Fairmont State Foundation celebrates donors and scholarship recipients during virtual Scholarship & Stewardship Banquet

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Fairmont State Foundation celebrated its donors and volunteers on Sept. 18 with a virtual Scholarship & Stewardship Banquet.

“Last year we had our first Scholarship & Stewardship Banquet, and we had more than 100 donors and scholarship recipients who were able to share a meal and get to know each other,” said Julie Cryser, president of the Fairmont State Foundation. “Because of Covid-19, we were unable to meet in person this year, but we still wanted to shine a spotlight on our donors and the students, faculty and staff they have supported.”

To view the banquet page and videos from each of the awards winners, please log on to fsufoundation.org.

Rusty & Kimberly Hutson

The Foundation named Rusty and Kimberly Hutson as the 2020 Outstanding Philanthropists, presented to individuals with a proven record of exceptional generosity and demonstrated civic and charitable responsibility. 

A 1991 accounting graduate and certified public accountant, Mr. Hutson spent 13 years working in the banking industry in Ohio and Alabama. In 2001, Hutson founded Diversified Gas & Oil, where he serves as Chief Executive Officer. The company began with the purchase of 40 wells in West Virginia and now operates throughout the Appalachian Basin. 

Mrs. Hutson, a 1994 graduate of the nursing program, worked as a registered nurse before they settled in Birmingham, AL, in 1999. After the move, she became a full-time mother to the couple’s four children. She serves as a mentor and example to many young mothers and she is passionate about realizing their true value in today’s society.

In 2019, the Hutsons established the Rusty & Kimberly Hutson Family Endowed Scholarship to benefit Fairmont State School of Business students and have continued to contribute significantly to other programs and projects at Fairmont State University. 

Tom & Lori Kliethermes and Gary & Renee LeDonne

Tom and Lori Kliethermes and Gary and Renee LeDonne were recognized as the 2020 Gary K. Bennett Philanthropy Leadership Award winners. Named for long-time Fairmont State Foundation board member Gary K. Bennett, the award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills in coordination and motivating other donors to follow their philanthropic lead for the benefit of Fairmont State University.

Tom and Lori Kliethermes have been residents of Fairmont since the early 1980s. As an Edward Jones financial advisor since 1987, Tom has built his reputation on understanding what matters most to his clients. 

Raised on a turkey farm in Missouri, Tom and Lori moved to Fairmont to establish their home and raise their family in 1987. Fairmont offered Tom an opportunity to share the Edward Jones culture of serving the serious long-term investor. Today, his West Virginia roots run deep. After raising their three daughters, Tom and Lori spend their time exploring farm life and enjoying their grandsons

Since 1998, Tom has qualified to attend Edward Jones' annual Managing Partner's Conference, an honor reserved for the firm's top 350 financial advisors. Tom has also received invitations to five Barron's Top Advisors Summits and has received an award as one of the top 1,200 financial advisors in the United States for the past five years.

Through personal commitments and support through Edward Jones, as well as being advocates for Fairmont State, Tom and Lori have been exceptional philanthropic leaders.


Renee and Gary A. LeDonne are proud Fairmont State University alums residing in Morgantown. Renee is co-owner of Seek and Find, located at Eloquence in Morgantown. Seek and Find offers antiques and collectibles. She serves on the Board of Directors of United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties. Renee’s hobbies include cooking, decorating, reading and refinishing furniture. 

Gary is an executive in residence at the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics. Gary instructs income tax accounting courses and serves as program director for the WVU Master of Accountancy program. Gary serves on the Board of Directors of MVB Financial, a regional bank holding company. He is a retired Partner of Ernst & Young LLP, retiring in December 2014 as East Central Region tax managing partner. Gary currently serves as past chair of the Fairmont State University Foundation Board of Directors and is a member of the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics Visiting Committee. Gary was recognized in 2018 as an Outstanding Alumnus by the Fairmont State University Alumni Association. He enjoys various fitness activities, especially biking along the Rail Trails of North Central WV. 

Renee and Gary are active members of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown. They cherish spending time with their adult children Garrett and Haley LeDonne. Family time includes playing board and lawn games, family book club, playing mini golf and beach time.

The Thrasher Group

 The Thrasher Group has been selected as the Outstanding Corporate Philanthropists. To qualify for this award, a corporation must demonstrate outstanding commitment through its financial support and engagement of others in activities that support and advance philanthropy at Fairmont State University.

Last year, the Bridgeport-based consulting firm contributed $50,000 to Fairmont State University to support the architecture and civil engineering technology departments but has also been a long-time supporter of various programs at Fairmont State University.

“The Thrasher Group believes in supporting local education to ensure a quality workforce for our industry. Contributing to these programs has been a great way to do that,” said Chad Riley, Thrasher’s Chief Executive Officer. 

The Thrasher Group was established in 1983 by a young entrepreneur and engineer, H. Wood “Woody” Thrasher, and his father. The duo set out to create a civil engineering firm rooted in serving the state’s communities, growing local infrastructure, and giving young, talented West Virginians a place to thrive. Since that time, Thrasher has grown into West Virginia’s largest privately-owned engineering, architecture, environmental, and field services consulting firm and an industry leader in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Saban's Kids Foundation 

This year’s Outstanding Foundation award was presented to the Saban’s Kids Foundation. To qualify for this award, a foundation must demonstrate outstanding commitment through its financial support and engagement of others in activities that support and advance philanthropy at Fairmont State University.  

The foundation, established by the University of Alabama head coach and Monongah native Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, has funded a scholarship to honor Kerry Marbury, a long-time family friend who died in June 2019.

The Nick's Kids Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources for deserving organizations throughout the state of Alabama and Southeast. As the official charity of the Nick Saban Family, Nick and Terry invest their time in hosting luncheons, golf tournaments scrimmages, and other events to benefit the cause. They are also active in the Annual Fall Giveaway Luncheon, which serves to distribute grants to support children, family, teacher, and student causes. To date, Nick's Kids Foundation has distributed over $6 million to hundreds of deserving organizations and causes. Additionally, Nick and Terry Saban have personally completed their donation of $1 million to the First-Generation Scholarship at the University of Alabama. The Sabans are proud to be major sponsors of new the St. Francis Saban Student Center at their church, St. Francis Catholic.

Karen & William Poole

This year’s Legacy Leader award was presented to Karen and William Poole. This award seeks to honor a generous donor for their dedication and commitment to the programs and students of Fairmont State University through leaving a legacy. 

Planned gifts, either through a bequest like Poole’s, making Fairmont State University the beneficiary of an IRA or life insurance policy or even creating an income producing charitable gift annuity, help Fairmont State to plan for the future and supports growth.

The Pooles recently made Fairmont State University the beneficiary of 5 percent of the residuary of her estate to support the School of Education, Health & Human Performance.

Karen (Lucas) Poole grew up in Newell, WV, and graduated in 1965 from Oak Glen High School, located in the upper tip of the Northern Panhandle. The summer after graduating from Fairmont State, Karen married William Poole, who still had a year left before graduating from West Virginia University. Karen went on to a teaching career. 

The couple wanted to do something would impact future generations and hopefully make the world a better place because they were once in it, she said. They have also been impressed with the expansion of programs and facilities at Fairmont over the years. 

“Bill and I both grew up as the oldest child in small-town families with financial challenges and would have been unable to go to college without assistance from loans and scholarships,” she said.  “Those small towns have not survived well, but because we had good educations, we were able to find employment and opportunities in other locations. We feel very blessed, and fortunate, that we were able to do so and want others to have the same opportunities.”