Fall Commencement Includes Surprise Moment as Dr. John McCullough is Named 35th President of WLU

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WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Dec. 12, 2015 — West Liberty University Interim President Dr. John P. McCullough presided over the Fall Commencement exercises held at 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, in the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex (ASRC).

Just a few minutes into the ceremony, the program took a unique turn as Chairman of the Board of Governors George Couch announced a surprise change in Dr. McCullough’s title.

“I would like to take advantage of this moment of executive privilege to honor one very special individual who has meant so much to this institution. Though he has been recognized again and again in recent months for over 45 years of distinguished service to West Liberty University, there is one more action that needs to be taken to complete the journey, one more title he has not held and one more step to mark his place in history and rightfully bring his career to a close,” he began.

“Prince Charles may never become King of England. Star Wars did not win the Best Movie Award in 1977. The Buffalo Bills made it to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s and did not win. Even Steve Jobs was the interim CEO of Apple. Interims are usually brought in under stressful and challenging times. They often accomplish much, but many times never become the formal and permanent leader.

“Well, your Board of Governors did not want you to join the list of famous or infamous interims or runners-up. Dr. McCullough, it is with great honor that, upon unanimous vote of the Board of Governors at their October 14 meeting and with consent of the Higher Education Policy Commission that your title of interim president be changed and from this moment forward and forever you will be known in history as, the 35th president of West Liberty University for the period December 12 to December 31, 2015, with all of the honors and privileges of the position. Congratulations President John P. McCullough III,” Couch said.

At the end of today’s ceremony, McCullough will have presided over 33 commencement ceremonies. He will soon retire after 45 years of service as a Hilltopper.

“I am grateful and surprised at this honor. Thank you,” McCullough said.

Chancellor Paul Hill reads the citation honoring President John McCullough for his years of service to West Virginia Higher Education.

Later in the ceremony, honored guest Chancellor Paul Hill, representing the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission also presented McCullough with a citation honoring him for his years of served in West Virginia Higher Education.

Graduates and guests next heard from student speaker Zachary Novel of New Martinsville, W.Va. A business major, specializing in accounting, he is the highest-ranking student from the Gary E. West College of Business and a member of Delta Mu Delta, where he served as president this semester.

He also is employed at LM Consulting in New Martinsville as a staff accountant. He and his wife Jayme have two children, Riley, 6, Isaac, 2.

“As a husband, father of two young children, staff accountant and full time student, it has not been easy. None of this would have been possible without the support and sacrifices of my wife and family,” he said, explaining that he was a commuter student and drove nearly 100 miles daily to earn his degree.

Commencement speakers from left, Brian Joseph, Zachary Novel and Dr. Dan Joseph.

“I told myself that if I’m driving that far and taking time away from my family and work, I better make the most of it. I believe I did just that,” Novel said.

He concluded by saying, “Stepping our of your comfort zone is one of the hardest things you can do, but without doing that there will be no real change … do not feed your fears, conquer them. Love all that you do and never stop learning.”

Graduates then went on to hear a commencement speech delivered by two alumni and brothers, Dr. Dan and Brian Joseph, both of Wheeling.

They told the story of their father’s early death from cancer and how former WLU president Dr. Clyde Campbell took on the role of mentoring and watching over them at his request. It made a huge difference in their lives and they remain forever grateful. They have supported the University in many ways and currently Brian serves on the Board of Governors and Dan serves on the Foundation Board.

The Josephs also went on to applaud President McCullough stating that their father would have loved him for his humility, “Dr. McCullough abhors the word I. It’s always we, my team, and his many references to how he is surrounded by great people.”

The Josephs then asked the graduates to turn and applaud the faculty for their mentoring and education, before concluding by simply congratulating the Class of 2015.

The graduating student with the highest grade point average in each respective college carried the college banner in the ceremony and included:

  • College of Arts & Communication, Michael Murphy, Bellaire, Ohio;
  • College of Sciences, Hannah Lovas, Triadelphia, W.Va.;
  • West College of Business, YaQing Li, Barnesville, Ohio;
  • College of Education, Elizabeth Melko, Benwood, W.Va.;
  • College of Liberal Arts, Joshua Taylor, Wheeling;
  • School of Professional Studies, Amanda Crow, Wheeling.

Also providing inspiration during the Commencement Ceremony was the West Liberty University Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Professor Patrick Garrett.

View the complete commencement ceremonies on WLU-TV 14.

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