Former West Liberty University President Robin Capehart Hired To Lead Bluefield State College
Former WLU Prez to Lead Bluefield State
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — A Northern Panhandle resident with a background in state government and higher education is taking the helm of Bluefield State College.
Robin Capehart, 65, a Moundsville native and former president of West Liberty University, was named interim president at Bluefield on Thursday. Capehart said his one-year contract with the college was approved unanimously by the institution’s board of governors. The city of Bluefield and the college are located on the Virginia border about 45 miles south of Beckley. Capehart said he plans to relocate to that area so he can become part of the community.
Capehart said Bluefield State College is a historically black college that was founded in 1895 as a teacher training center. In the 1950s, according to information from the college, it began to attract students of European heritage after school segregation was outlawed. It has since evolved to include areas of focus such as engineering, nursing and business.
“Those are three things for which there is a huge demand and a huge need in West Virginia … ,” Capehart said. “It is very exciting to look at the potential that Bluefield has not only to meet the needs of the immediate area, but also of southern West Virginia and West Virginia as a whole.”
Capehart termed his appointment “an honor and a privilege” and said the college is built on a “really, really solid foundation” and serves a large number of first-generation college students.
“Like most colleges, it is facing a lot of challenges as it adapts to a rapidly changing academic marketplace,” he added. “The academics are solid. There is an outstanding faculty and wonderful staff. The alumni and benefactors are engaged. The community is really excited about building a partnership between the school and the city that will be mutually beneficial.”
Capehart said he plans to be an “aggressive listener” over the next couple of weeks, taking time to meet with and learn from all of those stakeholders.
“Those constituency groups are the ones that can give great insight,” he said, noting that students, faculty, alumni and others can inform him not only about the college’s strengths but also about areas of potential improvement.
During his tenure at West Liberty University, Capehart was accused of using his position and university resources to promote his private film company’s projects. As a result, he stepped down as WLU president in March 2015 and was reassigned as a legislative liaison and consultant for WLU through the end of that year. In June 2015, Capehart admitted he violated the state’s Ethics Act when he asked a university employee to work on a film he was producing.
In a conciliation agreement with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, he admitted that he solicited private business when he sought the services of a temporary employee at West Liberty’s cable-access TV station to work on his movie projects. The commission dropped the remaining 12 charges under the agreement, with Capehart paying a fine of $5,000 and costs of $5,000. Greg McDermott, counsel for Capehart in the ethics matter, said at the time the violation was inadvertent.
In November 2017, Capehart was named as lead counsel to the West Virginia Senate Committee on Finance. He previously had served as state secretary of tax and revenue, and as a chief administrative law judge for the West Virginia Tax Department. He also has been a senior resident fellow with the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and president of Georgetown Solutions in Wheeling.
Regarding his qualifications for the position at Bluefield State, Capehart said that in addition to his background in state government and at WLU, he recently has been working in an advisory capacity with Gov. Jim Justice’s Higher Education Policy Commission. He also said he has built relationships across the Mountain State that could be “very beneficial” to advancing the school.
Capehart will spend his first full week at his new job beginning Monday.
“I’m just very grateful to the board of governors for giving me he opportunity to become involved,” Capehart said. “Like I’ve done in most positions I have taken, I’m excited for the opportunity to help and be a part of posturing this school for a brighter future. I’m very excited about being a part of that.”