Top Row (L-R): Taylor Kennedy, Erinn Victory, Juliana Perdue; Bottom Row (L-R): Isabella Hawkinberry, Cassandra Stewart, Lexie Mullen
Dedication to bettering the Mountain State earned six West Virginia residents the Hazel Ruby McQuain Graduate Scholarship helping them to continue graduate study in their chosen fields.
The scholarship program, administered by the West Virginia University Office of Graduate Education and Life, honors the legacy of its late namesake — Hazel Ruby McQuain — a businesswoman and benefactor devoted to community development in Morgantown and the surrounding area.
West Virginia residents chosen for the scholarship receive up to two years of financial support applied to the cost of a graduate degree program at any accredited institution of higher education within the United States. Recipients must be committed to scholarly study or professional work with the potential to address the greatest needs of West Virginia and its residents.
This year’s honorees include Cassandra Stewart, Erinn Victory, Juliana Perdue, Isabella Hawkinberry, Lexie Mullen and Taylor Kennedy.
“We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding young leaders with the Hazel Ruby McQuain Graduate Scholarship,” said B.J. Davisson, executive vice president and chief development officer for the WVU Foundation. “Their diverse interests and dedication to the Mountain State will undoubtedly benefit future generations of West Virginians by improving education, health care and much more. Mrs. McQuain would be proud of their shared commitment to build upon her legacy of giving back.”
Diagnosed with narcolepsy at 5 years old, Stewart’s hidden disability inspired her to help others. She volunteers with community organizations that serve people with disabilities and serves as a respite care worker for a friend with Down syndrome.
That interest, combined with her passion for fashion, helped her identify a unique career path.
“I love West Virginia and want to give back to the state that raised me,” said Stewart, a native of Kanawha County. “After completing my education, I plan to open my own adaptive and custom alteration business in Morgantown, to serve the area as a sensory needs consultant. This store would be sensory-friendly, offering clothing and custom alterations with sensory rooms for all in the community.”
Stewart is pursuing a master’s degree in design and merchandising from WVU, where she previously earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion, dress and design, along with a minor in disability studies.
Victory, of Huntington, is dedicated to helping West Virginia families conquer mental health and substance abuse issues through research and clinical care.
“West Virginia is a beautiful state with much to offer; however, challenges such as substance abuse, poverty, and lack of access to health care plague families all over the state,” Victory said. “To me, attending the clinical child psychology doctorate program at WVU means that I have the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of the lives of children and families throughout the state.”
Victory earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marshall University in May 2020. She now works as a research coordinator for WVU’s Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Lab.
Her research has focused on identifying barriers to mental health care in West Virginia, how to best provide therapy services to families impacted by opioid crisis, the efficacy of the therapy lab, and evidence-based treatment that coaches caregivers in positive parenting techniques.
A first-generation college student from Boone County, Perdue took advantage of WVU’s Student Support Services to help her succeed. She later became a peer mentor as she worked toward her bachelor’s degree in psychology, which she completed in May.
Now pursuing a master’s degree in human resource management at WVU, she hopes to aid West Virginia workers by ensuring fair compensation and policies.
“Ensuring employees receive fair benefits and room for growth in a workplace are important for employee satisfaction and loyalty,” Perdue said. “Additionally, it is within my interests to implement more policies that protect others in the workplace in relation to harassment, bullying, racism and discrimination of any kind. I hope to help people love where they work instead of just going through the motions every day.”
A native of Bridgeport who now lives in Martinsburg, Hawkinberry is committed to bettering West Virginia through a career in public education. Beginning this fall, she hopes to inspire students as an English teacher at Spring Mills High School.
“My goal is to show students that West Virginians can be successful and to instill within them a more cohesive understanding of our state that they can clearly see themselves in,” Hawkinberry said. “If students are given role models, as I had, that show them the turbulent yet beautiful truth of West Virginia, and if we are able to convince students of their own worth and capabilities, we will create passionate West Virginians looking to improve our state for generations to come.”
Hawkinberry is pursuing a master’s degree in teaching – with a concentration in English – at Shepherd University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in English earlier this year.
Mullen, of Marietta, Ohio, earned her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from West Liberty University in May. Yet, she never fully understood the powerful impact of her chosen field until recently, when she dealt with health challenges in her family. The experience offered unique professional insight and reinforced Mullen’s passion for giving back. She has completed nearly 200 hours of community service since 2019.
“This career has the ability to fulfill my need to give back to the community,” Mullen said. “Speech pathologists are in dire need in West Virginia, and our unique skill sets are necessary for the amelioration of communication-science disorders within the state.”
Mullen is continuing her education at West Liberty as she pursues a master’s degree in speech language pathology. She plans to pursue a doctorate and specialize in dysphagia, so that she can work with children in neonatal intensive care who have difficulty swallowing.
Kennedy, of Evans, discovered a passion for education as a peer tutor at Fairmont State University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in May, and she will begin working toward a master’s degree in the same field this fall.
Kennedy plans to complete a doctorate at WVU and teach at the college level, where she can also make a difference through research. Her current research focuses on how an endocrine disruptor found in plastics and packaged foods affects obesity and the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
“Continuing my research during my master’s degree will help me dive deeper into the effects that unhealthy eating has on West Virginia residents,” Kennedy said. “Increasing knowledge and awareness of health-related topics could help better my home state by potentially reducing physical inactivity, obesity and obesity-linked diseases, which can all assist in developing a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
McQuain’s gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University, and established scholarship programs like this one, recreational facilities, university chairs and much more. Her generosity included an $8 million gift toward the construction of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, which is named in memory of her husband. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 93.