West Virginia University alumnus Mark Bowe will be the first to tell you he is passionate about heritage and history, something he and his team strive to preserve as they travel the country honoring pioneer-era craftsmanship on the popular DIY network show, Barnwood Builders.
He also will tell you that he is equally passionate about his alma mater and that he relishes in the opportunity to give back to the place that provided him with the drive and skills to succeed.
When approached about using those skills and that passion to enhance cultural opportunities for visitors at WVU Jackson’s Mill, Bowe, a two-time WVU graduate, took it one step further.
“I loved the idea of working on this project because it fits with my passion for West Virginia heritage and history, and it provided me with a chance to try something new – adding an executive team-building component to the project,” said Bowe.
“As someone who has been fortunate to work with an amazing team, many who have been with me from the start, I understand the importance of bringing diverse talents and experiences together to get a job done, as well as the challenges that often come with working in teams. Offering a unique team-building experience to those working in leadership roles was an opportunity I had been thinking about for quite some time.”
That opportunity came knocking, and Bowe’s idea was put in motion.
“WVU was so supportive of my idea and were willing to let me test the waters with their team,” said Bowe. “We brought in some really exceptional leaders from around the University who worked through a lot challenges, including the weather. Each leader was fully invested in this project and felt some sense of ownership in its success or failure. They worked through challenges together, and the end result speaks for itself. The structure looks amazing and adds a wonderful historical presence to Jackson’s Mill.”
Led by President Gordon Gee, about 25 leaders from around the University, including deans, vice presidents, staff and students, participated in the build.
“Mark, indeed all the Barnwood Builders team, are tremendous ambassadors for our state and our University," Gee said. "Mark's appreciation of the past and his desire to make the future better is inspirational. His willingness to give back, while at the same time providing a team-building experience for our University leadership, demonstrates perfectly what it means to be a Mountaineer."
Barnwood Builders constructed the timber frame structure, made of 350-year-old wood, offsite at the company’s “Boneyard” and transported the building in pieces to the site. A team from Jackson’s Mill coordinated the site prep work, and Bowe and his crew instructed the WVU team – using tools and techniques from pioneer days – on completing the necessary construction, raising the structure and putting on the finishing touches.
The group worked for three days through rain, flooding, snow and sleet, to build the 16-by-20-foot structure which will be used as a craft education center where visitors, including 4-H’ers, will learn about Appalachian heritage, including candle making, quilting, cooking and more. The building also will serve as a home for Appalachian artisans who want to showcase their work and teach others about their craft.
“This one-of-a-kind team-building opportunity provided me with a chance to work side by side with colleagues from the University – through rain, sleet and snow – to create this beautiful building,” said Steven Bonanno, dean and director, WVU Extension Service.
“It reminded me once again of the vast experiences and skillsets we all have and the importance of working together, even in challenging times, to get a job done. This was extremely hard work, but we all came together as a team and to help build this new structure. And with that, I believe we feel a great sense of accomplishment and camaraderie among our team.”
Barnwood Builders has donated the structure to WVU Jackson’s Mill and is working with WVU to offer this one-of-a-kind team-building experience to others.
“The Barnwood Builders project at Jackson’s Mill was a real joy to be involved in on a number of fronts,” said Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean, WVU College of Business and Economics. “The WVU facilities at Jackson’s Mill are used by residents from throughout West Virginia, particularly our youth, so it was quite rewarding to see President Gee, academic deans and all kinds of WVU ambassadors taking part in this project.
“What made it truly special for me was that we were shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark, a B&E graduate with whom we reconnected in 2015,” Reyes said. “He was featured in B&E Magazine because of the unique things he is doing with his life, and fostering that relationship with Mark really reconnected him to this University. He has some great, innovative ideas for WVU and is a true partner.”
Bowe worked as a coal miner while completing his bachelor’s degree at B&E, and later received a master’s degree in safety management from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. He founded his company, Antique Cabins and Barns, in 1995. He and his longtime crew have reclaimed more than 400 pioneer-era structures.
The WVU Jackson’s Mill episode of Barnwood Builders is slated to air on DIY in fall 2018.
CONTACT: Tara Curtis; WVU Extension Service