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WVU celebrates West Virginia’s 156th birthday with latest gift from the Blenko family

This year's Blenko West Virginia birthday piece, "Voices,” evokes the age-old ritual of mountain stories and oral traditions in the Appalachian region.

Blenko Glass, a glassware manufacturer located in Milton, is continuing its tradition of providing West Virginia University with the latest piece from its West Virginia Birthday Blenko Glass Collection.

The donation has become an annual occurrence in conjunction with the state’s birthday, June 20. Started in 1980, the collection commemorates West Virginia by making and selling the exact number of pieces as the state’s age each year. As 2019 marks the state’s 156th anniversary, Blenko has produced 156 original pieces.

This year's piece, called "Voices,” evokes the age-old ritual of mountain stories and oral traditions in the Appalachian region. It acknowledges the stories, songs and memories that span generations in the West Virginia hills. 

The glass is composed of two unique faces and gestural ears, circuitously voicing outwards and listening inwards. The item stands approximately 15 inches tall and the color is a blend of cobalt and turquoise glass.

In 2007, Hillary Homburg, a 2002 WVU Foundation Scholar and 2009 WVU School of Dentistry alumna, donated her set of birthday pieces to the University. She became a collector through her parents, who started collecting birthday pieces in 1980. 

Homberg’s involvement with Blenko Glass stems far beyond the donation of her collection. She has spent years advocating for the preservation and appreciation of West Virginia glasswork. Homburg calls Blenko a passion.

"Blenko is the only manufacturer of hand-rolled sheet glass in the country and one of the handful of factories left in the United States,” Homburg said. “While I love vivid colors and all things mid-century, what I like most about Blenko is knowing it was made in my state.”

Since completing her dental residency at Ohio State University, Homburg has been working as the dental director for Cabin Creek Health Systems. She feels that her career in public health was heavily influenced by her experience as a Foundation Scholar.

“I learned from the Foundation’s staff the importance of giving,” she said. “I was grateful to receive the full scholarship, but what was more important to me was developing relationships and observing how important every alumnus is to the Foundation. As a body, they are always working toward a better future for our University.”

The Blenko gift is being made through the WVU Foundation, the independent non-profit corporation that generates, receives, and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU and its affiliates. Find out more about how you can support the University

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