IN 1989, the University of Charleston was a quaint but struggling institution sitting picturesquely across the Great Kanawha River from the state capitol.
Twenty-five years later, UC's main campus still sits quaintly across from the state capitol, but with modern buildings, challenging new academic programs, more students, satellite locations and a much stronger financial picture.
The credit for this metamorphosis goes in large part to UC's president for the past 25 years, Edwin H. Welch, Ph.D.
For the 25 years prior to Welch's arrival, the institution progressed from the former Morris Harvey College to University of Charleston, yet struggled with financial difficulties, lack of support and a small base of students. It went through eight presidents in that period. Rumors of bankruptcy swirled in the community.
Today the University has locations at Beckley and Martinsburg, in addition to an on-line presence. It has added an impressive eight new buildings in the past 16 years at its Charleston campus, with a rebuild of its on-site athletic facility in the works.
The University has 32 academic programs, 360
employees and nearly 2,000 students. Its growth and strength allowed UC to step in and take over programs of Mountain State University after that institution lost accreditation, saving many Mountain State students from wasting their academic efforts.
While many a university president has ceased being an effective leader well before reaching the two-decade mark, Welch seems to still be going strong.
"He's got a brilliant mind and he thinks ahead of the curve," Holmes Morrison, a former member of UC's board of governors, told Daily Mail Education Reporter Shay Maunz.
"It's in that capacity that I think he's been most beneficial for the university."
The University of Charleston's strength is a positive for the Kanawha Valley and the state. The school provides undergraduate and graduate education
opportunities for local residents and adds to the quality of life by bringing students from out of state. Many local business people have furthered their education, and careers, through UC's graduate business school.
And UC is a great community partner as well. As any area fan of live jazz, blues or symphonic music knows, the University graciously offers its lawn for great events in town.
Thanks to Ed Welch for his leadership at UC. The University, the Kanawha Valley and state of West Virginia are better for it.