Historic gift supports WVU’s agriculture, forestry programs

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KEYSER, W.Va. — A transformational, $4.2 million gift to Potomac State College of West Virginia University’s Agriculture and Forestry Programs ­— the largest in the school’s history — will result in the launch of entrepreneurial education courses designed to promote sustainable agriculture, announced Campus President Leonard Colelli.

College support

The gift from J. Duncan Smith, a successful businessman who has had a life-long passion for agriculture, will be used to implement a two-year associate of applied science degree and the development of a four-year bachelor of applied science degree designed to teach students the skills needed to create or expand an agricultural business.

Smith believes in the promotion of sustainable agriculture through education and hands-on learning to benefit future generations. “Promoting sustainable agriculture has been an interest of mine for several years,” said Smith.

Her visions to grow the school’s agriculture and forestry programs align with those of schools — stimulating both college enrollment and economic growth in the region.

Two-part donation

The donation comes in two parts — monetary and gift-in-kind — to benefit the College’s Ag and Forestry Programs. The monetary gift of approximately $3 million will fund three endowments in memory of the Gerstell Family that will be used to support program development, classroom/lab enhancements, farm operations, student scholarships, faculty development, student experiential learning, and facility enhancements to the Deremer Farm, in Fort Ashby, West Virginia.

The gift-in-kind includes a 364-acre plot of farmland, valued at approximately $1.3 million, that sits adjacent to the Deremer Farm, which was donated to the College in 2010 through the Deremer family’s estate plan.

“It has been well established that the production of food could be a significant area of growth in the West Virginia economy,” stated President Colelli. The gift allows Potomac State to continue growth in food production — located in an agricultural belt that produces a significant proportion of the state’s food and the College owns more than 800 acres of farmland.

The Smith gift was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

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