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Food systems engineer named new dean of WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design

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Darrell Donahue’s appointment as the dean of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design was announced Thursday, April 9. Submitted Photo

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A leader and expert in process operations, risk assessment and food safety has been selected as the next dean of the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Darrell Donahue’s appointment as the dean of the Davis College was announced Thursday by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. Donahue most recently has served as chair of the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering in the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and College of Engineering. His WVU appointment will begin July 1.

“In many ways, the Davis College is at the core of our land-grant mission, and Dr. Donahue understands how important that is in West Virginia,” President Gordon Gee said. “His background at another great land-grant, in addition to his industry experience, provide him with the right tools to help create the land-grant of the future.”

Provost Maryanne Reed agrees.

“We look forward to welcoming Dr. Donahue to the Mountaineer family,” Reed said. “His agricultural background coupled with both his industry and academic experience are an excellent fit for the Davis College. Dr. Donahue also is an experienced administrator who has built teams both within his academic unit and across colleges to address current and relevant research challenges.” 

In addition to serving as professor and chair of his department, Donahue was named director of MSU’s Institute of Water Research in 2017. While in this leadership role, Donahue’s department saw nearly 45 percent growth in graduate programs, 8 percent growth in undergraduate students and over a 10 percent increase in research funding. Under his leadership, the department and Institute of Water Research also saw 20 percent growth in annual alumni giving.

Prior to joining MSU, Donahue served as vice president of operations and research director for the Maine Maritime Academy, a public college in the coastal town of Castine, Maine. Donahue began his academic career at the University of Maine, where he moved through the ranks to professor of chemical engineering and associate director of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, 1996-2012.

Throughout his career, Donahue has focused his research and work on process operations efficiency improvement, near-infrared spectroscopy, and risk assessment. In 2007-2008, he served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he focused on security and health affairs. Additionally, he has served on three National Academy of Sciences and international panels addressing food safety and currently serves as a member of the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods, a United Nations committee, and as a consultant for the World Health Organization food safety issues. 

“I am thrilled to join WVU as the dean of the distinguished Davis College,” Donahue said. “I look forward to leading innovative ways to broaden the impact of our research, education and outreach in agriculture, natural resources and design by the collaborative efforts of faculty, staff and students. Through our collective activity, I am confident Davis College and WVU will strengthen its leadership to support the economies of the state and region while achieving international reach.”

Gregory Dunaway, dean of the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, led the search committee that selected five candidates from a pool of applicants to visit campus in February and March. The University retained the national firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. to assist in this search. 

Ken Blemings has served as interim dean of the Davis College since November 2018. Prior to this role, he was named interim dean and then dean of the WVU Honors College in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Blemings will return to his role with the Honors College. 

Damien Clement, an associate professor in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, has served as acting dean of the Honors College since July 2019 and will return to his role as assistant dean, effective July 1. 

“We are grateful for the effective leadership provided by Dr. Blemings during his tenure as interim dean of the Davis College,” Reed said. “Working with faculty and the Davis administrative team, he helped the college continue its forward momentum and set the new dean up for success. 

“Dr. Clement also deserves recognition for stepping up during the transition and ably leading the Honors College this past year,” Reed said. “The University is fortunate to have such strong and dedicated leaders.” 

As WVU’s oldest academic unit, the Davis College is central to the University’s mission to advance the people and places of West Virginia and beyond. The College offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs that cover life sciences, applied and basic research, and economic and social relationships among people as they live and work in a wide variety of settings. With an extensive research portfolio in areas related to food, water quality, natural resource and landscape management, the College is a leader in making discoveries that change lives. 

The Davis College is named for two Morgantown sisters, Gladys Gwendolyn Davis and Vivian Davis-Michael, in recognition of their $18.4 million gift. The College offers 22 undergraduate majors, as well as 18 masters programs and seven doctoral degree programs. It maintains thousands of acres of farmland and forests throughout the state which provide opportunities for learning beyond the classroom, research and facilitate valuable community service.

In addition to serving as dean of the Davis College, Donahue will serve as director of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, managing the research facilities of the college including farms and forests.



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