James Brent “J.B.” Bialek found a profession that matched his personal passions. A love for the outdoors led J.B. to earn a bachelor’s degree in forest resources management at West Virginia University. He was a year into his career as a forester with Tanner Lumber Co. when an automobile accident tragically cut short his life at the age of 24.
“He was a dedicated forester, even though he only worked for one year before his untimely death,” said his father, Jim, an insurance agent in Elkins.
While Jim and his wife, Karen, had hoped J.B. would join the family insurance business, “J.B. always said, ‘I’m a forester,’” Jim recalled. That statement of purpose is engraved on J.B.’s tombstone as well as on a stone marker in the Elkins Town Square where 20 maple trees are planted in his memory.
J.B.’s interest in the profession was sparked by growing up in the heavily forested town of Elkins in central West Virginia. He loved to hunt and fish, and he started working part time for Tanner while he was still in high school, through his studies at Glenville State College, and during and after his time at WVU.
“He never took a vacation in college,” Jim said. “During any break he had, he was always in the field, working on an internship or gaining experience.”
As a WVU graduate and Tanner employee, he brought WVU-earned knowledge of the latest technology and professional practices to his work, helping the lumber company better define its land holdings and resources.
The Bialeks want to help other students gain those kinds of skills, so they’ve created the J.B. Bialek Forestry Scholarship at WVU. The endowed scholarship will provide support for undergraduate majors in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design’s Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, with first preference given to West Virginia resident students enrolled at WVU from Randolph, Barbour, Pocahontas and Braxton counties. The first scholarship will be $1,000 and given out for the 2013-14 school year.
“The Division of Forestry and Natural Resources appreciates the Bialek family’s contribution to memorialize their son,” said Joseph McNeel, director of the division. “It is through the generosity of gift and spirit that promising students in our graduate programs can further their education. We truly appreciate their generosity.”
The Bialeks have created a similar scholarship at Glenville State, where J.B. earned an associate of science degree. They’re also longtime supporters of the Mountain State Forest Festival, one of the largest and oldest festivals in the state of West Virginia and an annual celebration of the region’s forest-based industry.
The J.B. Bialek Forestry Scholarship was created in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.
CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
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