When, shortly before Christmas 2008, Alumni Director Ron Witt ‘92 called my home to discuss writing a new history of West Liberty, I assumed he was doing some advance planning for the institution’s 175th anniversary in 2012. He wasn’t.
He and President Robin Capehart hoped for something sooner–May 3, 2009, the day West Liberty would become the newest university in West Virginia’s higher education system. I accepted the challenge.
Several weeks later, on New Year’s Day, my wife, Alice, asked if I had begun writing. “Not yet,” I answered, “ but I’m thinking about it.” My thoughts were to write a new book, not to update previous endeavors; therefore, I chose not to consult two earlier works (in 1938 and 1963) or Professor Emeritus Bob Schramm’s 2001 pictorial. Words and pictures would have equal importance: many readers believe that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
By spring break of 2009, most of the writing was complete, although the last section–about the Hughes Lecture Series–was composed on the day the manuscript went, by FTP upload, to the printer in Latrobe, Pa. The project from start to finish–research, data collection, photo selection, writing, and design–took 90 days.
In selecting photos, I searched the Elbin Library Archives, not by an index, but by looking at hundreds of individual pictures and documents which my expert designer and former student, Patty (Yankavitch ’75) Byrd, scanned and stored in her computer and from which we made our final choices.
The book is not a paean to our alma mater. Within the limits of time and space, I presented an unvarnished telling of the good, the bad, and the ugly:
the attempt to oust President Paul N. Elbin in 1955, the heated debates about the loss of the branch campuses in 1972; and the declining enrollments in the last three decades of the 20th century.
History is the story of human activity, and as an historian I tried to tell that story succinctly and honestly. This is a modest little book, not an encyclopedic history. I was honored to have the opportunity to write it and to enjoy the support and assistance of so many others who love West Liberty as much as I do.
About the author
Dr. David T. Javersak, Dean Emeritus of the School of Liberal Arts and professor of history, earned a B.A. degree from West Liberty State College in 1967, an M.A. from the University of Hawaii in 1969, and a Ph.D. from West Virginia University in 1977.
He joined the faculty of WLSC in 1969 and served as the dean of the School of Liberal Arts from 1986 until 2007. Dr. Javersak retired in December 2007.
A native of Weirton, W.Va., Javersak is a noted Wheeling historian and has authored many articles and publications rich in local history.
For 172 years, West Liberty has been, to quote the Alma Mater, “worthy of our devotion.” Its graduates “have carried [its] name to greater heights in the fields of service: as educators, doctors, nurses, dental hygienists, scientists, mathematicians, artists, graphic designers, musicians, dramatists, historians, social scientists, government workers, business people, athletes, and military personnel.
West Liberty becomes a new university on May 3, 2009, but it will remain …
… Dear old West Liberty!
- Excerpt: WEST LIBERTY From Academy to University: A History