

“There are no words to describe what it means to me,” he said. “Especially coming from a full-time job to a situation where I can’t work full time, it makes it so much easier. Whether it’s $50 or $1,000, it’s one more piece of the puzzle that goes toward our education and making achieving our dreams possible. I’m not used to getting scholarships or having anyone give me anything. I can’t say thank you enough. Without it, it makes it difficult.”

The scholarships have also inspired the students to want to give back themselves.

“Since the beginning of my attendance, I have actively been working with Marshall to establish more scholarships and honors programs for the flight school so others have the opportunity to become professional pilots,” Sayre said.

Sayre also wants to become a flight instructor.

“I wanted to be a teacher since a young age, so with that I can be a teacher for one of the most amazing things in the world,” she said.

“I have not bought into the idea that what one does for work has to be a job,” Sayre continued. “Being a pilot for most is not a job, it’s a passion and you get to take part in things very few do. I love the idea of mobility and the freedom associated with it. I aim to inspire others to reach for the stars as well.”

Lucas would also like to be a flight instructor and dreams of combining his passion for civil service with his passion for flight through something like medical flights.

With access to commercial flights, corporate and general aviation facilities, an Air National Guard base, the West Virginia State Division of Aviation, a port of international entry and the flight school, graduates of this program will be well-equipped for whatever path they take.

And they will be highly sought after. It is estimated that over the next two decades, 87 new pilots will need to be trained and ready to fly a commercial airliner every day to meet the demand for air travel. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of airline and commercial pilots was projected to grow 6% from 2018 to 2028. Most job opportunities will arise from the need to replace pilots who leave the occupation permanently over the projection period. The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers was $147,220 in May 2019. The median annual wage for commercial pilots was $86,080.

Marshall enjoys postseason successes.

The Thundering Herd men’s soccer team made another deep run in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament in 2022, reaching the third round of the tournament before losing to the 13th-seeded Indiana Hoosiers 1-0 last month. Marshall finished the year 11-4-4 and spent much of the season ranked in the top 10 nationally.

In its first season in the Sun Belt Conference, Marshall’s football team also had a strong season, finishing 8-4 and earning a date with UConn in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. Marshall running back Khalan Laborn led the Sun Belt Conference and was 12th nationally with 1,423 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.

New faces in new places.

Marshall University president Brad D. Smith wasn’t the only new face to join the Marshall family in 2022. The university welcomed dozens of new individuals in new and existing roles this year, helping set the stage for a push to take Marshall to new heights.

Among the highlights was the February addition of Christian Spears as the new athletic director at the university, the April naming of Dr. Avi Mukherjee as the new provost and the October announcement of Matt James as the new Executive Director of Alumni Relations.

Homecoming presents plenty of “Fun in the Sun!”

Marshall celebrated its first season in the Sun Belt Conference with a fitting Homecoming theme as alumni, students and supporters celebrated “Fun in the Sun!” with a full week of activities on campus.

The festivities were led by 2022 Homecoming grand marshal Jim Datin, a 1985 graduate of Marshall and MU business hall of fame inductee in 2018. Highlighting the week of activities was the annual Homecoming parade and bonfire, Picnic on the Plaza, Unity Walk, Stampede 5K and Alumni Family Tailgate. At halftime, Calvin Hunter and Nevaeh Harmon were selected as Mr. and Miss Marshall for the upcoming year.

Pedestrian safety campaign launched on campus.

Marshall University launched a new pedestrian safety campaign on its Huntington campus in August to create continued awareness for students and staff who cross busy streets daily.

The campaign is called Heads Up Herd, reminding pedestrians to keep their heads up and their eyes off of their cell phones. Pedestrians are also reminded to cross streets at crosswalks. In July, other steps were taken to enhance safety on major thoroughfares near Marshall’s campus. The West Virginia Department of Transportation issued a temporary order to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph from 35 mph on Third and Fifth avenues between Hal Greer Boulevard and 20th Street. The City of Huntington also completed a new crosswalk on 20th Street between 3rd and 5th Avenues that makes it safe for pedestrians to access the Marshall Rec Center or Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Baseball stadium becoming a reality.

Marshall University’s Board of Governors approved a resolution in October allowing the second phase of construction for the new baseball stadium to proceed. The $3.4 million project includes the addition of two metal buildings that would house the visiting team locker room, batting cages, additional offices and storage.

One month prior, Marshall Athletics received a $13.8 million gift from the State of West Virginia on the site of the school’s future baseball stadium. The gift, in the form of a check from the State of West Virginia, was presented by Gov. Jim Justice, a graduate of Marshall University and himself a former student-athlete.

Metro tuition rates expanded for students in Ohio and Kentucky.

In August, the university announced the expansion of metro tuition rate eligibility to a 100-mile radius from the Huntington campus.

Prior, the metro rate applied to border counties in Ohio and Kentucky, but with the expansion more than 40 additional counties have been added to the pool of counties that can take advantage of reduced tuition rates at the university.

Hundreds volunteer for first-ever Community Cares Week.

Marshall University’s inaugural Community Cares Week in June was a success, with hundreds of volunteers pitching in to make a positive impact on the university’s Huntington campus.

The weeklong sweat equity event focused on engaging faculty, staff, students, community members, local businesses and alumni to help check off “to do” list items on the campus, while giving back to the university that has invested in them as well. A total of 451 people signed up to volunteer, working 1,240 service hours.

Herd officially joins Sun Belt Conference.

On July 1, the Thundering Herd officially became members of the newly realigned Sun Belt Conference, bringing with it three other schools. The Sun Belt Conference was founded in 1976 and began sponsoring football in 2001.

In a number of firsts with the conference, Marshall played its first home game as a member of the Sun Belt Conference on Oct. 12 in a 23-13 loss to Louisiana and then recorded its first Sun Belt victory one week later with a 26-12 victory over JMU. The Herd went 5-3 in conference play this season.

Marshall officially opens Aviation Maintenance Technology program.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, representatives from Marshall University and Mountwest Community and Technical College, and other dignitaries cut the ribbon on the new Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) program’s facility at Huntington Tri-State airport in August.

The event was also highlighted by the announcement of a new partnership with the Embraer Foundation, a non-profit created by Embraer, who provided a financial contribution. The AMT program, which offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree, represents a partnership between Marshall and Mountwest.

Brad D. Smith officially installed as president.

In an outdoor ceremony on the Huntington campus in September, Marshall graduate and former Silicon Valley CEO Brad D. Smith was officially installed as Marshall University’s 38th president.

Smith, who assumed the presidency in January, is a native of Kenova, West Virginia, a 1986 graduate of Marshall and a successful former CEO and president of Intuit. During his remarks, Smith focused on the theme of time, saying while the university’s vision, creed and purpose remain timeless, time stands still for no one, and the university must adapt to keep pace with 21st century acceleration.

Marshall stuns No. 8 Notre Dame 26-21.

The Fighging Irish. Touchdown Jesus. The golden dome. Everything in South Bend, Indiana, just screams history. But on Sep. 10, the Thundering Herd made their own history with a stunning 26-21 victory over then No. 8 ranked Notre Dame.

In that game Steven Gilmore returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Khalan Labron ran for 163 yards as Marshall shocked the Irish for only their second victory all-time against a top 10 opponent. The Thundering Herd beat No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in 2003.

Marshall Rises campaign raises $176 million.

In September the Marshall University Foundation announced that Marshall Rises, the largest and most ambitious fundraising campaign in Marshall University history, had raised more than $176 million in support of the university.

In total, more than 50,000 gifts were recorded during the campaign, spread across 1,300 different designations at the university ensuring that a wide range of programs and projects were directly touched by the campaign.

The campaign publicly launched in October 2019 with a goal of raising $150 million. By May 2021, the campaign reached its $150 million target, eventually topping $176 million when the campaign formally concluded earlier this year.

Marshall University and the Marshall University Alumni Association are excited to announce that alumnus Jim Datin will serve as grand marshal for Marshall’s 2022 Homecoming activities the week of Oct. 24-29.

Datin recently retired as president and chief executive officer of BioAgilytix, a leading global bioanalytical contract research organization. During his time there, the company grew from less than 50 employees to more than 1,100 and was continually recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies. Datin graduated from Marshall University in 1985 with a degree in marketing and was elected to Marshall’s business hall of fame in 2018.

Highlighting his role as grand marshal, Datin will lead the annual Homecoming parade on Thursday, Oct. 27, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The popular parade is set to make its way down Fourth Avenue in Huntington before ending on campus. The parade will be a part of a full week of activities for this year’s Homecoming, Fun in the Sun!, celebrating Marshall’s inaugural season in the Sun Belt Conference.

“We are proud to welcome Jim back to Huntington as our grand marshal for this year’s Homecoming celebration,” said Ron Area, CEO of the Marshall University Foundation. “Jim has done great things since his days here on campus in the world of business, but he has always remained a son of Marshall at heart. He is very deserving of this honor, and we can’t wait to celebrate together later this month.”

Datin grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the oldest of three brothers. He came to Marshall and earned a soccer scholarship, proudly playing games at the former Fairfield Stadium. Datin spent all four years living on campus where he was a resident advisor and a regular attendee at fine arts events on campus.

After Marshall, Datin earned his MBA from the University of New Haven and completed the Advanced Management Degree at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to being named president and CEO of BioAgilytix in 2013, Datin was a seasoned executive with significant experience in the pharmaceutical, life sciences and biotech industries. Over the course of his 35-plus year career, Datin has been a successful CEO, director and executive in companies throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and Asia.

He was previously EVP and managing director at Safeguard Scientifics, former chairman of the board at Clarient and Laureate Pharmaceuticals and was the former president at Dendrite International. He was also an executive with GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter Healthcare.

During his most recent tenure as CEO, BioAgilytix was named among the best places to work in North Carolina and had some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry. The company went from $50 million in value to over $3 billion in eight years.

Datin is currently a board member with BioAgilytix Labs, Grenova Solutions, The North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the North Carolina Symphony. He is also an owner with the North Carolina Courage, a women’s professional soccer team based in Cary, North Carolina.

Datin said he is excited to return to Marshall for this year’s Homecoming festivities after several years away from Huntington.

“Whether on the soccer field, in the classroom, residence hall, fraternity or on campus, this was, and will always be, a very special place to me. It is a place I will always call home,” Datin said. “I had the good fortune of making one of my best decisions in attending Marshall 37 years ago and the experiences I had here, and the things I learned while here, were deep and have lived with me my entire life.”

Datin said that it is an honor to be recognized as grand marshal, especially during a time when the university is truly on the rise.

“It is a very high honor to be recognized as the Homecoming grand marshal. Marshall is a university that has a lot of great things happening and has a truly innovative and rock star president in Brad Smith,” Datin said. “Combine the great things happening on campus with a nationally recognized soccer program, major athletic victories and a new athletic director that is bringing in strong leadership to transform Marshall’s facilities and national presence, and there has never been a better time to be a part of the Marshall family.”

In addition to the Homecoming parade, Datin will also participate in other major events on and around campus leading up to the Homecoming football game against Coastal Carolina University on Saturday, Oct. 29. Other highlights of Homecoming week for alumni include the Unity Walk on Oct. 24, parade and bonfire on Oct. 27, Picnic on the Plaza and Marshall StamFEED presented by Jenkins Fenstermaker PLLC on Oct. 28, and the Stampede 5K and Alumni & Family Tailgate presented by Woodlands Retirement Community on Oct. 29.

“Four of the best years of my life took place at Marshall. This is a nurturing environment with caring people committed to a great education,” Datin said. “It was a beautiful campus in the 1980s and is even more engaging today with so many new, high-tech buildings and world-class facilities. President Brad Smith has and will continue to do great things for Marshall, Huntington and West Virginia in making Marshall a destination for students around the world.”

More information about this year’s Homecoming can be found at