More than 700 students will receive degrees as part of Fairmont State University's and Fairmont State Community & Technical College's joint Spring Commencement ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Feaster Center.
Elliot G. Hicks, a Charleston attorney and Vice Chairman of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, will serve as the speaker for the event. Also during the ceremony, the Rev. Richard Bowyer will receive the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. Bowyer is retiring after 40 years of service to Fairmont State as Campus Minister for the Wesley Foundation. A reception will take place at the Student Activity Center following the ceremony.
Hicks was born and raised in Charleston, W.Va. He joined the firm of Hawkins & Parnell, LLP, to establish its Charleston office in January 2002, after practicing law for more than 20 years, three years as a sole practitioner or in a small firm, and more than 17 years with two of West Virginia's most distinguished law firms.
He concentrates his practice in litigation and has demonstrated his versatility in the areas of products liability, premises liability, corporate and commercial litigation, insurance defense and medical malpractice defense. Hicks has taken well over 80 jury trials to verdict in the state circuit courts and the federal district courts, as well as numerous bench trials in the circuit courts and magistrate courts. He is also in demand as a mediator in all parts of West Virginia and in Eastern Virginia. He has presented lectures on insurance law, trial tactics, legal ethics and office technology throughout West Virginia and in several seminars with a national audience.
Highlights of Hicks' professional service are as follows:
* President of the West Virginia State Bar from 1998 1999 and representative on the West Virginia State Bar Board of Governors from 1993 to 1996.
* Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates in 1998 and 1999.
* Appointed by then Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the Honorable Elliott E. Maynard, to serve on a commission to devise standard jury instructions for West Virginia Cases in 2000.
* Charter member of the Judge John A. Field Jr. Chapter of the American Inns of Court, Charleston, as a Master of the Bench in 2002.
* President of the Kanawha County Bar Association in 1988 1989.
Hicks is very active in civic affairs. Among his several community activities, Hicks was appointed by former West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood to serve on the state Higher Education Policy Commission, created by the West Virginia Legislature to establish policy for all state-supported colleges and universities, where he currently serves as Vice Chairman. He served on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of Charleston and the Charleston Economic and Community Development Corporation, and he has served as Chairman of the Kanawha County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. He served for over a decade as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the First Baptist Church of Charleston. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the West Virginia Bar Foundation, in connection with which he serves as Chairman of the IOLTA advisory committee, administering the funds that are contributed from interest on lawyers' trust accounts to provide legal services to the poor.
Hicks attended Washington and Lee University, then graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1978. He graduated from West Virginia University College of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree and was admitted to practice law in West Virginia in May 1981. He is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in West Virginia, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
A native of Huntington, W.Va., Bowyer graduated cum laude with Honors in Philosophy from Marshall University. He completed a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree at Duke University and pursued post graduate studies at West Virginia University and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Bowyer served as pastor of Methodist churches in West Virginia and North Carolina. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and served as campus minister at West Liberty State College and at Fairmont State. He was a state director for the Methodist Student Movement, chaplain during the Farmington #9 Coal Mine Disaster and Interim Executive Secretary of the Office of Urban Ministries. He was the pastor of a predominantly African-American congregation for 10 years and served as a missionary in Liberia, West Africa and the Philippines.
He has been a part-time instructor at Fairmont State since 1970 and served as advisor to the Black Student Union. His church-related board memberships include Global Ministries, the West Virginia Council on Ministries, the Conference Task Force on World Hunger and Black Ministries. He has held board memberships for two African-American or historically African-American colleges in Tennessee and has been Director of Ministries to Blacks in Higher Education.
Bowyer helped write a charter for the city of Fairmont, served on the Fairmont Human Rights Commission and was Chairman for the West Virginia Committee for National Health Insurance. He has served as a Board Member for Fairmont General Hospital and six other health care agencies throughout West Virginia. He was appointed by five governors to serve as a member of the West Virginia Board of Medicine and was among the first Governor's Civil Rights Day honorees. His writing has been published 15 times.
Bowyer is married to the former Faith Ann Martin. They are the parents of three sons and have four grandchildren.