WEST LIBERTY- It was January 2007 when Robin Capehart flew 14 hours from the Republic of Moldova to Wheeling to interview for the open president's position of what was then West Liberty State College.
Capehart was serving as a Fulbright Scholar at the time, and he lived with his family while teaching in Moldova. He accepted the position at West Liberty a few months later and started in his new job on July 1, 2007.
Now, six full years into his post, Capehart has overseen many changes at the hilltop campus, but has plenty more planned for the future.
He credits the faculty and staff at West Liberty University for their hard work in helping make the university a better place.
The improvements at West Liberty "are all the result of the work of a lot of different people," Capehart said. "The best thing I've done since I've been here was put together a good team of highly-qualified staff and administrators."
Capehart said some of the major accomplishments since July 2007 include West Liberty becoming a university in 2009; opening the Highlands Center; renovations at Campbell and Shaw halls; increasing enrollment for seven consecutive years; the implementation of a physician assistant program; and the creation of WLTV-14, the university's television station currently aired in 120,000 outlets throughout the local region.
He has also been there for two exciting years of top-level football, when the Hilltoppers were ranked as one of the top gridiron teams in the nation, while also seeing the continued development of one of the premier basketball programs in the nation under Head Coach Jim Crutchfield. The basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four this year and in 2011, and to the Elite Eight in 2012.
Through it all, Capehart has relied on his own instincts and the wisdom of those around him to help West Liberty grow into a top-level educational institution.
"And hopefully, we'll continue to grow," Capehart said as he looked ahead to the future. "You're going to see more programs at the graduate level and more certification programs."
Among these, Capehart said, are plans to incorporate additional health sciences initiatives into the curriculum.
According to Capehart, the university's programs incorporating technology, medicine and the arts - such as the physician assistant, nursing and dental hygienist programs - are growing, and the school grows with them. He said the programs are in high demand, which provides a good foundation on which to build.
"We have managed to build the academic prestige of the college and word is getting out," Capehart said. "I think that makes the future bright for West Liberty University."
Capehart brought a stellar background in the public and private sectors to West Liberty. A Moundsville native, he graduated from John Marshall High School and the West Virginia University College of Law. He has been a full-time professor, a chief administrative law judge, a practicing lawyer, Secretary of Tax and Revenue for the State of West Virginia under Gov. Cecil Underwood and a Fulbright Scholar representing American educators overseas.
"I've been around," Capehart said. "I've moved up. I have been involved in education, administration and management. Being able to use both skills is what prompted me to apply at West Liberty."
And since July 1, 2007, it's been nothing but an uphill climb for the university under Capehart's leadership.