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WVU Tech celebrates standouts at Golden Bear Weekend

Golden Bears gather for Hall of Fame 2018 inductions.

WVU Tech alumni, employees, students and friends gathered in Beckley for the University’s second-annual Golden Bear Alumni Weekend on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. From campus tours and award receptions to catching up with old classmates and professors, the event brought together hundreds of Golden Bears and their families to celebrate outstanding members of the WVU Tech community.

Honoring a legend and a legacy

Friday’s activities began with a special memorial reception to honor the late Dr. Leonard C. Nelson, who passed away in 2017. Nelson served as president of the institution for almost 25 years and is the namesake of the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences at WVU Tech.    

Andrew Blatt, '12, with the Nelson family.Andrew Blatt, '12, with the family of Dr. Leonard C. Nelson.

Campus President Long addressed attendees, welcoming some who have been associated with the institution for decades.

“We came from a place with lots of stories to tell, and we want to make sure those stories continue in a wonderful way. No matter how long it’s been, you’re a part of the Tech story,” she said.

During the reception, guests shared tales about Dr. Nelson’s tenacity as an educator and an administrator. They shared stories about how he would spend time working with students one-on-one even as he oversaw one of the biggest periods of growth in the institution’s history.

Dr. Nelson’s son, David Nelson, shared the story of a friend from high school who was struggling at Tech. The friend approached Dr. Nelson, who took him under his wing and mentored him.

“Here’s one student, and yet there are all these stories that add to his legacy,” Nelson said of his father. “It’s wonderful to hear, even today.”

Following the reception, the group also recognized Andrew Blatt, ’12, as the first recipient of the Nelson Distinguished Young Alumni Award. Blatt is now a laser engineer, and he traveled from Detroit, Michigan to accept the award.

“To be nominated for this award makes you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel like you’re doing something right. But at the end of the day, you know it was on the dedication of these professors, especially Dr. Nelson,” he said.

Athletes, alumni and award-winners

The celebration continued into Saturday, where alumni guests enjoyed breakfast with WVU Tech administration and toured the Beckley campus; some for the very first time.

Dean Z Torbica with alumnus of the year, Mickey Reeves.Reeves (right) with Dean Z Torbica.

That evening, nearly 200 WVU Tech employees, students, alumni and families gathered at The Resort at Glade Springs for a reception hosted by the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association and simultaneous dinners honoring the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame and Alumni of the Year inductees.

Mickey Reeves, ’78, was the Alumni of the Year recipient for the College of Engineering and Sciences. In his acceptance, he shared that it was Tech’s quality of instruction that made the difference in his career.

He acknowledged retired professor Ed Crum, who taught at Tech for nearly 30 years and was in the audience.

“He made nothing easy about chemical engineering. He once took five points off a perfect chemical engineering lab report because I had a misspelled word,” he said.

“But the fact that I’m talking about that forty years later means something because I carried that on. That’s a value that the Tech education brings. It’s that personal relationship.”

Reeves, who helped establish the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association, said that he sees that quality still in Tech’s educational mix.

“Let’s continue the legacy. We’ve got a good thing going,” he said.

The College of Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, for the first time in the history of the Alumni of the Year program, bestowed the award posthumously to the late Reverend Roy Gene Crist, ’86.

The family of Roy Gene Crist with Dean Stephen Brown.Left to right: Courtney Phillips, Jane Crist, Dean Stephen Brown and Lynsey Crist.

Crist’s wife Jane and their daughters, Lynsey Crist and Courtney Phillips, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Roy was a beloved husband, a beloved father, a beloved grandfather, a beloved priest. It’s just an honor to be here on his behalf,” said Jane, who shared that Crist’s life and life’s work was built on a foundation of kindness.

Phillips told that crowd that her father was driven by a desire to build up and support those around him.

“He possessed a gentle spirit, a kind and selfless nature, a peaceful presence that was unmistakable and a heart that was called to the service of others. He was intent on building a community that encourages one another and that provokes and inspires one another to acts of love and kindness,” she said.

In a separate induction dinner for the WVU Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, three former Tech football players were added to the list of notable athletes: Forest Mann, ’60, Frank Spangler, Jr., ’75, and Quinton “Que” Barnes, ’96.

Though they played across a generational span of more than thirty years, all three shared that their time at Tech left an indelible mark.

Mann, who built a 40-year career in education, shared stories of the people at Tech who made his experience so memorable; people like former head coach Ray Watson.

“When Coach Watson recruited me to Tech, it changed my entire life,” he said. “I really believe that I left Tech with the core values and skills to tackle anything in the world. I’m very proud to have a degree from West Virginia Tech and I’m very proud of the things I’ve accomplished in my career that I wouldn’t have had if it hadn’t been for people like Coach Watson.”

Forest Mann, Que Barnes and Frank Spangler, Jr.Left to right: Forest Mann, Que Barnes and Frank Spangler, Jr.
A young Frank Spangler, Jr. left Tech in the sixties to serve in the Vietnam-era 101st Airborne Division, built a stellar boxing career, opened a business and started a family before returning to finish his degree. He said his long connection to Tech and his experiences on campus taught him how to recognize and encourage goodness in the people around him.

"We built a lot of great, close relationships, and I think that's very important. One thing I really got out of going to Tech was the fact that people are great. When you're good to them, they're good to you," he said.

Que Barnes grew up with fourteen siblings and now has two sons of his own. He’s familiar with the concept of family. Even so, he said he built a different kind of family at Tech.

"Those were some incredible times. They were some of the worst times and some of the best times of my life and I'll never forget them. The things that we experienced can't be replicated," he said.

Now an entrepreneur in Virginia, he credits his doggedness to his Tech education and the people he earned his degree with.

"There’s something about being a Tech man. I'm a proud Tech man. That's what was instilled in us – that persistence not to give up. I'm telling you, there are no better men than the people I played with right here at Tech,” he said.

Athletic Director Kenny Howell wrapped up the evening with a sentiment that, after two days of celebrating WVU Tech’s rich history and outstanding alumni, had become a familiar refrain.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of our inductees and how these folks make me want to stand a little taller and be a little prouder of the place I work and the place I call home, WVU Tech," he said.

Check out photos from the Nelson memorial reception, the Nelson Distinguished Young Alumni Award reception and the induction dinners on Flickr.