Lawmakers should keep WVU high on priority list

West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee had no option but to devote much of his State of the University speech this week to two critical issues — racial justice and COVID-19. It was appropriate that he talked at length about how WVU has dealt with the two concerns and how it will do so in the future.

Ensuring all people are treated equally is vital for the state university.

Safeguarding the surrounding community as well as students — while striving to avoid interrupting the college experiences of thousands of them — also is critical. Education is WVU’s primary mission, after all.

However, let us not overlook that during very trying times, WVU has moved forward in ways that benefit the entire state.

Gee mentioned some of that during his speech, highlighting a couple of recent developments.

One is the $25 million gift to WVU from Intuit executive and Mountain State native Brad Smith and his wife, Alys. Wisely, they earmarked the money for WVU’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, which should benefit the state’s tourism industry.

Then, just a few days ago came news that a global technology leader will be building the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia. That is part of the Virgin firm’s plan to develop an entirely new transportation network. WVU and Marshall University are involved.

There has been more, and it is of current interest to all West Virginians. At a time when quality health care has been a worry, WVU Medicine has continued to expand its presence in the northern region of the state.

Gee was right to focus on priorities — equality and battling the epidemic. Still, it is important to recognize WVU’s growth in education, health care and improving our economy.

The university is a powerful economic development engine. It also is the state’s leading health care provider and innovator. The good WVU is doing and can do needs to be kept in mind by state policymakers, who during the next year or so may have to rethink some priorities. Clearly, for the good of all West Virginians, WVU should remain high on the list.


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