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Gifts to WVU Davis College provide scholarships for underrepresented students

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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design Alumna Sydney White in Percival Hall June 20th, 2018. (WVU Photo/ Brian Persinger)

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The necessity of improving diversity in the fields of agriculture and forestry prompted recent gifts to the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design for scholarships dedicated to underrepresented students.  

Joe Hinson, a 1971 forest resources management graduate, will leave $50,000 for scholarships to minority students and women in natural resources. Shenandoah Valley Organic also gave $50,000 for scholarships for minority students and women in agriculture. Their gifts were made in conjunction with WVU’s fourth Day of Giving.

Hinson’s planned gift will specifically support WVU students majoring in forest resources management; Shenandoah Valley Organic’s will benefit those majoring in agribusiness management or animal and nutritional sciences. 

“For decades, farmers and foresters have understood the importance diversifying crops and stands to increase profits and improve resiliency,” said Darrell Donahue, dean of the Davis College. “Those same principles apply to the workforce; it’s vital we attract more diverse people into these spaces and create opportunities for them. A great place to start is with college scholarships. The generosity of Joe Hinson and Shenandoah Valley Organic will help us recruit and support students from diverse backgrounds to pursue degrees in agriculture and forestry.” 

Hinson’s planned gift will create the Karen A. Knapp Scholarship Fund, honoring one of the first women to graduate from WVU with a degree in forestry. 

“We were close during our time in school together. Karen was passionate about West Virginia. She loved the mountains, wildflowers and photography,” he said. “She was also a very dedicated Christian, working with young children in her church and very loyal to her friends.” 

After graduating in 1971, Knapp worked for Westvaco in Virginia and then worked as a forester for Coeur d'Alene in Idaho. She, unfortunately, died of cancer in 2010.

Hinson, managing partner for Northwest Natural Resource Group, wanted to ensure women and minority students interested in natural resources careers had opportunities and support available to them.  

“I feel like we need to support young people going into natural resource management, and those groups are underrepresented,” he explained. 

Changing students’ lives, especially those underrepresented in a field, is only the beginning of the impact of a major gift 

According to Kathryn Tuttle, chief marketing officer for Shenandoah Valley Organic, moving agriculture forward is about diversity of perspectives.  

“We wanted to provide scholarships for underrepresented and minority students who, for a lot of reasons, wouldn't have traditionally considered a future in agriculture,” she added.  

Diversity of people and perspective have already benefited SVO in creating a better business model that focuses on family farms, sustainability and happier birds.  

“That came through people thinking differently and will continue with students who have learned great things and have great backgrounds to help us do that. In that way, donating to Davis College was selfish. We want to get some great minds in farming to stir the pot,” Tuttle explained. 

Shenandoah Valley Organic’s decision to support Davis College students was made in part by the talent and ingenuity they’ve seen in West Virginia farmers they’ve already partnered with.

“West Virginia and West Virginia University are places where we can find great talent in people who want to be in West Virginia. It's a great institution and a feeder for talent in agriculture,” she said, adding that the company's leadership is excited to build stronger relationships within Davis College, with alumni and with future student interns.

The gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. The Foundation organizes WVU Day of Giving to help alumni and friends support the University’s greatest needs and opportunities. Alumni and friends made over 5,000 gifts totaling $11.9 million March 3, setting new records for the 24-hour online fundraising event held across the University system.



CONTACT: Lindsay Willey

Director of Marketing and Communications

Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design

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