WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., May 17, 2023 — West Liberty University and the West Liberty University Foundation announced today the appointment of Dr. Robert Kruse II as the first recipient of the Kenneth B. McMillen Endowed Chair.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to honor Professor McMillen’s legacy by focusing more on my research in cultural geography. Thank you to all involved in creating this opportunity, especially the WLU Foundation, the McMillen family, and the College of Liberal and Creative Arts for recognizing me in this manner,” said Kruse, who is a professor of Geography.
The McMillen Endowed Chair is the first chair to be endowed at WLU and represents the highest faculty recognition established at this time.
Kruse, who joined the WLU faculty in 2005, is a professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. The time and resources afforded by the McMillen Chair will enable Kruse to pursue two projects in cultural geography – his primary area of interest.
The first project will address the unique ways in which postcolonial spaces are represented in the Stephen Sondheim musical Pacific Overtures (1976). The second project, focused on the town of Point Pleasant, W.Va., will be a continuation of Dr. Kruse’s previous exploration of the unique intersections of history (the collapse of the Silver Bridge) and the paranormal (the lore surrounding sightings of the “Mothman”).
Kruse earned both his doctoral and master’s degree in Geography at Kent State University and his bachelor’s in Geography at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
“We are so honored, in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, to be the home of the McMillen Chair. As its first recipient, Dr. Kruse carries forward a West Liberty legacy of engaging, relevant courses, lively teaching and thoughtful research. That this legacy will always be linked with Professor McMillen through the affection of his students and the love of his family makes it even more meaningful,” said Dr. Cecilia Konchar Farr, dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts.
The McMillen Endowed Chair is named for Kenneth B. McMillen who was an associate professor of Political Science at WLU from 1946-1980. Upon McMillen’s death in 1985, his wife, Muriel, started a fund in memory of her husband through the West Liberty University Foundation. In 2019, WesBanco made a significant gift of $100,000 which enabled the permanent endowment of the fund and the creation of the McMillen Endowed Chair to support the research and programming of a tenured professor in a liberal arts discipline.
The growth of the McMillen fund has been bolstered by donations from private individuals, including alumni who fondly recall Professor McMillen. Alumnus and donor John W. Hoppers ’63 of Columbus has spearheaded the effort to continue the growth of the endowment by engaging McMillen’s former students.
Hoppers recalls Professor McMillen’s impact.
“Current events always had a way of slipping into our class discussions, but that era provided us with plenty of interesting events to discuss. McMillen had a way of imparting knowledge in a painless manner. His tests were comprehensive but fair — if you attended class and read the assignments.”
Alumni and friends who remember McMillen’s legacy are encouraged to contribute to the McMillen Fund and strengthen its support for faculty in the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. For more information on donating to the McMillen fund, please contact the WLU Foundation at 304.336.5635.