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WVU names engineering and mineral resources college for alumnus Ben Statler

on Thu, 01/12/2012 - 08:00

West Virginia University’s engineering and mineral resources school will be named the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources in honor of businessman, philanthropist and alumnus Ben Statler, WVU President Jim Clements and other officials announced Thursday (Jan. 12).

Statler and his wife, Jo, both natives of Monongalia County, today pledged $34 million to the College – the largest single gift commitment ever to the University and to a college - at a special ceremony at Erickson Alumni Center. Eleven million of the donation will qualify for a match from the state Research Trust Fund, making the total value of the naming gift $45 million. A portion of today’s pledge comes from a previously announced commitment.

With this historic gift, CEMR becomes only the third college at WVU to be named for a benefactor.

Over the years, the Statlers have supported many WVU initiatives including the comprehensive breast cancer program at WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center; the new Erickson Alumni Center building; the Basketball Practice Facility; and other Athletics capital improvements, including the Coliseum scoreboards. The direct impact of their lifetime of support to WVU, including today’s gift announcement, is nearly $60 million.

WVU President Jim Clements said the naming recognizes the generosity and support of two extraordinary individuals committed to academic excellence and WVU’s land-grant mission.

“This is an extraordinary gift from extraordinary people,” Dr. Clements said. “Ben and Jo Statler's ties to WVU go back to their childhoods when they met in 4-H and through their many gifts those ties will go on forever. From health care, to athletics, to academics, the Statlers have been extremely generous in helping WVU help others. The College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is already outstanding on many fronts and this gift will truly take the College to the next level and benefit the students, faculty, and staff in countless ways. On behalf of a very grateful University community, I extend our heartfelt thanks to Ben and Jo Statler for their incredible support of excellence in our academic mission.”

The gift includes funds for the new advanced engineering research facility to be built on the Evansdale campus beginning in 2012, and the establishment of the Statler Research Scholars program.

This endowment, when matched with state RTF dollars, will provide scholarships and research support for 20 or more undergraduate students majoring in engineering. This College-wide initiative will provide an opportunity to reach a large number of meritorious undergraduates by easing their financial burden to attend WVU and enriching their education through a research experience.

The gift also creates and supports three endowed faculty chairs in energy research, and funds a graduate research fellows program to support research. The RTF matching dollars will be used initially for research focused on energy.

“While Jo and I are pleased to be in a position to make this commitment, our goal with this gift is not merely to provide financial support to the University and the state, but rather to identify areas that could have a meaningful and long-lasting impact on WVU and on the lives of West Virginians,” said Ben Statler. “West Virginia is blessed with a wealth of natural and human resources and we believe that our University should lead the nation in areas such as energy research and engineering. We’re confident that the faculty, staff, and students, whose efforts these funds will help support, are the ones who will turn the vision behind our gift into reality.”

This commitment will help the College develop a strategic research agenda in energy with the initial focus on fossil fuels, said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

“This gift will transform the College for generations of students to come,” Cilento said. “We are forever grateful to the Statlers for their trust and generosity in our vision. We pledge to honor their names by providing exemplary opportunities for our students and faculty, and to contribute to technological advancements.”

Jo Statler requested that instead of the College being named after the couple, it be named the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources after her husband who graduated from the College in 1973.

"We are very grateful to Ben and Jo for their continued generosity and commitment to WVU", said Wayne King, WVU Foundation President & CEO. "The impact of this transformational gift will be experienced by students and faculty now and for many years to come. From scholarships, to advances in research, to improved facilities, the benefits coming to the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources from this donation will be far reaching. On behalf of the entire Foundation team, I extend my sincere thanks to the Statlers."

The Statlers have received numerous honors, including Most Loyal West Virginians, the WVU Foundation’s Outstanding Philanthropists Award, and the Milan Puskar Award. In 2009, they each received honorary doctorates from WVU during commencement ceremonies.

A third generation coal miner, Ben Statler received his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from WVU in 1973. While attending WVU, he began his career at CONSOL Energy, working as a laborer. For 30 years, he held various positions at CONSOL Energy before starting his own mining company, PinnOak Resources LLC. Statler served as President and CEO of PinnOak Resources LLC until he sold the company in 2007. Currently, Statler is co-founder and CEO of Gulf Coast Capital Partners, a private investment firm founded in 2008 that is focused on acquiring and providing capital to middle market companies in special situations.

He has served on the advisory committee for WVU’s Department of Mining Engineering and was named to the WVU Foundation Board of Directors in August 2008.

Jo Statler, who worked for WVU’s School of Dentistry, has been a strong supporter of her community and WVU. She helped launch Bonnie’s Bus which provides digital mammography services to women in remote areas of West Virginia. The bus is named after Jo’s mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson, who died of breast cancer.

The Statlers currently reside in McMurray, Pa and Naples, Fla. They are the parents of two children, Julie and Ben II, and the grandparents of three grandsons.