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Gift to benefit WVU men’s basketball student-athletes

WVU Basketball Practice Facility

A West Virginia University alumna’s gift to the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will help improve the overall personal and professional development of the student-athletes within the Mountaineer men’s basketball program.

The planned gift from Dr. Rebecca Thacker will support a position that will be housed within the WVU men’s basketball program. The position includes but is not limited to career choice advice, individual assessment of skills and abilities, financial literacy, asset management, public speaking, men’s basketball branding, leadership and career development with a focus on promoting the growth, progress and development of the student-athletes of the WVU men’s basketball program.

“We are very appreciative and thankful for Dr. Thacker’s gift to our Mountaineer men’s basketball program,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “This gift will now help enable our student-athletes to improve their personal and professional development. Dr. Thacker was born in West Virginia and went to WVU, and this generous gift reflects what it means to be part of the Mountaineer family.”

I want to applaud Dr. Thacker for an outstanding and impressive career in the private sector and in higher education. Her experiences during her journey have served as motivational factors for this special gift,” Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President Shane Lyons said. “Her enthusiasm for our athletics program, especially Mountaineer basketball, is second to none, and we are thankful that she wants to help us make a difference. The special thing about her planned gift is that it will play a major role in the lives and careers of WVU student-athletes for years to come.”

Dr. Thacker is a native West Virginian and a lifelong Mountaineer. Her career spans the worlds of business, academia and the public sector. Her love of learning began with an undergraduate degree from WVU and then continued with an MBA and Ph.D. from Texas A&M. Professor Nora MacDonald, in the WVU Clothing & Textiles department, was an early role model, as Dr. Thacker admired her work ethic and passion for her students. In between MBA and Ph.D., Dr. Thacker was an assistant vice president in charge of human resources in a bank. The exposure to HR policy and practice prompted her to enter a doctoral program in the College of Business at Texas A&M, studying human resource management. 

Upon graduation, her academic career began. Most of that career took place at Ohio University where she taught human resource management in the College of Business and served as a management/HR consultant to for-profit and public sector organizations. She is a published author in scholarly and practitioner journals and was an active volunteer leader in the HR scholarly world, serving as the associate editor of the premier theoretical journal in the HR management field. Recently, Dr. Thacker served in the Office of the Director of the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., where her primary responsibilities revolved around strategic planning, organizational learning, and evaluation. Now, she is an independent HR/organizational change consultant.

Dr. Thacker’s research focused on understanding the link between individuals’ thoughts and emotions and how those translate into workplace behavior and performance. It was this intellectual curiosity that prompted her to explore the behavior of student-athletes and the role that fellow athletes could play in easing freshmen athletes into university life. After talking to football players at Ohio University, many of whom were in her HR management classes, Dr. Thacker created a mentor program for freshmen football players. The program relied upon principles of human resource management and was built with the input and active participation of junior and senior football players. 

Having been a passionate and lifetime follower of Mountaineer basketball, Dr. Thacker wanted to transfer her experience with the Ohio University football mentor program to visible, tangible support for the WVU men’s basketball team.

“I have so many happy and positive memories -- from Da’Sean’s (Butler) last-minute heroics in the Big East tournament, to Juwan’s (Staten) last-minute shot to beat Kansas at home, to JC (Jevon Carter) and Dax (Daxter Miles Jr.) with Press Virginia and the sheer will to win that the team exemplified in the last few years, demonstrated by Deuce’s (Miles McBride) leadership in the Texas Tech game this past season,” Dr. Thacker said. “I was impressed with the way the team rallied from a losing season two seasons ago to competing, and almost beating, the two teams that played for the national championship. I wanted to provide support for the incredibly successful coaching of future Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins, believing that so much goes into the human side of player development that we are just now beginning to understand.

“To know that I might have played a role in bettering the college experience and improving the life and career success of these young men who wear the flying WV on their uniform and represent the ‘place we belong’ as West Virginians is just simply a dream come true."

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