150 FACTS ABOUT WVU
West Virginia University’s impact on the state is without question. Here are 150 either firsts or interesting facts about WVU.
Lady Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta of Wheeling, was a cheerleader at West Virginia University.
Georgeann Wells of WVU in 1984 became the first woman to dunk a basketball in a college game.
In June 1891, Harriet Lyon, a transfer from Vassar College, became the first woman to receive a degree from WVU. She graduated at the head of her class.
In the land-grant application to create the university, the school was called the Agricultural College of West Virginia. The name of the school was changed to West Virginia University in 1868.
Victorine Louistall in 1945 became the first-known African American woman to earn a degree from WVU. She returned to the school in 1966 to teach library science and was the first-known African American faculty member.
Harry Stone, the first dean of men, in 1924 distributed the booklet “Social Hygiene” from the Bureau of Venereal Diseases, a publication of the state Department of Health and the U.S. Public Health Service.
The Athenaeum, which became the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student newspaper, was first published by WVU in 1887.
The first president of WVU was the Rev. Alexander Martin from 1867-1875. He lived with the students in Woodburn Hall.
Martin Hall is named after Alexander Martin.
Before Mountaineer Field, there was old Mountaineer Field. Before there was old Mountaineer Field, there was Splinter Stadium located behind the Mountainlair near Stalnaker Hall.
In 1937, Boyd “Slim” Arnold was the first Mountaineer mascot to wear a buckskin costume.
TV pitchman Billy Mays went to WVU and was a walk-on linebacker for the football team. He died in 2009.
The West Virginia University College of Law was established in 1878.
The West Virginia University School of Medicine was established in 1902.
In 1904, Charles Frederick Tucker Brooke is WVU’s first Rhodes Scholar.
Two Pulitzer Prize winners came out of the former Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, now called the Reed College of Media: Margie Mason, class of 1997, and Terry Wimmer, class of 1976.
In 1921, the Engineering Experiment Station and the state’s first 4-H camp at Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County was built.
TV personality, comic and movie star Don Knotts graduated in 1948. Knotts was famous for “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” “The Incredible Mr. Limpett,” “The Reluctant Astronaut” and the “Andy Griffith Show” on TV where he played Deputy Barney Fife.
The first open heart surgery performed in West Virginia was by Dr. Herbert Warden in 1962 at WVU.
The Mountainlair opened in 1968.
The Coliseum opened in 1970 and cost $10.4 million to build.
Construction of the Personal Rapid Transit, better known as the PRT, started in 1970.
WVU abolished dress codes and curfews for women in 1973.
The new football stadium opened in 1980 and John Denver sang “Country Roads” before the first game.
The first WVU female Rhodes Scholar was Barbara Schamberger in 1985.
Natalie Tennant becomes the first female Mountaineer mascot in 1990.
President E. Gordon Gee in 2014 became WVU’s 26th president. He also was WVU’s 19th president from 1981-85.
WVU started out as an all-male, all-white institution with six teachers, six college students and 118 high school-aged students in college preparatory.
Through 1895, WVU students were required to attend church on Sunday and chapel services every morning.
The first dean of women at WVU was Hanabell Clark from 1899-1903.
The Flying WVU logo was designed in 1980 by John Boyd Martin, whose connection to WVU was his brother, Dick, the athletic director.
The city of Morgantown in 2011 began charging couch burners and other celebratory fire starters with felonies.
The WVU Marching Band was created in 1901 as an all-male ROTC Band. The first director was Walter Mestrezat.
Encouraged by Director Don Wilcox, women were allowed into the WVU Marching Band in 1972.
WVU band twirler Saundra Lee Patton, 1984-1988, was Miss West Virginia in 1987 and competed in the Miss America Pageant.
The longest serving WVU marching band Feature Twirler was Paula Jo (Meyer) Stout, who twirled eight seasons, 1973-1980, while attending graduate school and Pharmacy School.
The WVU marching band had two drum majors in 1981, Dan Kincaid and Patrick Garrett.
The first female drum major for the WVU marching band was Cara Porterfield, who led the unit 1982 and 1983.
“Fight Mountaineers,” a WVU fight song, was written by John Forrest “Fuzzy” Knight more than 90 years ago and is still used by WVU.
“Hail West Virginia,” another WVU fight song, was composed by Earl Miller and Ed McWhorther in 1915 and the lyrics were written by Fred B. Deem.
Astronaut Jon McBride graduated from WVU in 1971.
Suspense novelist Stephen Coonts graduated from WVU with a degree in political science.
WVU was born from the 1862 Morrill Act that offered land grants of 30,000 acres of federally owned land to states establishing a college to teach agriculture and engineering.
WVU tuition in 1867 was $8 for 13 weeks. Room and board was $3.50 per week.
The fire marshal in 1923 banned smoking in all WVU buildings. President John Roscoe Turner, a smoker, ignored the ban and ashtrays returned to the offices.
The Reed College of Media, formerly the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, at WVU was named after Perley Isaac Reed, who taught the first journalism courses in 1920.
Women gained more responsibilities during World War II as the male students went off to war. Betty Head in 1942 became the first female student body president upon the enlistment of Peter Yost in the U.S. Navy. Leah Anderson in 1976 was the first woman elected as student body president.
The Twin Towers on the Evansdale Campus opened in 1965.
The second set of the towers at Evansdale opened in 1968.
Marmaduke H. Dent of Granville in Monongalia County was the first graduate of WVU in 1870 and the first president of the WVU Alumni Association.
In 1970, Philosophy Department Chairman William Haymond, in support of students demonstrating against the Vietnam War, canceled finals and gave all students in his classes an A. He was removed as chairman, but remained a tenured professor.
The Women’s Studies Program began in 1980 and became the Center for Women’s Studies in 1984.
Roger Alford was the first African American to play football at WVU, 1963-1965.
The WVU campus police was created in 1961 by act of the Legislature.
In a move to prevent hazing, in 1972, Lambda Chi Alpha was the first fraternity at WVU to abolish pledging.
Phi Kappa Psi was the first fraternity on campus in 1899. Kappa Delta was the first sorority established in 1899.
John Cline of Mt. Morris, Pa., was a professional wrestler while attending WVU.
Ira Errett Rodgers played football at WVU 1915-1917 and 1919 and was the first first All-American at the school and the first to rush for 200 yards in a game. He coached the football team for eight seasons and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1953. His number, 21, has been retired by the football team.
Jerry West scored 2,309 points at WVU, a record accomplished without the 3-point shot and in only three years.
The main mast of the USS West Virginia, damaged at Pearl Harbor, was dedicated as a memorial at WVU on May 11, 1963.
In 2015, a group of research scientists at WVU discovered Volkswagen fudged its emissions results for diesel engines.
Actor Chris Sarandon earned a degree in speech from WVU.
Actor Paul Dooley, who played Wimpy in “Popeye” graduated from WVU.
Country singer Kathy Mattea attended WVU.
Composer Jay Chattaway, who wrote scores for Star Trek, studied music at WVU where he was a member of the marching band.
The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at WVU was the world’s first institute devoted to the study of human memory.
Two astronomers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Maura McLaughlin and Duncan Larimer, were on the international team of astronomers which discovered short-duration bursts of radio waves from a source beyond the Milky Way.
Bonnie’s Bus, the WVU Cancer Institute’s traveling digital mammography program, commenced in 2009.
The first WVU alumni chapter in the Middle East was chartered in Kuwait.
The WVU Foundation was incorporated on Dec. 3, 1954.
“The Mountaineer,” erected in 1971, was the work of American sculptor Donald De Lue.
WVU graduate Philander C. Knox, 1853-1921, was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President McKinley and appointed Secretary of State by President Taft.
Joseph S. Farland, 1914-2007, a graduate of WVU, was the U.S. ambassador to Iran, Pakistan, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
WVU has had 25 Rhodes Scholars.
The sale of beer at WVU was approved in 2011 at the Coliseum and Mountaineer Field. Later, more restrooms were added.
Twenty-five people have been president of WVU.
The original cost of Mountaineer Field was $22 million.
Record attendance at Mountaineer Field was 70,222 on Nov. 20, 1993, when the 9th ranked Mountaineers defeated No. 4 Miami.
In October 2012, Brent Smith, 20, ran onto the football field during the fourth quarter of the Texas Tech-WVU football game and attempted to take his clothes off, but was tackled by several men wearing cowboy hats.
The correct reference to the WVU color scheme is Old Gold and Blue.
The flying WVU logo may appear in only four colors: black, white, old gold and blue.
Old Mountaineer Field, built in 1924, was razed in 1987. It cost $740,000 to construct.
The first game at old Mountaineer Field was Sept. 27, 1924, against West Virginia Wesleyan College, which WVU won 21-6.
Stansbury Hall on the downtown campus of WVU was named after Harry Stansbury, an athletic director, in 1973. It opened in 1928 as the WVU Field House and was home to WVU basketball until 1970 when the Coliseum opened. Jerry West and “Hot Rod” Hundley played ball in the old fieldhouse.
The WVU basketball program started in 1904. The team first played in the basement of Commencement Hall, then the basement of the Armory, located at the site of the old fieldhouse.
To celebrate Mountaineer Pride during the 1961-62 school year, all freshmen men and women were required to wear beanies.
A vigil in May 1970 to commemorate the death of four Kent State students shot during a demonstration turned into a three-day protest that included the State Police firing tear gas to disburse students.
The university gathered on Sept. 14, 2001, at Woodburn Circle for a vigil to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The WVU School of Dentistry opened in 1957.
The WVU College of Commerce was created in November 1951. In 1971, the college was renamed the College of Business and Economics.
WVU became a full member of the Big 12 athletic conference July 1, 2012.
The Backyard Brawl was the nickname of the rivalry with the Pitt Panthers. The Backyard Brawl with the Pitt Panthers returns in 2022. Pitt and WVU have met on the field of battle 104 times since 1895. Pitt leads the series, 61-40-3.
The Order of the Vandalia honored its first recipients in 1961.
WVU is not the only college with the nickname “Mountaineers.” Others include Appalachian State University, Berea College, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, Mount St. Mary’s University and Western State Colorado University.
The color barrier was broken in 1961 at WVU where Phillip Edwards became the first African-American student-athlete at the school. He competed in men’s track and field.
Marlon LeBlanc was the first African-American head coach at WVU. He became soccer coach in 2006.
The first African-American to play women’s tennis at WVU was Shirley Robinson in 1981.
Vanessa Patterson and Valerie Patterson were the first African-American athletes to participate in women’s swimming at WVU in 1993.
The Rev. Alexander Martin, the first president of WVU, encouraged Gov. Boreman to remove ”Agricultural” from the school’s name because it implied WVU was a farmer’s school. The name was changed to West Virginia University in 1868.
The new Creative Art Center at WVU was dedicated in 1969.
The first woman to graduate from the WVU College of Law was Agnes Westbrook Morrison, Wheeling, in 1895.
In 1895, the Montgomery Preparatory School was established in Montgomery as a branch of WVU. It later became the West Virginia Institute of Technology.
WVU Hospitals became a non-profit corporation in 1984 and was separated from the university.
The National Research Center for Coal and Energy at WVU was established in 1978.
The WVU Rifle team has won 19 national championships since 1980 and in 2017 claimed its fifth straight title.
The track and field program at WVU was established in 1898. The team was first coached by Nate Cartmell and Earl Thompson.
Art Smith in 1924 became the track coach at WVU when old Mountaineer Field was completed.
George Woods Jr. in 1965 became the first African-American athlete to play men’s soccer at WVU.
The WVU baseball team was established in 1892, ending the season 3-3.
The first African-American to play baseball at WVU was Bruce Clinton, who transferred from Potomac State Community College, in 1976. He was offered a scholarship.
WVU established a wrestling program in 1921 when the first coach was R.B. Dayton.
The first African-American wrestler at WVU was Norman Hill in 1965.
The PRT travels up to 30 mph. It takes a little more than 11 minutes to travel from the Walnut Street Station in downtown Morgantown to the Health Sciences Station on the Evansdale Campus. The track is 3.6 miles.
The first campus building at WVU was University Hall built in 1870. In 1889, it was renamed Martin Hall.
The tallest buildings at WVU are the Engineering Sciences Building and the Concurrent Engineering Research Center at 148 feet high.
In 2015, Anthony Brutto of Morgantown because the oldest graduate of WVU at the age of 94.
In 2014, Saira Blair, a freshman at WVU, became the youngest lawmaker in the nation when she won a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The Forensic and Investigative Science Club at WVU was created in 2001.
WVU graduate Ann Pancake has received awards for her writings about Appalachia, including her first novel, “Strange As This Weather Has Been” in 2007, which won the 2007 Weatherford Award and was a finalist for the 2008 Orion Book Award.
Numerous intramural and club sports are available at WVU, including cricket, muay thai, table tennis, the Roller Vixens, Quidditch, lacrosse and hip hop, among others.
The WVU Symphony Orchestra in 2014 was one of only two collegiate orchestras to perform at the national conference of the College Orchestra Directors Association in Fort Worth.
The last game played at old Mountaineer Field was in 1979, a 24-17 loss to Pitt.
WVU offers more than 340 majors in agriculture, natural resources and design, arts and sciences,business and economics, creative arts, dentistry, education and human services, engineering and mineral resources, journalism, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physical activity and sport sciences and public health.
The WVU Alumni Association was chartered in 1873 and today represents more than 200,000 graduates around the world.
The Mountaineer Parents Club formed in 1995 under WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr.
Virginia Mae Brown, who graduated from the WVU School of Law in 1947, was the first woman chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1969 by appointment of President Johnson.
Ten graduates of WVU have become governors of West Virginia.
WVU graduate James Valenti is a nationally acclaimed opera singer. Among his awards was first place in the 2003 Mario Lanza Opera Competition.
WVU comprises 518 buildings on 15,880 acres across West Virginia. The Morgantown campus has 245 buildings, of which 11 are on the National Register of Historic Places.
WVU Extension Service operates 10 experimental farms, four forests throughout the state and the WVU Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp.
Ginny Thrasher as a WVU sophomore on the Rifle Team won the first gold medal for the USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the 10-meter air rifle competition.
With the rise of the baby boomer generation and other academic expansions, and because there was no space available in downtown Morgantown, WVU in the 1950s bought the farmland north of town for its new Evansdale Campus. The college built its new WVU Medical Center in 1957 in Evansdale. The Creative Arts Center, the engineering school and the Erickson Alumni Center are on the Evansdale Campus.
WVU has 471 patents and patent applications.
The nickname of the WVU Marching Band is the “Pride of West Virginia.”
Chico’s Dairy in Morgantown sold a massive ice cream sundae called the “Mighty Mountaineer” — 13 giant scoops of ice cream topped with all sorts of chocolates, nuts and whipped cream. If you ate it, you kept the bowl.
Evansdale Crossing in 2015 became the new home of Student Services and includes the Financial Aid Office, University Registrar and Student Accounts, restaurants, a rooftop lounge, classrooms, Barnes and Noble and a bank.
Diane Reinhard became the interim president of WVU in 1985 when E. Gordon Gee left. Serving a year, Reinhard was the only woman ever to occupy the office of the president.
The first woman on the faculty at the WVU Medical Center was Margaret Albrink, who also was the first researcher to find the significance of serum triglycerides in artery disease.
Annette Chandler Broome in 1957 was the first African-American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from WVU. Her degree was in home economics and nutrition.
Odds makers in Las Vegas say WVU is a 20-1 chance of winning the Big 12 football championship title in 2017.
John Russo, WVU class of 1961, co-wrote “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968 with George Romero.
Retejos Jichancas, a secret society for women at WVU, was founded Nov. 28, 1908, although another source says November 1903. Operating between 1908 and 1928, the girls hid their faces in photos.
The Orchesis Dance Ensemble was established in 1928 at WVU.
Braxton Tower is named after Jim Braxton, who played football at WVU. Braxton’s blocking is the reason for O.J. Simpson’s amazing rushing record at the Buffalo Bills. Braxton died in 1986.
Jerry West was WVU’s first Olympic medalist in 1960.
A sycamore in front of E. Moore Hall at WVU is more than 200 years old. It is the oldest tree on the downtown campus. A red oak at the Core Arboretum at the base of the Taylor trail also is more than 200-years old.
The original site of WVU in 1867 was in Seneca, a community next to Morgantown. In 1901, the Morgantown Charter Bill passed the Legislature and joined the smaller towns into the city limits of Morgantown.
WVU offers a major in puppetry, one of three in the nation, at the College of Creative Arts.
U.S. Army Cpl. Thomas William Bennett, April 7, 1947-Feb. 11, 1969, of Morgantown attended WVU and was the second conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Bennett, a medic with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, was killed in action during the Vietnam War and posthumously received the medal.