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$4.8M trust gift bolsters education, health and athletics at West Virginia University

David Allen

A $4.8 million trust gift from longtime West Virginia University supporter David G. Allen is benefitting five programs across campus that reflect his diverse interests in education, health, athletics and more.

A $4.8 million trust gift from longtime West Virginia University supporter David G. Allen is benefitting five programs across campus that reflect his diverse interests in education, health, athletics and more.

Allen, of Clarksburg, West Virginia, died Sept. 21, 2017, at the age of 67. Prior to his passing, he established a living trust that provided about $960,000 each to the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, WVU Cancer Institute, WVU Libraries, School of Medicine and Mountaineer Athletic Club. These trust gifts were recently completed.

“It is because of the generosity and support from our extended University family that this institution can continue to achieve great success,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “These gifts from David Allen will be instrumental in expanding our commitment to arts and STEM education, health outreach and research, as well creating opportunities for our campus community and Mountaineer fans around the globe.”

His brother, John Allen, described David as a “deep thinker” who cultivated lasting friendships with many leaders at WVU, including former President David C. Hardesty Jr., late Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center Director Dr. Eddie Reed, WVU Libraries West Virginia & Regional History Center Director and Curator John Cuthbert and Eberly College Dean Emeritus Rudy Almasy.

Almasy said their friendship blossomed about 30 years ago, after he thanked Allen for a gift to the Department of English, which Almasy chaired. They met regularly for lunch and always exchanged books. Allen’s trust gift to the Eberly College established the David G. Allen English Literature Endowment, which provides discretionary funds to support the English department with preference given to pre-20th century English literature.

“David was a lover of books and a lover of ideas,” Almasy said. “I think he sort of gravitated to the University as the sort of place where you could have an intellectual life. He enjoyed being connected with an exciting place like WVU.”

Allen earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Virginia Military Institute before serving in the United States Army. He later studied law and philosophy at Oxford University and accounting at WVU, although he never graduated.

Professionally, he served as vice president of J.F. Allen Company, a construction and material services business founded by his parents, before he was appointed assistant commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Highways in 1985. He also worked for Alcon, Inc., and DuPont.

Almasy said Allen’s many personal interests included politics and history. His trust’s contribution to WVU Libraries goes toward the Dorothy Davis Endowment for the West Virginia & Regional History Center, which he established 15 years ago to honor late Harrison County (W.Va.) teacher and historian Dorothy Belle Davis. The fund supports acquisition and collection maintenance activities focused on state and local history, with an emphasis on the early settlement period in north-central West Virginia and Harrison County, where Allen lived.

Cuthbert became acquainted with Allen through Davis, who was one of Allen’s teachers and a lifelong friend. Cuthbert said Davis sparked Allen’s passion for regional history, and they shared a great sense of humor. Allen’s trust gift to WVU Libraries was a tribute to Davis, who also remembered him in her will.

“This is a fantastic gift; it’s a game-changer,” Cuthbert said. “David’s gift, along with other donors, has definitely improved our ability to be competitive in terms of collecting West Virginia materials with expense associated with them.”

Allen’s trust gift to the WVU Cancer Institute supports the Sara C. and James F. Allen Comprehensive Lung Cancer Program, which is named in memory of his parents. They both died of lung cancer, prompting John Allen and his wife, Joyce, to establish the clinically focused research program in 1999. David Allen also donated and served on the Cancer Center’s Advisory Committee (now known as the Leadership Council).

During that time, Allen – an avid writer and regular newspaper contributor – suggested to Provost Maryanne Reed, then dean of the P.I. Reed School of Journalism (now the Reed College of Media), that journalism students interview cancer patients. The project produced an award-winning documentary, “Cancer Stories: Lessons in Love, Loss, and Hope,” and a companion book published by the WVU Press. Allen contributed the final chapter.

“David was really bright,” John Allen said. “He was always coming up with new ideas and things to do.”

David Allen was paralyzed by injuries sustained in a 1994 vehicle accident. Afterward, he co-wrote and produced a video, “Therapy and Beyond: Aquatic Therapy for Spinal Cord Injuries,” in collaboration with the School of Medicine. His trust’s contribution to the School of Medicine benefits the Division of Exercise Physiology, with preference to the aquatic therapy curriculum. WVU offers the nation’s only comprehensive program to prepare students for certification as aquatic therapists. 

During his recovery, Allen worked with therapy providers involved with the WVU women’s rowing team. His nephew, Johnny Allen, said he liked sports and enjoyed supporting WVU’s lesser-known teams. Among other gifts, he donated funds for the first racing shell used by the women’s rowing team when the sport achieved varsity status in 2000.

David Allen’s trust donation to the Mountaineer Athletic Club gives preference to the women’s rowing team. The funds will go toward a new athletics performance center for WVU’s Olympic sports programs, including rowing.

Johnny Allen said his uncle had a unique perspective – thanks to his diverse experience and interests – and a strong desire to give back to WVU and the state of West Virginia.

“He was a man that had a lot of different passions and interests, so I think he found a good outlet with the University in sort of staying interested and occupied,” Johnny Allen said.

David Allen’s estate, a separate entity from his trust, made two gifts – to his namesake Endowment for the Treatment of Paralysis and the Dorothy Davis Endowment at WVU Libraries – totaling $2.2 million in 2018. His total giving to WVU amounts to nearly $7.3 million, including nearly $200,000 in donations made during his lifetime

Allen’s contributions were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. Planned gifts made through the Foundation, such as a living trust, empower donors to make a lasting impact on WVU in a way that makes sense for any age, lifestyle or income level. To explore planned giving options, contact Matthew Clark at or 304-284-4033.

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