Fairmont State Foundation honors donors with inaugural dinner

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Fairmont State Foundation held its inaugural Scholarship & Stewardship Banquet Friday night, celebrating a successful scholarship campaign and honoring more than a dozen donors by introducing them to students and faculty affected by their gifts.

“The Fairmont State Foundation’s mission is, in short, to support Fairmont State University, its students, faculty and staff,” said Julie R. Cryser, Foundation President. “By honoring those donors who have helped to ensure an affordable education for students and those whose donations have supported our programs and projects, we are acknowledging the sacrifice they have made to assist our Falcon Family, as well as their loyalty and kindness of spirit.” 

The foundation finished its fiscal year June 30 having exceeded its $1.3 million Every Gift Matters scholarship campaign by more than $700,000, topping more than $2 million in scholarship support. It also saw two of the school’s largest gifts from living donors, a $1 million scholarship gift and the largest gift in the history of the athletics program.

Jed and Vicki Smith were named the Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year. They were also inducted into the President’s Circle for having given more than $1 million over their lifetime. 

“Our legacy was not what we did to make a living or for recognition, it is what we’ve done to make a difference,” Jed Smith, who was unable to attend, said in a written statement. “Thank you so much for this award and the recognition and we hope that through our gift, our Falcon Family of students will soar!”

Jed Smith is a 1974 graduate of Fairmont Senior High School and earned his bachelor’s in business administration in 1968 from Fairmont State. He paid for college working at a supermarket and also helped support two fraternity brothers. 

He and Vicki Smith started Smith Company Motor Cars in 1994 and never looked back. This year they generously donated $1 million for scholarships in the School of Business and general university. It was the largest gift from a living donor that the foundation has ever received. 

The Philanthropic Corporation of the Year Award was given to Dan Cava Toyota World. Dan and Machelle Cava and their family of Dan Cava Toyota World agreed to a five-year sponsorship agreement that will give the dealership the official naming rights to the court inside Joe Retton Arena. The court will now be named Dan Cava Toyota World Court. The sponsorship agreement is one of the largest in history for the Department of Athletics.

The Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation award went to the Mon Health Foundation, represented by Mon Health Medical Center Executive Director of Philanthropy Luella Gunter and the foundation’s vice-chair, Stephanie Stovash.

In the spring, the foundation generously provided a $200,000 commitment to our nursing program to support hiring new faculty to educate more nurses. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the health system dedicated to helping improve facilities and support community health career scholarships. 

Fred and Linda Cooper, who were also inducted into the 1865 Heritage Society for planned giving, were named Legacy Leaders. Fred Cooper was originally from Weston and Linda Cooper from Clarksburg. They both graduated in 1966 with degrees in Physical Education and Recreation, respectively. 

Fred Cooper made a long and successful career working with the YMCA, first as assistant physical director in Middletown Ohio and finishing his career there in late 1999 after 16 years as the executive director of the Middletown Area YMCA. 

The two now reside in Central Florida, where they have lived the past 20 years. Fred and Linda’s bequest will be utilized for scholarships for students who have financial need. 

Gary K. Bennett received the Leadership in Philanthropy Award, which goes to an individual who demonstrates exceptional leadership skills in the coordination and motivation of other donors, asking them to follow their philanthropic lead. Bennett, from Webster Springs originally, graduated from Fairmont State in 1972 with a Bachelor’s in business administration and earned his Master’s from West Virginia University in 1973. He taught at WVU until 1980 but returned to his alma mater in August 1980 to teach accounting and finance. 

As a leader in the community, Bennett has served on the boards of dozens of organizations. While teaching full time and volunteering, he also had his own practice. As recognition for his relentless efforts, the foundation announced it would name the award for Bennett, and next year will give out the Gary K. Bennett Philanthropy Leadership Award. 

Also honored Friday were Carson and Liza Drake, who this spring established the Carson B. Drake Engineering Scholarship to support engineering students from Braxton County. Carson is a 1986 Electronics Engineering Technology graduate and cofounder of Gray Matter, a Pennsylvania company that transforms manufacturing companies into technology companies. The first scholarships will be awarded in fall 2020.

David Gibson, represented by his sister, Ruth Spino. Gibson, through his estate, established the David H. Gibson Fund, a permanent endowment to fund scholarships in the School of Business to students who demonstrate a primary interest in the area of sales and sales management. Gibson graduated in August 1972 with a bachelor’s in business administration. Spino said that David’s legacy was his love for Fairmont State. He passed in the spring of 2018.

Joanne Van Horne, represented by her step-brother, Gary Freeman, was posthumously recognized as well for establishing the Nepal Honors Scholarship through her estate. This scholarship is for international students, with first preference to students from the Kingdom of Nepal. Van Horne was a professor of history and “Jody Mam” to students throughout her career at Fairmont State. She passed in August 2018 after battling cancer for more than a decade.

Dr. Mirta Martin and John Martin, for establishing the Mirta and John Martin Jr. Endowed Scholarship for first-generation college students. Dr. Martin is the president of Fairmont State University, and John, is an engineer with his own company.