A portion of the Oldfield’s estate establishes a scholarship fund to benefit future first generation college students.
The couple said their decision to give to WVU is rooted in their view of higher education as a gateway to new ways of thinking and being.
“Before starting college, I had never heard of Newsweek or Time, let alone Rachel Carson, Mother Jones, or Gregor Mendel, among countless other important historical figures, ideas, and publications. I had never attended live theatre or listened to bluegrass music,” Ken Oldfield said. “Higher education gave me new interests and was life-enriching in ways I am still discovering.”
Angela Oldfield didn’t consider attending college following high school. After working as a beautician for five years, it was small-talk with someone from her hometown that motivated her to move to Morgantown and pursue a degree at WVU.
“I completed an evening class at the West Liberty branch campus in Wheeling. I really liked learning new things and was surprised I earned an ‘A’ in the course, after having been out of school so long,” she said. “I moved to Morgantown that fall and thanks to financial assistance and two part-time jobs, I earned two degrees from WVU. Every day I think of how that brief and unplanned conversation changed the trajectory of my life, and all for the good.”
Ken and Angela met at WVU, where he was pursuing a doctoral degree in political science and she was earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. During his doctoral studies, Ken ran across books and articles about the importance of socioeconomic origins in understanding educational outcomes, which ultimately influenced his study of “first-gens” on college campuses, as students, faculty, and administrators.
Following their graduation from WVU, the couple moved to Hays, Kansas, where Ken worked at Fort Hays State University as an assistant professor and Angela worked in regional health planning.
After two years in Kansas, the Oldfields moved to Springfield, Illinois, where Ken became a professor of public administration and director of the Graduate Public Service Internship program at the University of Illinois-Springfield. Over the years he has authored several publications about first-gens, most of which are readily available online. Angela worked for 20 years in policy development and programming at the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The Oldfields hope their gift will support and encourage first-generation students who decide to further their education at WVU.
“Unfortunately, those who most need college are least likely to get it,” he said. “To prove our commitment to the nation’s self-proclaimed democratic principles, as a society we should devote more resources to recruiting greater numbers of first-gens to higher education.”
This gift from Kenneth and Angela Oldfield was made in conjunction with “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University”. The fundraising effort by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December.
Bill Nevin, WVU Foundation
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter