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WVU Tech announces 2024 distinguished academic alumni award winners

Beckley, W.Va. - In preparation for its annual homecoming celebration, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) has announced its academic alumni award winners for 2024.

Alumni of the Year

Jimmy WristonJimmy Wriston, ’96 is the recipient for the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences. After completing his general equivalency diploma (GED) in his 30s, Wriston decided to enroll at WVU Tech and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Since then, he’s served as the Deputy Secretary and Deputy Commissioner, as Chief Transportation Engineer/Special Projects Manager/Engineering Advisor to the Secretary of Transportation and as Structures Project Manager for the engineering division. He was appointed in October 2021 by Governor Jim Justice to serve as Secretary of Transportation and Commissioner of Highways.

Kaci FosterKaci H. Foster, ’03, ’04 is the recipient for the College of Business, Humanities and Social Services. Foster graduated with bachelor’s degrees in public service administration and history and government, with minors in political science and economics. She continued her education at West Virginia University where she studied Appalachian history. Her work led her to Pittsburgh after graduate school but returned to her home state of West Virginia in 2010. She worked for many newspapers in journalism and advertising before beginning her current role at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WV HEPC) as their Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist in the Division of Student Affairs. She coordinates many campaigns to help prepare West Virginia students for education and training beyond high school. She also is an active member in her community and still contributes to newspapers and magazines in West Virginia as a freelance journalist.

Nelson Distinguished Young Alumni

Joshua CookJoshua Cook, ’12 is the recipient of the Nelson Distinguished Young Alumni Award. Cook graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and earned his master’s degree from Marshall University in engineering with an environmental emphasis. His professional career has been spent in the energy sector. He currently works as an engineering manager for New River Engineers in Morgantown, West Virginia. He is a native of Boone County, West Virginia and now lives outside of Morgantown with his wife and two daughters.

Golden Bear Empowerment Faculty Award

Yogen PantaYogendra (Yogen) Panta, PhD, PE, PMP, CPEM was born and raised in Nepal. He earned bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences and mechanical engineering from Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering at Pulchowk Campus, Nepal. He came to the United States in 2002 as a graduate student at Youngstown State University, where he received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He then went on to obtain his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Panta taught five years at Youngstown State University before coming to WVU Tech in 2013. He is very involved and dedicated to student success, and has keen interest in innovative learning, development and mentorship. He was awarded the WVU Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award in 2021 and was twice voted the Professor of the Year by the WVU Tech Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society. Panta has been twice awarded as a NASA summer fellow and, most recently, returned from Nepal after completing a project awarded by the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship Program of the US Department of State. He and his wife Manju, who works at WVU Tech as a library associate, live in Beckley with their two children.

Honoring the alumni awardees WVU Tech’s Homecoming celebration begins on campus on February 5 through February 10, 2024. Alumni winners will be honored at a reception and dinner at The Resort at Glade Springs on Friday, February 9, 2024. They will also be honored during the basketball games at the Raleigh County Convention Center on Saturday, February 10, 2024.

Golden Bear Athletic Hall of Fame inductees will also be honored during these events and those awardees will be announced soon.

Tickets and sponsorships are available at, along with the full Homecoming schedule. Questions about Homecoming can be sent to