WVU Tech undergraduate students from three southern West Virginia counties will benefit from Charles Lilly’s $125,000 scholarship gift in memory of his father.
Charles Lilly established the Joe D. Lilly Endowed Business Scholarship to simultaneously honor his father and give back to the region where he grew up. The scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students from Mercer, Raleigh and Wyoming counties attending WVU Tech.
“The generosity of the Lilly family will help future Golden Bears focus on their academics and their career aspirations,” said Carolyn Long, WVU Tech Campus President. “We are so grateful for this gift that will help students for years to come.”
A native of Wyoming County, Charles Lilly settled in the Morgantown area after studying at WVU and embarking on a career in the coal industry. He founded Red Bone Mining Company, which does business in the Monongalia County area, in 1983. Since his retirement, the company has been run by his son, Kristopher, a two-time graduate of WVU. He and his wife, Kathryn, also have a daughter, Leigh Blatt, who holds two degrees from WVU.
Lilly and his four siblings established the Jessee Frances Brown Lilly Scholarship at the College of Education and Human Services in memory of their late mother, a dedicated teacher and WVU alumna, nearly 25 years ago. He has been interested in a creating a complementary tribute to his father ever since, and he saw a unique opportunity to do so after WVU Tech moved to Beckley.
“I wanted to honor my father, and I also wanted to give back to southern West Virginia,” Lilly said. “I never went back home, what I consider home. You’re always from southern West Virginia, of course, and this is a way of giving something back.”
Lilly’s father grew up in Mercer and Raleigh counties and moved to Wyoming County for work as a young man. He eventually settled his family in Ravencliff, about 45 minutes from Beckley, and opened a general store, Lilly’s Grocery. The business flourished thanks to his friendly nature, excellent customer service and entrepreneurial spirit. He later expanded his enterprise to include Lilly’s Fresh Eggs, raising chickens and selling their eggs – in his store and to other local businesses and restaurants – until his retirement in 1961.
Joe Lilly died Dec. 8, 1980, following a 20-year battle with rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
Charles Lilly hopes his dad would be proud of his scholarship tribute. His parents believed in the power of education and encouraged their children to contribute to their community.
“I’m such a fortunate person,” Lilly said. “My parents believed that if you’ve been fortunate, you need to give back what you can. … I hope [the scholarship] helps some deserving students move forward with their education. It’s meant as a carrot.”
Lilly’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.