Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dr. Sharon Romino, Fairmont State University Professor of English, has been named a Foundation Fellow by the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., based on her proposal to create a living classroo m within the garden area surrounding the former Kennedy Barn/Colonial Apartments building, the future home of the West Virginia Folklife Center.

The Foundation initiated and funded the Fairmont State Foundation Fellows Program in 1993. Recipients of the faculty development program are selected annually and receive a stipend of $4,000. Applicants are encouraged to design activities, projects or programs, in keeping with the mission of Fairmont State, that contribute to their own professional development and benefit their students. Romino said she is committed to the success of the Foundation's fund-raising efforts and, specifically, to the Historic Kennedy Barn Project.

"When I came to Fairmont over 20 years ago, I was enchanted by the rolling hills, the fascinating variety of plant life and, of course, the people and their rich heritage. My involvement with the Kennedy Barn Project brings all of these loves together," Romino said.

"I am delighted to be part of this campaign and hope that my efforts will inspire other faculty, staff and retirees to support the Fairmont State scholarships or programs that reflect their passions. All of our gifts, large or small, will make a lasting impact."

The Kennedy Barn is located along Squibb Wilson Boulevard on the west side of the FSU campus. The early 20th century structure, notable for its gambrel roof, was built as part of a working dairy farm. The farm was operated by the Kennedy family, who emigrated here from Ireland in the latter part of the 19th century. Descendants include the McAteer family of Fairmont. The Foundation is raising money to renovate the building so that it may become the permanent home of the West Virginia Folklife Center. The renovated facility will include a great room, a gallery and reception area, as well as space for offices and archival storage.

For many years, Romino has studied herbals and herb lore from the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. Some of the material has found its way into the Literature of the Middle Ages course she teaches at Fairmont State.

"What I propose to do will, in effect, erase the boundaries between the theoretical and the practical," Romino said. "The result will be a living classroom, a sort of Garden of Delights. Within the garden areas surrounding the Kennedy Barn will be a variety of trees, herbs and other plants that have been and continue to be of value both medicinally and metaphysically."

While conducting her research on herbs and trees that continue to be of folkloric significance, Romino plans to pay particular attention to plants and trees important to the ancient Celts.

"The result will be information that will be succinct enough to be placed on outdoor placards next to the specimens, on the order of what might be seen in the typical 'Shakespeare Garden,'"she said.

Romino said the garden she envisions has the potential to become a true learning community.

"Our botany students, among others, could use the garden as a living laboratory. Students in my Literature of the Middle Ages course would enjoy seeing first-hand some of the plants described and analyzed in herbals from that period. I would like for GEAR-UP students to come here to learn about the folklore associated with these plants," she said. "It would bring me great pleasure, as well, for the garden to welcome anyone who would like to relax and 'set a spell.'"

Romino plans to conduct the bulk of her research during the summer months. She said the work should be completed by the end of summer 2007. This summer's work will include adding to her already extensive collection of books on herb properties, visits to herb gardens in West Virginia and attending workshops on herb culture.

"Capital building projects, such as the Kennedy Barn Restoration Project, help promote lifelong learning and maintain a tradition of excellence at Fairmont State," said K. Jean Ahwesh, Executive Director, Fairmont State Foundation, Inc.

"Private investment is an essential component of the capital building equation. Committed leadership investment is directly responsible for the tremendous growth and progress made on our campus in the past two years. I applaud those community members who have embraced our presidents' transformative vision of the future and encourage others to see how their financial support can provide the impetus for innovation in higher education," Ahwesh said.

The West Virginia Folklife Center is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of the region's rich cultural heritage, through academic studies, educational programs, festivals, performances and publications. The center is part of the FSU Department of Language & Literature.

The mission of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., is to support, through ethical stewardship, the mission of FSU and Fairmont State Community & Technical College. The Foundation will identify, establish and cultivate meaningful relationships with Fairmont State alumni and potential and existing funding constituencies to meet contributor needs while securing funds and supporters for priority objectives identified by the Board of Directors.

For more information on facility naming opportunities, or to create an endowment, contact Kim Riggi, Director of Major Gifts, Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., (304) 367-4014 or toll-free at (866) 372-2586.