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Four innovative professionals announced as inductees to WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni

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Four trailblazers in the fields of engineering, agriculture, business and education have been named as this year’s inductees into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni, one of the highest honors awarded to graduates of West Virginia University.

Dr. Linda Carson, Dr. George Fahey, Katherine Johnson and William Bayless will join an elite group of West Virginia University graduates when they are inducted on May 19 during a recognition ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. at the Erickson Alumni Center.

“In its 150th year, WVU graduates continue to push the boundaries of innovation and excellence,” said Sean Frisbee, WVU vice president for alumni relations. “This year we recognize four individuals who have paved the way for us to really ‘Go First’ with their remarkable accomplishments. It truly is an honor to induct such exceptional alumni like Linda, George, Katherine and William into our Academy of Distinguished Alumni.”

Dr. Linda Carson
Linda Carson, the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University, served on the faculty of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences for 30 years. She earned her doctoral degree from WVU, and after serving on faculty at Purdue University, Professor Carson returned to West Virginia University to join the faculty of CPASS in the Teacher Education program. She was the first professor representing CPASS to be recognized with WVU’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

Dr. Carson was inducted into the WVU CPASS Hall of Fame in 2012 and was the recipient of the CPASS Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2016.

Carson is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, a West Virginia company devoted to developing healthy habits early in life. Under her leadership, Choosy Kids has become nationally known and highly regarded for professional staff development training, and for creating educational resources for early childhood educators and allied health professionals. Choosy Kids has partnered with Lakeshore Learning Materials, to develop and distribute educational products and training to teachers and families nationally and internationally.

As the former director of the CPASS Motor Development Center, Carson developed innovative learning laboratories for WVU students and award winning physical activity programs for infants, babies, toddlers, pre-school, and elementary school age children in both land-based and water-based learning environments, earning recognition for involving family members as play partners. Her unique children’s music containing embedded health messages has earned several Parents Choice Awards and the 2016 CD of the Year for Childrens Music awarded by Creative Child Press. Choosy Kids music, recorded by West Virginia native, Scott Simons, has been enjoyed by over a million young children, and her unique children’s character, Choosy, also a West Virginia native, can be found in Head Start, pre-K classrooms, and child care centers nationwide and in other countries around the world.

Carson has served as an expert trainer for obesity prevention initiatives launched nationwide by the federal Office of Head Start. One of the national initiatives she developed was recognized with the National Partnering for Excellence Award by the Administration for Children and Families, and was designated an innovative early childhood program in the President’s Task Force Report on Childhood Obesity.

Choosy Kids, lead by Dr. Carson, was selected by the American Academy of Pediatrics to lead the current training team for the Head Start National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness providing on- going staff development training to Head Start and Child Care professionals nationwide. The selection was based on Carson’s expertise in Early Childhood Motor Development, the exemplary resource materials she has developed, and her unique approach to fostering teaching excellence and active learning.

While at WVU, Professor Carson served on the leadership team for WV Games for Health, a series of grant funded projects based on the team's pioneering research that demonstrated significant positive changes in the health indicators of obese children as a result of playing active video games. West Virginia continues to be recognized for its early leadership in enhancing physical education classes and after school programs by adding active, exercised-based video games to school environments. 

Currently, Choosy Kids and Dr. Carson’s team are leading the training and support services for three West Virginia early childhood projects, funded by state or federal agencies, designed to promote healthy lifestyles in WV families and their young children. Choosy Kids has collaborated with Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina and Southern Illnois University School of Medicine to introduce Choosy to their pediatric clinics. In addition, Choosy’s Oral Health educational resources have been approved by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and piloted in projects with Head Start programs and their local partner dentists in West Virginia and Maryland.

Dr. George Fahey
George C. Fahey, Jr., a native of Weston, was raised on a beef cattle, sheep, and forage crops farm. He is a three-time graduate of West Virginia University, receiving a bachelor's degree in biology, a master's degree in agricultural biochemistry, and a doctorate in animal nutrition 

He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1976 and currently is Professor Emeritus of Animal Sciences and Nutritional Sciences and Kraft Foods Endowed Professor Emeritus of Nutrition. His area of research is comparative nutrition and the primary disciplines studied are carbohydrate nutrition, to include work on dietary fibers, novel polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, starch and resistant starch, and protein nutrition, to include work on amino acid bioavailability and indices of protein quality. An overarching theme of his program is gastrointestinal tract health and the role that carbohydrates and proteins play in the digestive physiology, microbial ecology and health of the gut.

Fahey has a long history of scholarship in ruminant nutrition. From 1976 to 1990, beef cattle and sheep were the focus of his work and forage and agricultural by-product utilization the discipline studied. In 1990, he assumed leadership of the companion animal nutrition research program in the Department of Animal Sciences at Illinois and made the dog and the cat the focal points of his research activities since that time.

Fahey has been author or co-author of many books, book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles, along with numerous abstracts, monographs and popular press articles. Ninety-five students have completed either M.S. or Ph.D. degrees, or postdoctoral research associateships under his direction.

He has provided significant and meaningful service to his profession, serving on numerous National Research Council, Institute of Medicine, American Society of Animal Science and American Society of Nutrition committees. He has served on many editorial boards and as Ruminant Nutrition Section Editor of the Journal of Animal Science, as Associate Editor of the Journal of Nutrition, and as First Editor of the British Journal of Nutrition.

International awards include those from CSIRO in Australia and the Canadian Feed Association. National awards include those from ASAS, ADSA, FASS-AFIA, ASN, the Burroughs Welcome Foundation., and the ESI organization. In addition, he has received departmental, college, and university recognition for his research productivity.

For 41 years, Fahey has led a distinguished research program in comparative nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois.

His scholarly contributions in the areas of research, teaching, and service have had major impact on students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois; on international, national and local professional organizations; and on the nutrition and health of select animal species.

Fahey’s contributions strengthen the understanding of comparative aspects of nutritional biochemistry and improve practices for optimizing nutrition and health of economically important domestic species and companion animals. In both fundamental and applied areas, his research is characterized by high standards with respect to concept development, originality of approach, creativity in experimental design and objective interpretation of data.

Katherine G. Johnson
Katherine Johnson, a pioneer of the American space movement, was born in White Sulphur Springs, and was trained as a mathematician and physicist. Because the local schools only offered classes to African-Americans through the eighth grade, her father enrolled his children in a school 125 miles away from their home, where Johnson’s mother and three siblings lived during the academic year until they all graduated from college. Johnson graduated from high school at age 14 and from college at 18.

After teaching for seven years in elementary and high schools in West Virginia and Virginia, she went to work in 1953 as a pool mathematician or “computer” for the Langley Research Center part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in Hampton, Virginia. With Congressional approval, NACA later became what is now known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

At NASA, Johnson worked on the early space program, including computing the launch window for astronaut Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mercury mission. She was tasked with calculations to propel space capsules into orbit around the moon and to send landing units to and from the lunar surface. She plotted backup navigational charts for astronauts in case of electronic failures. In 1962, computers were used for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s orbit around Earth. But according to Johnson, NASA officials called on her to verify the numbers generated by the computers. She also calculated the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.

While working in NASA’s Flight Dynamics Branch at LRC, Johnson helped author the first textbook on space. Later in her career, she worked on the space shuttle program, the Earth Resources Satellite, and on plans for a mission to Mars. Johnson co-authored 28 scientific papers during her 33 years with NASA, before retiring in 1986.

She earned many awards throughout her career, including the Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft and Operations team award at NASA; numerous NASA LRC Special Achievement Awards; National Technical Association Mathematician of the Year; and honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Farmingdale, Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland, and Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. In 1968 and 1999, she was honored as the West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for her scientific achievements. In 2000, she was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, Atlanta, Georgia.

Johnson was one of the 17 recipients of the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in November 2015. Other recent awards include the Distinguished West Virginian Award from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, having a bench dedicated to her at the Air and Space Museum in Hampton and being honored as one of eight in the Virginia Women in History Traveling Exhibit sponsored by the State Library of Virginia in Richmond.

In 1997, Johnson was recognized as one of 24 black inventors and scientists at the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia. She was featured in the U.S. Office of Education documentary, “Practical Uses of Mathematics,” as well as in D.C. Heath’s “Fifth Grade Science” textbook. She was also included in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Black Contributors to Science and Energy Technology,” and is featured in “Black Women Scientists in the United States” by Wini Warren.

Johnson is a graduate of West Virginia State College (now University), where she earned a B.S. degree, summa cum laude, in mathematics and French. She did graduate work at West Virginia University, one of the first blacks to attend. Johnson has been a longtime member of the Carver Presbyterian Church in Newport News and was a member of the choir. She is a Diamond Soror (+75 years) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also still enjoys watching sports, playing bridge and bingo, and talking with students about her work and their potential involvement in STEM initiatives.

William Bayless
Bayless co-founded American Campus Communities in 1993 with just four employees, a single third party management contract, and a vision to become the nation’s premiere student housing provider. 

Bayless graduated from West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics in 1986, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He first forged his vision of what would someday become American Campus Communities while he was still a student at WVU working as a dishwasher, grill cook, night desk attendant and as a resident assistant at Summit Hall. After college, he worked for three different commercial real estate companies, attempting to advance his vision for the student housing industry.

In 1993, Bayless co-founded American Campus Communities. Over the next 10 years, he established the company as the nation’s premier third party developer and manager of on-campus student housing, pioneering large public/private development transactions with the SUNY system, the University of California System and the Texas A&M University System, and he sourced venture capital to begin acquiring and developing off-campus housing. By 2003, he had grown the company to a $350 million enterprise.

American Campus Communities is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has a total enterprise value approaching $9 billion and is world’s largest and most prestigious developer, owner and manager of high quality student housing. The company provides accommodations to more than 130,000 students, in 203 American Campus communities at over 80 campuses 

Bayless facilitated the buyout of his venture capital partners by leading the student housing industry to a new plateau, when American Campus Communities successfully consummated its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange; becoming the first publicly traded student housing company in the nation, introducing the sector to Wall Street, and commencing the process of mainstreaming student housing as a commercial asset class among institutional investors.

American Campus Communities has been one of the top performing publicly traded real estate companies in America. Under Bayless’s leadership, American Campus Communities received national accolades in 2013 when it was named “Development Firm of the Year” by the National Association of Home Builders, and simultaneously was named by Forbes as one of “America’s 100 Most Trustworthy Companies.”

American Campus Communities has also been named One of Texas’s Best Places to Work on three different occasions. The company has won more than three dozen national real estate and industry awards for its innovative developments and designs.

Bayless was awarded the Regional Winner of the coveted Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was subsequently named as a National Finalist. In May 2015, Commercial Property Executive magazine featured Bayless as one of commercial real estate’s Most Innovative Executives 

As the nation's foremost expert on student housing, Bayless speaks nationally on the subject and has also been featured by prominent publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The New York Times. He has made numerous appearances on CNBC; and has also been featured on ABC’s Nightline 

Bayless was instrumental in the formation of, and serves as the Chairman of the American Campus Charity Foundation, which supports charitable activities focused on disadvantaged youth and education in Austin, Texas.

The Foundation has raised in excess of $1.5 million for the causes consistent with its focus. Bayless also currently serves on the board of the Rise School of Austin, which serves special needs children.

In 2015, Bayless was honored by his alma mater with his induction into the WVU College of Business & Economics Roll of Distinguished Alumni.

For more information about the Academy of Distinguished Alumni, contact the WVU Alumni Association at 304.293.0991 or visit



CONTACT: Allyson Cannon
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WVU Alumni Association, (304) 293-4731

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