Skip to main content
Gradient overlay

WVU at 150

We take a look back at the people, places and events that helped make WVU truly unique.


In 1867, one of America’s newest states created a humble, little agricultural college cushioned away on 26 acres of land.

But it was meant to be more. 

Today West Virginia University is revered worldwide as a premier research institution that boasts 341 degree programs, 24 Rhodes Scholars, 23 national championships, two Pulitzer Prizes and countless innovations that have made its state and its people shine a little brighter. 

To celebrate our beloved alma mater’s 150th anniversary, we present you with 150 fun facts and obscure tidbits about the University’s wild, wonderful ways from the beginning to now. 

Keep the love of all things gold-and-blue beating strong around the world.


Splinter Stadium, WVU's first stadium.

Photo Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Center, WVU Libraries

There was a Mountaineer Field before Old Mountaineer Field. Nicknamed “Splinter Stadium,” it was behind the present-day Mountainlair and below Stalnaker Hall.

The astronomy observatories at WVU have lived a tortured existence. In 1919, after the WVU football team beat Princeton 25–0, some students burned down the observatory. It stood on what was known as observatory hill and is now the site of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house. The observatory housed a telescope bought by professor Samuel G. Stevens for $400 in 1872. During the fire, John Arndt Eiesland, math department chair, rescued the telescope. But the telescope was ultimately destroyed in another fire in Mechanical Hall II. It’s rumored that any disturbances to the current observatory on top of White Hall will meet with hexes from the physics and astronomy department. We’re serious. They’ve been through enough.

Mechanical Hall II

A family feeds chickens with Mechanical Hall II in the background in this 1956 photo.

The Engineering College was once housed on the downtown campus in Mechanical Hall II (where the Mountainlair Parking Garage is currently). It is rumored that an engineering student disgruntled over a grade set the building ablaze in 1956. The fire caused $1.4 million in damages. Until a new building was constructed, the college was housed in two prefabricated buildings known as the “Tin Cans.”


The old morgue stood where the Beechurst PRT station is now. 


The tradition of rolling out a gold and blue carpet for men’s basketball player pre-game introductions began in 1955. 


In 1889 — 22 years after WVU opened its doors to students — the first 10 women entered the University as degree candidates. Among them was Harriet E. Lyon, who two years later would become WVU’s first female graduate, finishing at the top of her class. 

Jackson's Mill 1889

Jackson's Mill in 1889. Photo Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Center, WVU Libraries

Jackson’s Mill, run by the WVU Extension Service, is the nation’s first state 4-H camp.


Ice cream truck

For more than 50 years, the Davis College’s Dairy Plant sold ice cream at various locations at the University and served it in residence halls. Ice cream production ended in 2004 when the enterprise faced aging equipment and low cost-effectiveness. 


In 1985, a calf named Shadow made news. Scientists, led by reproductive physiologist E. Keith Inskeep, successfully transplanted a calf embryo into a cow whose ovaries had earlier been removed. Shadow’s birth was a milestone in animal reproductive science.

Georgann Wells dunking a basketball.   

Georgann Wells dunks a basketball.

The first woman to dunk a basketball during an NCAA game was WVU’s Georgeann Wells. The ball is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. 



High school students have discovered eight pulsars through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, a program co-founded by WVU professors that gets students interested in science through the search for rotating neutron stars. 


Before the Creative Arts Center was built in 1968, students had a series of smaller homes. The School of Music, founded in 1897, started in the “Hoffman family home” on High Street and moved to Woodburn Hall until 1954 when Eiesland Hall was built as its new home. By 1964, there wasn’t enough space and students found themselves in Purinton House, White Hall and a nearby Lutheran church. 


In the 1870s, a few students started a four-page, three-column newspaper called The University Bulletin. It faded away after a few years and the University went without a paper for a while. Then a paper called The Echo, a 16- page semi-monthly, was started but proved to be a financial failure. The Daily Athenaeum was founded in 1887 and has served as the University’s paper since. 

Reading the DA

Students reading the DAily Athenaeum circa 1950. 

Content in the earliest versions of The Daily Athenaeum do not reflect newspapers of the modern era. Its pages were filled with mostly rumors, innuendo and non-news items such as “Mrs. Dr. Turner was in Pittsburgh last week” or “It is said that a certain student while witnessing ‘The Son of Monte Cristo’ was so affected by a certain scene that he gave vent to his feelings by pouring forth a flood of tears.” 


The Reed College of Media has produced two Pulitzer Prize winners — journalism’s highest honor. They are Margie Mason, ’97 BS, who worked on a series of stories that freed enslaved fishermen in Indonesia leading up to the award in 2016, and Terry Wimmer, ’76 BS. In 1995, Wimmer directed coverage of a fertility scandal and massive cover-up at the University of California, Irvine. The team of reporters wrote more than 230 stories, which led to the closing of the university’s world-renowned Center for Reproductive Health, the firing of top Medical Center administrators, a federal grand jury investigation and the revamping of fertility guidelines by the American Medical Association. 

WVU protests following the Kent State massacre.

The scene on the downtown campus during the Kent State massacre protests in 1970.

After the Kent State massacre in May 1970, about 1,000 people gathered on the downtown campus, forcing city police to divert traffic. The demonstration was intended to pressure President James G. Harlow into signing a petition condemning the bombing of Cambodia and the Kent State murders. Some students displayed an effigy of the president in a coffin, which was burned in the center of University Avenue. Meanwhile, conservative students heckled the protestors and hurled water balloons and toilet paper rolls at them. After three days, Governor Arch Moore sent in the State Police to disperse the crowd with tear gas. Fortunately, there were no injuries or arrests, and property damage amounted to less than $100. 


In 1891, the University appointed James William Hartigan, MD, as the first director of physical training and director of athletics. Physical training was required for male students and was an elective for women. 


In the early 1900s, physical training for men consisted of individual body building, apparatus work, boxing and fencing. For women, it included Swedish gymnastics, dumbbells, basketball and field hockey. 


By March 1922, so many students smoked that custodians had to clear the cigarette butts away from the entrance to Woodburn Hall six times per day. The next year, the state fire marshal declared that smoking in buildings was a fire hazard and banned smoking in all WVU buildings. President John Roscoe Turner, a smoker, ignored the ban, and ashtrays reappeared in offices across campus. Today, WVU is a tobacco-free campus. 

Oman College

The 2016 Oman Medical College graduation ceremony.

Oman Medical College, established around 15 years ago with WVU assistance, is considered an outpost for WVU in the Arabian Peninsula. They’ve even adopted the Flying WV logo. 


A fire damaged a few floors of the original University Hospital in 1967.


The Human Gift Registry has a memorial garden outside and around a corner of Health Sciences Center South. Ashes of hundreds of donors are stored in urns inside. 

Golf Football

Before the current Mountaineer Field, there was Morgantown Golf and Country Club. Because the golf course was outside the hospital, it was used as a recruiting tool for doctors. 


WVU was actively involved with five agricultural colleges in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Uganda and Kenya. 

Mannon young Mannon older

Mannon Gallegly with his tomato in 1963 (left) and again in 2012 (right). Right photo by Brian Persinger.

Plant pathologist Mannon Gallegly created a blight-resistant tomato and named it the West Virginia ’63 tomato, in honor of the state’s centennial. Today, the emeritus professor is still at it. He has created two new varieties of tomatoes for WVU’s 150th birthday, which were designed to be resistant to late blight but also tolerant to the fungus Septoria lycopersici. For now they’re being called ’17A and ’17B, with official names to be announced later this year. Read more about Gallegly here.  

The earliest robot we know of that was developed at WVU was a robotic aid in the late 1980s, which was used for underground mining and had neural network technology. 

The Joginder Nath Sculpture Garden now stands outside of the Art Museum of WVU. One of the artworks in the garden, “Bridge,” was created by He Zhenhai, who is from Jingdezhen, China, a city with a long history in ceramics and where WVU has a ceramic partnership. 

Cathy Parson, the first woman to be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, scored 2,128 points in her WVU basketball career, a record only surpassed at WVU by Jerry West (2,309) and Rodney Clark “Hot Rod” Hundley (2,180). 

When you saw the film “Concussion,” you saw the work of longtime WVU researcher Julian Bailes, portrayed by Alec Baldwin, who helped make the case that football players were getting chronic traumatic encephalopathy following brain trauma.  

The Lepper Mural at White Hall being restored.


Robert Lepper, a professor of Andy Warhol’s at Carnegie Mellon University, created a mural in what was then the WVU’s Mineral Industries Building. The mural was restored when White Hall completed renovations in 2012 and now sits in an auditorium. A copy of the mural was featured in “Spider Man 2.”
An ROTC exercise on Mountaineer Field in 1943.

An ROTC exercise on Mountaineer Field in 1943.

Veterans made up half of the student body in the immediate post-World War II years.


Students originally named the mascot “Chop ‘em Down,” which President Irvin Stewart frowned upon because it was an exaggerated caricature of a hillbilly. Stewart even requested the University bookstore manager remove items carrying the hillbilly character. Later, a more dignified Mountaineer, in the sense of Daniel Boone, was created through Stewart’s request and the efforts of Mountain, the men’s honorary. 

With the goal of reducing traffic congestion, a campus parking permit system was implemented in 1950 costing $10 per semester.

HSC Pylons
The Health Sciences Center Pylons, completed in 1956, were carved for a year on site by the sculptor Milton Horn and his wife, Estelle.

In 1961, the mast of the U.S.S. West Virginia, a battleship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, was delivered to WVU’s campus and stands in front of Oglebay Hall. Former Student Body President Forest “Jack” Bowman led the effort. Beside the mast is the bell from the armored cruiser U.S.S. West Virginia, which was launched in 1903.

Strolling across campus, you may notice a small monument to gravity near White Hall. WVU planted a scion of the apple tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. The sapling was planted in 2015 after the National Institute of Standards and Technology honored retired Sen. Jay Rockefeller for his science policy leadership. Rockefeller bestowed the tree on WVU to inspire future generations to pursue scientific and technological discovery.

Samy Elias

Samy Elias, the father of the PRT.

Samy Elias, an Egyptian who arrived in Morgantown in 1965 and became chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, was the father of the PRT.

If the PRT were a race track, the 3.6-mile track would take a runner just over 5 kilometers to complete. 

We’re not sure who our youngest student ever to attend WVU was, but Rush Holt was certainly one of the youngest. The future West Virginia delegate and U.S. senator attended WVU in the early 1920s at the age of 15 following his high school graduation.

Tony Brutto

Tony Brutto graduating in 2015 at the age of 94. Photo by Brian Persinger.

As far as we know, our oldest person to graduate WVU is Tony Brutto, who at 94 finished his Regents Bachelor of Arts in 2015. He had attended WVU in 1939 but World War II and his wife’s illness interrupted his studies.

The first permanent fraternity on campus started in 1890 when Columbian Literary Society members became charter members of Phi Kappa Psi. 

When President Jerome H. Raymond arrived at WVU from the University of Wisconsin in August 1897, he called the library a “hopeless tangle” where “books were not arranged but simply placed upon the shelves anywhere space allowed.” He appointed Eliza Skinner as library director. She was the first professionally trained librarian at WVU. She completed an inventory of the library, classified the books according to the Dewey Decimal System, began a dictionary catalog, abolished a $2 deposit previously charged to borrow a book, instituted open shelves for the book collection and established regular library hours. She later went on to a 33-year career at the Library of Congress. Eliza’s Coffee Shop is named for her. 

One of the oldest trees on campus as far as we know is a red oak more than 200 years old in the Core Arboretum at the base of the Taylor Trail. 

The Core Arboretum has pawpaw parties in the fall where people are invited to taste the pawpaw, the largest fruit native to West Virginia. It has been described as tasting like a combination of banana, mango, pineapple and strawberry. 

In the 1950s, scientists discovered that a tree that had been thought long extinct and only known from the fossil record was still living in China. A dawn redwood was acquired for the Core Arboretum, but it was stolen. A new dawn redwood was planted in 1967 and later dedicated in 2007 in memory of Bob Stitzel, a longtime pharmacology professor who developed the pharmacology graduate training program.

The tallest silver maple tree recorded in West Virginia is in the Core Arboretum.

In 1992, a peace tree was planted on the downtown campus in a Native American ceremony. But in 1996, that tree was chopped down by vandals. On Oct. 19, 1996, Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawk Nation, Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, planted the white pine peace tree that still stands today. Swamp told the story passed down through oral history of how the Creator sent a Peacemaker to unite the warring tribes in the Haudenosaunee confederacy, according to WVU Librarian Anna Schein. Swamp said the Peacemaker told the tribes: “Every time you look at this tree and its greenery, you will be reminded of this peace you agreed to because this tree never changes color the year round, it’s always green, so shall be your peace.” Every year, a peace tree ceremony is held with a Native American Elder-In-Residence, invited to campus as part of the Native American Studies program. 

The oldest tree on the downtown campus is an American sycamore that stands in front of E. Moore Hall with white branches outstretched. It’s more than 200 years old. 

Jerry West

"The Logo" Jerry West

WVU’s first Olympic medalist was Jerry West, who played basketball for Team USA in 1960 when they captured the gold. West was also the inspiration for the official NBA logo. 

The highest-selling book published by WVU Press is “Crum,” Lee Maynard’s novel based in part on growing up in his small West Virginia hometown. WVU has sold almost 10,000 copies of the book. 

In 1998, Regina Jennings, a 75-year-old staff member, donated $93,000 to the law school. During her 15 years as a custodian at the university, she earned about $10,000 a year, yet contributed nine times the amount in appreciation of the people she worked with at the law school. 


As early as 1909, freshman males were required to wear “freshman beanies” whether on or off campus. According to Brad Laidley, a history major who graduated in 1915, “Anybody caught without it, they would deal with him accordingly.” 

Flying WV sketches

Sketches of the Flying WV logo from artist John Martin.

The Story of the Flying WV logo continues to be WVU Magazine’s most popular story online. We tell how, after the school used many different takes on the WVU logo, artist John Martin sketched one of the most popular college insignias for $200. Read more at this link. 

WVU has a long history with dogs. We start with Bob, the College of Law Mascot and the pet of Professor William P. Willey, founder of the West Virginia Law Review. Known as a “gentlemanly” dog, he served as mascot from 1907–1910 before his death, allegedly from poisoning. 

Four dogs are currently officers in University Police with the launch of the K-9 program as part of the post-9/11 emergency preparedness response. Bella and Ginger detect explosives. Dexter and Blek detect narcotics. 

Therapy Dogs

Marlon Brando, Gretel and Omega. Photo by Scott Lituchy.

WVU’s therapy dogs today include Marlon Brando, who works in the Statler College; Omega, who works in the Reed College; Gretel, who works in the Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services; and Sasha, who works in the Honors College.

One dog got further than the rest in his academic standing. Professor Henry Gould was a full professor who would take his dog Charlie Brown (1970–1981) to work. President James G. Harlow bestowed on the beagle the title of “half professor,” joking it was the highest a dog could get without having to be paid benefits. 

Cat stories are not as plentiful as dog stories at WVU, but professor Henry Gould had several feline assistants, including one named Khalil Gibran, who died in 2010. 

President James L. Goodknight believed he should ferret out misbehavior before it became widespread across the campus. After getting wind of an epidemic of poker playing, Goodknight rushed into a student’s room and caught a game underway. As the Morgantown Weekly Post reported the president’s intrusion into the private quarters of the students: “The boys were too amazed to make an attempt to conceal their stacks of blues, but one of them was polite enough to offer the doctor a chair, which he gracefully but coldly declined.” The faculty on Jan. 11 and 14, 1896, tried the offenders, suspended two of them indefinitely, and two more for a year, and decided a fifth should be given probation. 

In 1970, John E. “Ed” Sneckenberger, now a WVU professor emeritus, was one of 20 faculty who designed a concept for a Manned Unmanned Lunar Explorer , which would have superseded the Lunar Rover.
GEE’S 10 (Nos. 61-70)
Gee 10

President E. Gordon Gee. Photo by M.G. Ellis.

Former Gov. Gaston Caperton helped inspire me to return to WVU. I asked him why he moved back to West Virginia. He said he felt he had one last opportunity to really make a difference and he wanted to make that difference here. I felt the exact same way.

John Denver

John Denver performs "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at the 1980 football season opener.

John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads" is a bonafide tradition that will never fade away. I remember him coming to the opening game of Mountaineer Field to play that song in 1980. And here, nearly 40 years later, the song still resonates strongly with Mountaineers. (To see a list of other artists, who've covered the West Virginia favorite, go here.)  

The College of Law, where I started my WVU career as a professor, today provides 40,000 hours of free legal services and student pro bono projects annually. That, my friends, is giving back. 

Underneath parts of campus are the remnants of underground, war-time shelters. There are supposedly shelters under White Hall and the old University bookstore behind Colson Hall. There’s also an underground tunnel below Oglebay Hall.

I believe Mountaineers embody these five core values: Service, curiosity, respect, accountability and appreciation. 

Great spot for a selfie? Woodburn Circle (and on the PRT, and by the Jerry West statue, and on the WVU bridge, and...)

We are an all-inclusive, OneWVU, meaning that we welcome all and that we stretch beyond our Morgantown campus. The WVU system includes WVU Tech in Beckley, Potomac State College in Keyser and Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center divisions in Charleston and Martinsburg.


Leonardo DiCaprio hasn't lived in West Virginia or attended WVU. But he loves wearing the Flying WV. It must make him feel like the “KING OF THE WORLD!”  

We have the world's first institute devoted to the study of human memory -- the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute. 

Sally Ghost

"Sally" dancing in Stewart Hall. Photo by Raymond Thompson Jr.

Stewart Hall, which houses the president's and administration offices, was built between 1900 and 1902. A cemetery was located on the property before its construction. Over the years, several eyewitnesses have reported seeing the ghost of an 8-year-old girl named Sally dancing around in a yellow Victorian dress on the second floor. Can someone get me the number for Ghostbusters? ( You can read all about the Haunted Halls of WVU here.)


Not all greenhouses are on ground level. In fact, the biology department has six greenhouses in a controlled environment on the sixth floor of the Life Sciences Building. Atmospheric CO2, humidity, temperature and light are controlled to grow plants under experimental conditions.

For every dollar the state invests in the University, WVU returns $10 into the economy. 

Pitt Mobile

A student destroys part of the "Pitt mobile" in the 1980s.

A now defunct tradition saw the annual mutilation of the “Pitt mobile” in front of the Mountainlair. Students would vent their hostile feelings toward the Panthers by destroying a car. 

Braxton Tower is named after Jim Braxton, a football player who went on to an NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. He died in 1986.

Mules, horses, wagons and a steam shovel helped build the first Mountaineer Field, which was dedicated in 1925. 

Crockett's Goal Post

Part of a goal post from a 1984 WVU football win over Penn State remains on display today at Crockett's Lodge. Photo by Raymond Thompson Jr.

After the 1984 football win 17-14 at home against Penn State (after a 29-year wait) fans took down the north goal post and brought a piece to Crockett’s Lodge in Morgantown, where it still lives today.

One of James Harlow's first purchases as WVU president was a new IBM 360-75 computer, which he lauded in a 1970 report as "one of the most significant steps taken by West Virginia and WVU in recent years." 

The first out-of-state alumni chapter was established in Chicago. 

The farthest alumni chapter from Morgantown is in Singapore, more than 9,600 miles away. 

In 1912, with the threat of world war on the horizon, the university adopted a policy in which all male students, with some exceptions, “enroll themselves in the Department of Military Science.” The onset of World War I required training for cadets to be hastened and included “special kinds of work” such as carpentry, welding, photography and other skills deemed essential to supporting the war effort. Armed with the necessary skills and leadership, the first detachment of officers to complete the new training departed for France in August of 1918.

Field House

The WVU Field House, which opened in 1928, holds decades of memories, from player Rodney Clark “Hot Rod” Hundley eating hot dogs during games to Pitt Coach H.C. “Doc” Carlson bringing an umbrella to ward off beverages thrown at him by Mountaineer fans, which he sometimes threw back. The Field House was not just home to the Mountaineers. From 1939 to 1954, it continuously hosted the the state basketball championships. Starting in 1955, WVU was part of a rotation between Huntington and later Charleston for the championships until they permanently moved to Charleston. The final college game ever played at the Field House was against Pitt on March 3, 1970. 

The first FallFest, held in 1995, sported an alternative rock flair. It was headlined by Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando, frontman of the Lemonheads. Top acts to appear at FallFest over the years include Busta Rhymes, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Maroon 5.

Woodburn Ivy

You might have been a student here when Woodburn Hall’s walls were covered in ivy, as in this photo circa 1979.

Gould and Hsu

Henry Gould and Charles Hsu. Photo provided by Henry Gould.

Before the U.S. and China had an official relationship, a Chinese professor and a WVU professor were solving a math problem. In 1965, Leetsch “Charles” Hsu wrote to Henry Gould, seven years before President Richard Nixon went to China. The two published “a seminal paper on a generalized series inversion pair” in 1973 in the Duke Mathematical Journal. Hsu visited Gould at WVU in the 1970s.

Henry Gould also served as a mathematics consultant to the "Dear Abby" newspaper column. One interesting aspect of this work was writing an explanation of the three ancient Greek problems (trisecting an angle, squaring the circle and duplicating the cube). A pamphlet on this material was sent to hundreds of readers (mostly secondary school students) in every state and overseas, who wanted to know more about these famous problems.

Womens handbook

A page from a handbook for women at WVU in the 1950s.

In the 1950s, women living in the dormitories had to adhere to stricter rules and guidelines than men. Freshmen women were expected to remain in their rooms between 7:30 and 10 p.m. and then between 10:15 p.m. and breakfast. Also, freshman women were not allowed to engage in conversation with men after 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 

President Jerome H. Raymond, whose opposition to dancing amounted to an obsession, persuaded the Board of Regents in 1897 to restrict Saturday night dances in the gymnasium to once a month. Moreover, they were to begin at 8 p.m. and end at 10 p.m.


The inside of a chapel at WVU. Date of photo unknown.

In 1895, students and faculty were required to attend chapel exercises every morning and one church service on Sunday, unless excused for good reason by the president. The student roll was to be called every morning, and the unexcused absences of each professor reported to the Board of Regents.

Students could have no more than three unexcused absences in one year from chapel. When students took it upon themselves to show their displeasure by stamping during chapel exercises, the faculty added another warning that “any student who is found guilty of creating disorder in chapel shall be dismissed from the West Virginia University.” On legal grounds, the students observed that compulsory chapel attendance was contrary to the principles of separation of church and state, principles upon which the institutions of West Virginia and the United States were founded.

WVU opened in Woodburn Seminary in 1867 when Morgantown’s population was 700. Monongalia Academy and Woodburn Female Seminary were donated to West Virginia to help begin WVU. 

Secret Female Society

Members of the Retejos Jichancas hide their faces in this 1928 photo, courtesy of the West Virginia & Regional History Center, WVU Libraries.

In 1908, a secret female society called the Retejos Jichancas first appeared on campus. The only campus record of this group consists of bizarre photographs in which members’ faces are concealed. These appeared in the Monticola between 1908 and 1928. According to the book “WVU Women: The First Century,” members of the RJs were selected by vote from Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega and Alpha Xi Delta and were distinguished campus and community leaders. The initiation ceremony for each member involved dressing in costume and mask and wearing the mask to classes the following day. As for the hidden faces and disguises, those were purely just for fun. 

Elizabeth Moore

Elizabeth Moore, circa 1875.

When Confederate troops invaded Morgantown in 1863 to search for horses, they occupied the Seminary grounds (now Woodburn Circle) and threatened to burn it down. Elizabeth Moore, principal of the Seminary, invited the troops in for dinner and coffee, and her hospitality prevented them from destroying the town. 

WVU was once located in the town of Seneca for a short time. According to the New Dominion of Feb. 9, 1898, the residents of Sunnyside and Beechurst Avenue voted 70 to 10 to create the new town. “The new town takes in a large scope of territory and will soon be a very important one. It has within its bounds the University and Morgantown proper can no longer be said to be the seat of that institution.” The town did not last long. In 1901 the Morgantown Charter bill, passed by the West Virginia Legislature, incorporated several small towns near Morgantown, including Seneca, into the Morgantown city limits. 

Have you noticed that Martin Hall has two tones? When an addition was added to the back of Martin Hall in 1976–77 to hold a staircase, elevator and bathrooms, the new portion’s brick was matched to the building’s exterior as it appeared. Later, when the old brick was cleaned, it became apparent that the original was lighter than the new brick.

The first known foreign-born graduate of WVU is Herman G. Stoetzer, who was awarded an AB degree in 1889. Stoetzer was born in Germany before his family settled in Wheeling. He was one of the founders of The Athenaeum, became a Presbyterian minister and served as president of the Alumni Association in 1910. 

Japanese Law Student

Another early international student was Waichiro Kauroku(pictured bottom right), from Saitamaken, Japan, who graduated with a law degree in 1892. After leaving WVU, he studied at Yale but not much is known beyond 1893. The DA ran this news brief about him that year: “W. Kauroku, the Japanese student who graduated in law last year, is in a hospital near Harvard. All who knew him here knew what a slave he was to the deadly cigarette, and his incessant use of them has driven him to the hospital with few chances for his recovery.” 

Another early noteworthy graduate of the law school was also Japanese. His name was Tokichi Masao, and he graduated in 1895. He, too, went on to Yale and became an ambassador to Siam (now Thailand). 

Mining Extension fire exercise

The Mine Training Center in Core, W.Va. exercises a controlled burn. Working in conjunction with the Statler College and the WVU Extension Service, they provide mine and firefighting training. Photo by Brian Persinger.

In 1914, the Mining Extension program at WVU became the first in the country to train miners.

When Stonewall Jackson was mistakenly shot during the Civil War at Chancellorsville, Va., by his own men, which ultimately claimed his life, he had in his pocket an account book showing his last purchase: a lifetime membership in a Bible society for $30. The book is in the WVU Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center. 

In 1979 following the Iranian revolution, WVU’s students from Iran were stuck, unable to access funds from home. Around that time Nigerians were in a similar situation because of political unrest back home. So the University worked with students to extend them credit and give them more flexibility on hours they could work so that they could survive in their home away from home

Ag experimental station

The Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in 1907.

One of the first research milestones at WVU was the establishment of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station

An important early study of the experiment station was A.D. Hopkins’ work starting in 1888 to collect more than 20,000 insects. Of those, 120 species had never been recorded. 

WVU Press is one of the smallest university presses in the country but the largest publisher of any kind in West Virginia.

Mountaineer Marching Band 1970s

The Mountaineer Marching Band in the 1970s.

For several years, the pregame playlist for the Mountaineer Marching Band has included, “Fight Mountaineers,” “Mountain Dew,” “Simple Gifts,” the WVU alma mater, “Star Spangled Banner,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Hail, West Virginia!” 

By The Numbers

Tallest building on campus: Engineering Sciences Building at 14 floors. 

Largest building on campus: The Coliseum at 377,542 gross square feet. Milan Puskar Stadium is bigger at 389,860 square feet, but it is technically not a building. 

Total number of acres at WVU: 14,539 (owned and leased).

Residential house with the most dorms: University Place South, now Seneca Hall, with 786 rooms. 

Oldest building: Martin Hall, built in 1870. 

Youngest building: the new Agricultural Sciences Building, opened in 2016. 

The country that sends the most international students to WVU is currently Saudi Arabia with 255 students in fall 2015. 

Student population: 1965: 11,514 
1975: 20,007 
2016: 31,287 (including campuses in Morgantown, WVU Tech and Potomac State College). 

The shortest book published by WVU Press: “After Oil,” a 78-page book by Imre Szeman and the Petrocultures Research Group about the changes that are needed to make the full-scale transition from fossil fuels to new energy forms. 

The longest book published by WVU Press : “Folk-Songs of the South,” a 704- page song book by John Harrington Cox. 

Collectively, the five dining halls in 2016–2017 went through: 23,350 chicken breasts, 

20,560 bananas, 

10,500 strips of bacon, 

7,000 strawberries,

650 watermelons. 

Flying WV cookies

In 2016, the WVU bakery made 6,640 dozen Flying WV cookies (79,680 cookies). These are cut out by hand with specially made, heavy duty copper (copyrighted) cookie cutters. The bakery has worn out around 150 of these cutters since it started making the cookies in the late-1980s.

President Trotter warned against attacks on freshmen because fights throughout the city between freshmen and sophomores could not be condoned as college custom. In a charge to the student government, he said in 1925: “Student officers will please see that further melees do not occur on city streets. Keep your foolishness off the streets. We have an athletic field here where you can club each other, but in the future keep student frays off the streets.”

The Rhody Room restaurant was on the second floor of the Mountainlair where the Rhododendron Room is currently located. The restaurant had made-toorder sandwiches and salads and only faculty and staff knew about it. 

Lair drawing 1964

An architect's drawing of the Mountainlair in 1964.

The Mountainlair also once had an ice cream shop, a sundries counter and a pastry counter. 

Hatfields was formerly known as the Buffeteria

The food court area was built during the first Mountainlair renovation around 1988. There was a Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Little Caesars, JACS (Just Another Convenience Store), Hatfields, Javas Coffee Shop, Scoops Ice Cream Parlor and a sandwich cart that offered vegetarian sandwiches.

Fuzzy Knight

Fuzzy Knight wrote a pep song, “ Fight Mountaineers," which is still frequently used by the Mountaineer Marching Band 90 years later. He also wrote the melody for a WVU song entitled, “To Thee Our Alma Mater,” with words by a fellow graduate David A. Christopher. Knight’s first notable film role was in “She Done Him Wrong,” and he went on to appear in more than 180 films over the next 30 years.

Orchesis Dance Ensemble

The ORchesis Dance Ensemble in 1969. Photo courtesy of the West Virginia & Regional History Center, WVU Libraries.

The Orchesis Dance Ensemble founded in 1928 was the beginning of dance at WVU. The group of women experimented with what they called free expression dance, now known as modern dance. 

Men working on a nuclear accelerator at WVU

An undated photo of men working on a nuclear accelerator at WVU.

In 1956, WVU offered a nuclear engineering degree , but by 1972 the program, which had seen declining enrollment, ended and the nuclear reactor that was part of the program was removed from the basement of Armstrong Hall and sent back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The first engineering dean at WVU, William Sleeper Aldrich wrote in his diary after it was announced in 1897 that women could be admitted to all departments except the military: “This is an outrage. Women in engineering? Never!!! … It is a man’s field … It requires intellectual perception, a keen mind, quick wit, and able body … There are no women in this profession … there never have been, there never will be.” We proved him wrong. 

Orange Bowl

Quarterback Geno Smith following the 2012 Orange Bowl. Photo by Dale Sparks.

The 70 points West Virginia scored against Clemson in the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl set an all-time bowl record for the most points scored by a single team. 

Prior to its adoption of the mascot “Mountaineers” West Virginia’s football team once called itself “The Snakers” — a nickname that first surfaced in the late 1890s and continued throughout the early 1900s. 

The worst defeat in WVU football history took place on Oct. 22, 1904, when Michigan defeated West Virginia 130–0. The coach for the Wolverines that day was none other than WVU graduate Fielding Yost.

West Virginia is the 20th all-time winningest football program in college football history with 731 victories heading into the 2017 season. 

Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden

Three consecutive West Virginia coaches from 1970–2000 are in the College Football Hall of Fame: Bobby Bowden, Frank Cignetti and Don Nehlen. 

The first-ever night football game WVU played happened long before lights were common in college football stadiums. It happened on Nov. 23, 1901, when WVU faced Marietta College in Morgantown. A train accident caused the Marietta team to arrive late for the game, and artificial lighting was provided by adjacent buildings on campus, lanterns and some spectators lighting matches near the field so the players could see where the sidelines were. 

WVU’s season-opening football game against Ohio State on Sept. 5, 1998, was the first college football game ever televised in High Definition, CBS’s high-def signal being transmitted to a small viewing area in Columbus. 

WVU’s football game against Pitt at Forbes Field on Oct. 8, 1921, was the first-ever college football game broadcast on radio. It was carried by KDKA in Pittsburgh. The Panthers won the game 21–13. 

Uh oh. At one of the annual fall engineering gatherings that started in the 1920s, a student engineering society switched the movie that was to be shown with an uncensored blue movie to the non-amusement of the faculty. 

When influenza struck after World War I in 1919, the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house became an emergency hospital. Of the 2,697 WVU students who saw active service in World War I, 46 died. Eight of them died in action and the rest died in the epidemic.

During World War II, four members of WVU’s Army Specialized Training Program were selected to go to Los Alamos to work in the U.S.’s development of the atomic bomb. 

In 1970, Aerospace engineering professors John Loth and Jerome Fanucci with the help of graduate students created the short takeoff and landing aircraft, known as STOL, with funding from the Office of Naval Research. 

Cadets weapons

Photo courtesy of the West Virginia & Regional History Center, WVU Libraries.

Before an armory was created, around 1872, cadets kept their weapons at their residences. 

Legend of Falling Run Hollow

Photo courtesy of the West Virginia & Regional History Center, WVU Libraries.

The Legend of Falling Run Hollow: The 1901 edition of The Monticola describes a spooky tradition in which students were tempted to venture into Falling Run late at night. “The dissecting house is located there, and the spirits of the departed subjects are supposed to hover over the dead bodies.” One student supposedly felt sharp claws sticking into his neck as he crept near the morgue. 

Rutherford B. Hayes, you’re our only hope. In 1877–78, WVU had one professor from the War Department, Lt. James M. Ingalls, who headed the cadet corps and taught military science. He also taught undergraduate mathematics, and was so popular and effective that West Virginia Sen. Waitman T. Willey (of Willey Street fame) wrote to President Rutherford B. Hayes to keep Ingalls stationed at WVU. Hayes responded that he could not countermand the War Department. Ingalls went on to found the U.S. Army Ballistics School in Fort Monroe, Va. 

Marmaduke Dent

Marmaduke Dent was the first alumnus of WVU. He was the first to receive a bachelor’s degree in 1870 as well as a master’s degree in 1873. Born in Granville, W.Va., he became a teacher. He later became an attorney and was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. He was in the majority of the pioneering 1898 civil rights case Carrie Williams v. Board of Education that ruled that black students were entitled to the same length of school term as white students and that Williams, a teacher, was entitled to the same pay. 

WVU has not always been a major university in terms of enrollment. In its first year, 1867–68, the University welcomed 124 students. Nearly 10 years later, however, in 1876–77, enrollment dropped to an all-time low of 93. 

In 1946, President Stewart sent a note to the community that “ The University is desperately in need of all living accommodations available in Morgantown or in outlying communities” because fall enrollment estimates of 4,500 had reached 6,000. He set an example by making available the second floor of the president’s home to five war veterans who paid regular dormitory fees. 


The puppetry major is one of only three across the country. 

The number of dues-paying members in the WVU Alumni Association: 28,000. (You could be our newest member.) 

You are an important part of WVU’s history . Tell us your WVU story by emailing us at We can’t wait to hear it.

SPECIAL THANKS: Bill Case, B.J. Adams, Christy Venham, Michael Ridderbusch, John Cuthbert, Zachariah Fowler, Phoenicia Keffer, Tom Sloane, Kathy Curtin, Kim Cameon, Tatsu Johnson, James Jolly, Mary Dillon, John Antonik, Octavia Spriggs, Henry Gould, Jessica Eichlin, “The First 100 Years: A History of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station” by Ernest J. Nesius, “The First One Hundred Years of Engineering Education at West Virginia University” by Edwin C. Jones Sr., “Aspiring to Greatness: West Virginia University” by Ronald L. Lewis, “West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State” by William T. Doherty and Festus P. Summers, e-WV: the West Virginia Encyclopedia, “WVU Women: The First Century,” Anna Schein, The Daily Athenaeum and the “Monticola.”

Arnold Hall thumb

Bye Arnold!

We bid farewell to an old friend we knew as Arnold Hall, which served as a home away from home for more than 35,000 students since 1957.

Continue Reading
Tuba player

Marching to the Beat

Dive into the Mountaineer Marching Band’s colorful history, from the inclusion of women to an early rebel band.

Continue Reading
Flying WV

The Legend of the Flying WV

Experience the symbol that unites Mountaineers as one. See how the Flying WV logo evolved from the minds of its creators more than 30 years ago—and how it continues to shape the spirit of our beloved university. In this extended feature, find out which celebrities have worn the Flying WV and view from across the globe.

Continue Reading