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WVU mourns passing of longtime benefactor Carolyn Eberly Blaney

Carolyn Blaney (L) and W. Gerald Blaney (R)

Carolyn Blaney (L) and W. Gerald Blaney (R)

Carolyn Eberly Blaney, a loyal West Virginia University alumna who carried on a longstanding family tradition of philanthropy, passed away Friday (May 8) at the age of 96.

Blaney, of Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania, and her late husband, W. Gerald Blaney, made major contributions to many WVU projects, programs, scholarships and more. The WVU president’s home is named Blaney House in recognition of their generosity, and the Douglas O. Blaney Lobby at the Canady Creative Arts Center is named in memory of their son.

“Carolyn Blaney understood the importance of higher education, and its role in creating a better world,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “She generously gave her support to ensuring West Virginia University and other institutions were in a position to fulfill that role.

“She was a true Mountaineer and we can honor her memory best by following her example. She will be deeply missed.”

Blaney was the daughter of Ruth and Orville Eberly, of nearby Greensboro, Pennsylvania, who established the Eberly Foundation and donated to a variety of charitable causes in western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia during their lifetimes. As former president of the Eberly Foundation and a trustee of the Eberly Family Charitable Trust, Blaney was instrumental in providing numerous gifts to benefit the University, particularly in the arts and sciences. She previously served on the visiting committee for the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, WVU’s largest, which is named in honor of her family’s dedication and generosity to WVU.

A member of the Pi Beta Phi women’s fraternity, Blaney graduated from WVU in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in speech and an emphasis in drama. She was named WVU’s Most Loyal Mountaineer in 1992 and inducted into the Order of Vandalia, the University’s highest service honor, in 1995. She received an honorary doctorate from WVU in 1998 and the College of Creative Arts Dean’s Award in 1999.

Blaney was an emeritus member of the WVU Foundation board of directors, on which she served for 11 years. The Blaneys belonged to the Foundation’s Woodburn Circle and Irvin Stewart societies and were the inaugural recipients of the Foundation’s Outstanding Volunteer Philanthropists award in 2005. They played an important role in capital campaigns and other fundraising efforts over the years, helping to secure additional private support to benefit WVU. 

WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth was struck by Blaney’s quiet, graceful elegance when they first met over breakfast during WVU Cancer Institute gala festivities at The Greenbrier.

“There was never any question of Carolyn’s commitment to West Virginia University and the importance of providing an education for the next generation,” Roth said. “She was relentless in her passion to help others, and I was always struck by her quick wit and great perspective on life.

“The bright light in Carolyn’s blue eyes reflected a genuine happiness and peace that she had done the right thing throughout her blessed life. She left an imprint that will be felt for many generations to come. Thank you, Carolyn, for all that you have done to make us better.” 

Blaney’s husband, a World War II veteran who retired from the oil and gas industry, died in March 2015. 

A memorial service is planned for a later date. 

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