Acts of devotion come in every size. Some give of their talents to organize, lead and create, and others give of their resources.

The highest honor for extraordinary service to West Virginia University, the Order of Vandalia, recognizes those who have made far-reaching contributions to WVU long after their college years. The four honorees this year have dedicated themselves to colleges and departments within the University, the WVU Alumni Association and the University as a whole.

Alison Deem

Since graduating from WVU in 1970, Deem has gone on to give hundreds of hours in time to the College of Creative Arts. In that time, she has chaired the college’s Board of Visitors, been a member of the board that manages the partnership between the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and WVU and helped to found the Friends of the Art Museum of WVU.

She and her husband, Pat, have supported the college’s Deem Distinguished Lecture Series for more than 15 years. The series brings artists and scholars to the campus to enrich the learning of students and the community. The couple also sponsors the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professorship in Art.

The Deems have supported culture, health and the arts at WVU, in the state of West Virginia and beyond.

Deem, a resident of Bridgeport, W.Va., not only supports the University, but has served on the membership or boards of the United Way of Harrison County, the Bridgeport Public Library, the West Virginia Library Commission, the United Health Foundation, Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia.

“When I think of someone who has been there throughout the years for the College of Creative Arts, I think of Alison Deem,” said Susan B. Hardesty, former first lady of WVU and member of the Order of Vandalia. “If we are looking for someone who has given her heart and soul to improving the arts at WVU, then Alison is our candidate.”

Paul C. Farmer

A native of Mullens, W.Va., Farmer graduated from WVU with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering and eventually went on to receive a law degree at George Washington University. He served two years as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and retired from a more than 30-year career with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

During that time he has remained a lifelong Mountaineer and organized one of the most popular WVU Alumni Association events: the annual crab feast near the nation’s capital, which has drawn hundreds of alumni and friends for more than 30 years and has become the association’s largest non-athletics fundraiser.

Known affectionately as “Head Crab,” Farmer has attracted an average of 800 people to the feast that in one event serves about 50 bushels of crabs, 20 bushels of corn and 35 kegs of beer.

Farmer has organized bus trips to Mountaineer home and away games for at least a decade. He continues to be active with his Kappa Alpha Fraternity and has served as a board member of the chapter’s building association.

He was past president and longtime board member of the National Capital Area Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association and has been recognized with the chapter’s Lifetime Achievement award.

“Unquestionably, Paul meets the criteria for consideration for the Order of Vandalia and deserves this highest honor for extraordinary and long-term service to WVU,” said Susan S. Brewer, CEO and managing partner of Steptoe & Johnson, Attorneys at Law.

Edna Bennett Pierce

Edna Bennett Pierce didn’t attend WVU, but joined the Mountaineer family when she married C. Eugene Bennett, a chemist and WVU alumnus, taking the University into her heart in an important way.

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Bennett Pierce has given of her time and resources to the University, the WVU Alumni Association and the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry. While her first husband was still alive, the couple established a $1.6 million endowment for the C. Eugene and Edna P. Bennett Careers for Chemists Program and the C. Eugene Bennett Chair in Chemistry, among her many contributions.

After her husband’s death in 1996, Bennett Pierce invested in the University’s Building Greatness Campaign with $2.5 million for the C. Eugene Bennett Chemistry Program Enhancement Fund, the C. Eugene Bennett Graduate Fellowship Program in Chemistry, the C. Eugene Bennett Academic Enrichment Endowment and the C. Eugene Bennett Library Endowment.

She bestowed a separate $2 million gift on the department and the WVU Board of Governors re-named the chemistry department in her husband’s memory. She and her second husband A. Duer “Bud” Pierce have further supported the department and its faculty and students.

Edna and Gene established the Delaware Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association, and the Bennett family has hosted the annual WVU Family Picnic at their home since 1985. The picnic supports the D.J. and Bob Gibson Scholarship Fund, which benefits deserving students from Delaware.

“The philanthropic impulses exhibited by Mrs. Pierce have their roots in her education as a teacher, and in a philosophy learned from her parents and shared by Dr. Bennett,” said David C. Hardesty Jr., president emeritus and professor of law at WVU. “She once said, ‘We were children of parents who went through the Depression. So we tried to teach our children that they had responsibilities in the family and beyond the family – to people around them – to be responsible citizens.’”

Benjamin M. Statler

Ben Statler began his career as a coal miner and rose to become senior vice president of mining at Consol Energy. He later took ownership of PinnOak Resources LLC, a major coal company.

But before that, Statler, a native of Monongalia County, graduated from WVU with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering. He has kept the University close to his heart as he and his wife, Jo, pledged $34 million—the largest single gift commitment ever given to the University. Because of this gift, the University has re-named the engineering college the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

The couple’s gifts over the years, now totaling nearly $60 million, have gone to support the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, including the establishment of Bonnie’s Bus, a mobile mammography unit that provides services throughout rural West Virginia; the new Erickson Alumni Center; and the Basketball Practice Facility and other athletics capital improvements.

Statler on the Visiting Committee for the Department of Mining Engineering and on the WVU Foundation Board of Directors. He is a member of the College’s Campaign Team and is involved in several professional organizations in the coal mining community.

He has been inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni and received an honorary degree. The couple has been named Most Loyal West Virginians by the University and Outstanding Philanthropists by the WVU Foundation.

“Ben is already known as an outstanding and loyal Mountaineer,” said Eugene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “It is fitting that he joins the other outstanding graduates of our University who have been honored for their generosity, loyalty and devotion in giving back to the University in so many ways.”



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