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WVU grad marks 50 years of dedication to Mountaineers

A 1972 graduate of the West Virginia University Dental School, Dr. Philip High has been a longtime supporter of WVU athletics, making an annual contribution to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for 45 consecutive years.

A 1972 graduate of the West Virginia University Dental School, Dr. Philip High has been a longtime supporter of WVU athletics, making an annual contribution to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for 45 consecutive years.

Sitting in front of the radio in his Moundsville, West Virginia, home as a child, Dr. Philip High was first introduced to his state’s flagship university during a basketball game in the mid-1950s.

As he listened to the exploits of Hot Rod Hundley and the rest of coach Fred Schaus’ team during the genesis of what became the golden age of West Virginia University men’s basketball, a lifelong love for and dedication to the Mountaineers began to blossom.

This love continued to grow throughout High’s life, leading him to more than 50 years of being a WVU fan, student, graduate, financial supporter and, most importantly, a dedicated Mountaineer. While his WVU origin story is not unique, the journey it led High on certainly is.  

High’s first trip to see the Mountaineers in person at a basketball game came at 10 years old, when he traveled to Morgantown to watch Coach Schaus, Hundley and the rest of the Mountaineers he became enthralled with on the radio play at Stansbury Hall on Beechurst Avenue.

Although his love for the Mountaineers began on the hardwood, High quickly became immersed in the University, rooting for the football team at old Mountaineer Field as a teenager before ultimately enrolling at WVU following his graduation from Moundsville High in 1963.

High remained an avid WVU fan throughout his time as a student in Morgantown, attending home games, watching the football team practice at its old facility near where the Coliseum sits now, and traveling to see WVU compete in conference tournaments and bowl games.

“I hardly ever missed a game as a student,” High remembers. “I went to my first bowl game with my mother and stepfather in 1964, which was the Liberty Bowl in Atlantic City. It was indoors at the Atlantic City Convention Center. We got our butts kicked, but I loved bowl games so much that since then, I’ve been to 33 bowl games.”

Finding his passions

After completing his undergraduate degree in 1967, High took the advice of his childhood orthodontist and enrolled at the WVU School of Dentistry, which proved to be a decision that would shape his professional career and set the stage for a future in oral health care.

“I wasn’t sure,” High said of the decision at the time. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was thinking about medicine, and I was thinking about dentistry. Finally, I said, ‘I’ll just apply to dental school and see what happens.’”

That choice proved fruitful. After dental school, High went on to study oral surgery, earning his doctorate from WVU in 1972 and completing his formal education in 1975 with no intention of leaving his home state to practice.

“I am a West Virginia homeboy,” High said. “I never considered living anywhere else. I love family, and I love the area.”

In the years since, as an oral surgeon, High has become a staple of the Ohio Valley in the Wheeling area, serving his community’s oral health care needs while raising a family of his own.

As his household and responsibilities have grown, High’s love for the old gold and blue has remained a constant. Since 1975, High has not missed a home WVU football game, originally attending with his stepfather, WVU grad Dr. Harold Ashworth, before getting season tickets of his own in 1983.

In addition to cheering on the Mountaineers from his seats in Section 126, High took his fandom on the road, attending those 33 bowl games and wearing his gold and blue with pride along the way.

“The bad news is that my record is 12-21,” High said with a laugh. “I looked it up the other day. The only bowl games I’ve missed since ’64 were three when my kids were really young in the ’80s.”

Giving back

In the years since 1975, High, who has also held men’s basketball season tickets since the 1980s, has established himself as a dedicated financial supporter of the Mountaineer Athletic Club, making annual contributions to the MAC every year since 1979.

“I decided, ‘I have to help out, too,’” High explained. “At first, it would be to a scholarship dinner. I didn’t really start donating personally until (my stepfather) passed, and I took over the responsibility for all the seats and basketball seats. I loved going, and I wanted to help the University do the best it could.”

Starting with a $35 scholarship donation 45 years ago, High’s giving has steadily grown over the years and branched out to other areas of the University, including the WVU dental school and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

“As my practice grew and I could afford to do a little more, and as my kids were growing up, the other obligations became less, and I was able to do more,” High said. “Obviously, I’m not a big donor. I just do what I can as a working guy. I’m still working; I’m not retired yet. I continue to do it. My kids love it. My three boys all went to WVU, and we all go to the games still today, as do my grandkids.”

High still works as an oral surgeon in the Wheeling area and is proud of the service he has been able to provide over the years, with his passion for oral health care and the Mountaineers being passed down to his family.  

High’s son, Alex, is a dentist with his own practice in Wheeling, where he works with his brother, Luke. Phil High’s son Jeremy lives in Morgantown and has two children, while Phil High’s daughter passed away in 2018.

Looking back, High has fond memories of going to games with his mother and stepfather, as well as his kids and grandkids. He’s seen the ups and downs of Mountaineer athletics. He’s watched players from Jerry West to Carl Crennel, Major Harris to Erik Stevenson, and he’s provided steadfast support to West Virginia University each step of the way.

High’s gifts to WVU were made through the Mountaineer Athletic Club and the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organizations that receive and administer private donations on behalf of the University.

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