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WVU president sees revitalization role for school

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Kenny Kemp The Rev. Matthew Watts walks by vacant property that once had dilapidated houses and drug activity on Grant Street on Charleston’s West Side.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Kenny Kemp
The Rev. Matthew Watts walks by vacant property that once had dilapidated houses and drug activity on Grant Street on Charleston’s West Side.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia University’s efforts in Harpers Ferry, Weirton and Charleston’s West Side are aimed at not only helping revitalize those communities, but also at developing templates that can be used to assist others, including Montgomery, said WVU President Gordon Gee.

“The problems facing our state and world are too big for any one person, department, institution or sector to solve alone,” Gee said in his Oct. 5 State of the University address. “Boundaries within the university must not be boundaries on our ingenuity.”

Gee’s initiative first gained widespread attention after four historic Harpers Ferry buildings were destroyed by fire on July 23. Gee said that shortly afterward, state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, visited his office.

“When he visited me I was not aware that 30 percent of the historic district had burned down and they have a volunteer mayor and a couple of volunteer council people and they were just without purse or scrip,” Gee said. (He was quoting the Bible. In Luke 22:35 Jesus said, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything?”)

“They just didn’t have any ability to deal with it,” Gee said of the town. “So we went over the next week and visited with the mayor and the city council and brought a number of people including our extension services and some folks from our law school, etc. We determined we could make a difference…

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