BUCKHANNON - E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University, visited Upshur County Thursday as part of his mission to travel to every county in the state by Aug.15.
Gee said the last time he was in Upshur County was 30 or more years ago. He said he was excited to be back and he hopes to come again soon.
"Buckhannon is a cool place," Gee said. "In fact, I want to come back to the theater."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University, tours Upshur County Thursday in a quest to visit all the state’s counties.
Gee toured the Lascaux Micro-Theatre and the Artistry on Main gallery on Main Street Thursday afternoon. He also visited the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College before stopping at CJ Maggies restaurant in Buckhannon Thursday evening, where he was the special guest at a reception.
The private audience for the reception included representatives from WVWC, the Buckhannon city government, Artistry on Main, the WVU Extension office, the Upshur County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, local business owners, media members and more.
"I'm here because of the fact that West Virginia has 55 counties and Buckhannon is a great town," Gee said during the reception. "It's great to see the smaller communities having a real renaissance, and I thank you for that. I thank the younger people coming in and creating that kind of synergy and that kind of enthusiasm to revitalize our communities."
Gee said small communities are the heart of the nation, and it would be great for WVU and smaller communities to work together. He said he wanted to take the opportunity to meet people in the community, which he was able to do during his visit Thursday. Gee noted that WVU and WVWC have a long history together, and that he wants to expand partnerships between the schools.
"The notion that a university and a college can have a very symbiotic, structured relationship is something that is very important," Gee said.
WVWC President Pamela Balch explained that students begin a certain engineering program at the college, study for three years, then continue the program at WVU for another two years, earning a degree in engineering.
"We actually talked about what can we do collaboratively," Balch said. "He was excited about putting our academic vice presidents together and talking about additional collaboration. He said he knew our students were really doing great and that's the kind of students they want."
Gee said he hopes the schools can develop more programs collaboratively in the future.
"We want to take a look at other types of programs," Gee said. "Liberal arts colleges have wonderful students and they are very well-educated, and so it's an opportunity for us to have a partnership where we can have programs that would attract the students to come and be with us in a pathway program. That would be very important to us. The Wesleyan students do very well at West Virginia (University)."
"I think that our education is now the economic, social and cultural engine in this nation," Gee said. "This is the century of ideas... it's the century of thought."
Representatives of Upshur County helped show Gee around during his visit.
"We're excited to show him the good things that are happening in Buckhannon and Upshur County," Craig Presar, the WVU Extension agent for Upshur County, said.
Gee said he was impressed with Upshur County and Buckhannon.
"This was beautiful. My impression of West Virginia is pretty much the same," Gee said. "It's a beautiful state, it's wonderful people and I'm privileged to be here. This area is just stunning, it really is. What a great town. Buckhannon is a great little college town. Morgantown is a big college town."