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UC alumnus to lead Beckley, Martinsburg operations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The University of Charleston has hired a former school vice president and Kanawha County manager to lead the former Mountain State University operations in Beckley and Martinsburg.

Dr. Jerry Forster returns to the area after working since 2001 as the chief financial officer at Sewanee: University of the South. UC President Ed Welch is scheduled to announce the hire during a press conference today in Beckley.

"Jerry is an outstanding individual and talented higher education administrator. He will be integral in helping the university navigate through the teach-out process with Mountain State, as well as preparing for what we hope to be a long-term presence in Beckley," Welch said in a press release.

In July the Higher Learning Commission -- a regional body tasked with overseeing institutions of higher education -- voted to strip Mountain State of its accreditation. The commission cited academic, financial and leadership problems, and stated the university had not done enough in the previous to try and fix those problems.

In August, Welch announced UC would serve as Mountain State's main partner in the "teach-out" plan and take over the university's Beckley and Martinsburg centers. Mountain State is required to create a plan that helps students near degree completion to graduate and all others ways to continue their education elsewhere.

Forster will be the represent UC in Beckley and southern West Virginia, and "foster positive relationships between the university and the community," according to the release.

About 150 Mountain State employees lost their jobs in the weeks following the commission's decision, which allows the school to remain open only until the end of the year. Hundreds of former students are suing the university -- most say they received a substandard education and are left with large amounts of debt thanks to the loss of accreditation and the actions that led to the loss.

Forster's former roles could help UC create positive relationships in the area. A former basketball player at the school, he also worked as treasurer of Charleston in the late 1980s and city manager from 1988 to 1991. After one year as county manager for the Kanawha County Commission, Forster served a decade as UC's vice president for administration and finance.

"While I will miss all of my friends and colleagues at Sewanee, I'm excited for the opportunity to return to my alma mater and take this new leadership role," Forster said in the press release.

Forster earned his master's in management and public administration from Marshall University and his doctorate in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University.

UC still needs approval from the commission to operate the Beckley and Martinsburg centers. That decision is expected sometime in December, according to the release.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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