Fleming: Creativity Vital To Keep WJU Growing

With only a small endowment fund with which to work, Wheeling Jesuit University President the Rev. James Fleming said the university has had to be creative in funding the school’s numerous growth projects.

Fleming spoke to the Moundsville Rotary Club on Wednesday at Perkins Restaurant about some of the university’s recent projects, including converting the Stone Center in downtown Wheeling for a physical therapy program, building the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music and building a new sports field.

Fleming used moving the WJU’s physical therapy program downtown as an example of how the university has found creative ways in recent years to fund some of the school’s fastest-growing programs.

“Our athletic teams are growing,” Fleming said. “We have 21 athletic teams on campus and the gym itself hasn’t grown since about 1985. We also needed space for the athletic trainers to treat our students’ injuries. The problem was our physical therapy program was also in that building and we needed to figure out if we could move them somewhere else.”

He said the physical therapy department was then moved downtown, doubling the amount of square feet of facility designed for teaching physical therapy. Fleming said the goal of the program is to increase the physical therapy class size by five students every year with the tuition from the program to help pay a 15-year lease to purchase the Stone and Thomas building for $3.5 million from the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling.

“It’s one of our most lucrative programs,” Fleming said. “My job has been to raise $600,000 in private foundation funding. We’re more than half-way there.”

Fleming said the $600,000 will pay for the program’s free clinic to serve people with longterm handicaps and senior citizens whose insurance will not pay for therapy beyond the first few months.

Additionally, Fleming said when WJU made plans to build the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music in honor of the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, alumnae from the school started to send in gifts in order to complete the project. A $500,000 gift from the Sisters from the former school also helped to build the facility, he said.

“How did we afford this? The sisters and the alumnae,” Fleming said. “This was a whole different set. About 2,500 alumnae of the Mount have been generous for this. A lot like downtown, it was a way to do something with money we found in a place we weren’t going to look.”