WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., July 12, 2021 — West Liberty University gained another alumna at a special commencement ceremony held July 8, 2021 at Stratford Springs Restaurant.
The unique event was held to honor Phyllis J. “Flip” West of Wheeling and Naples, Fla. The live ceremony also was streamed via Topper Station for family members and special guests who could not attend in person.
Originally approved by the Board of Governors, the honorary degree ceremony was planned for spring 2019, but was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Ryan Weld delivered a brief commencement speech stressing that you’re never too old to plan your future. Weld further thanked West for her enduring support to the university over many years.
WLU President Dr. W. Franklin Evans conferred the degree upon West after giving a brief speech welcoming her and reading her official degree for all to enjoy and applaud.
The conferring of the doctoral degree is based on West’s support for the vision of West Liberty University as a model of educational excellence. It highlights the fact that she has distinguished herself as an individual of strong character and high ethical standards; and is a strong contributor to a number of WLU initiatives through the WLU Foundation.
Additionally, West has immersed herself in the Wheeling and Naples communities through the Make a Wish Foundation, United Way, and Collier County School Association holiday program for needy students. A positive advocate of continuing and lifelong learning, West was at a loss for words and was thrilled with the honor.
“This is the most precious gift that I have,” she said. “The two best gifts of my life are this diploma and my husband.”
“On behalf of the WLU Foundation Board of Directors and staff, we congratulate Flip West on this well-deserved honor and express our gratitude for all she and Gary have done to advance the university,” said Executive Director of the WLU Foundation Angie Zambito-Hill.
Executive Director of Alumni Affairs Ron Witt delivered an alumni pledge and welcomed West officially to the alumni association, ending with the phrase “Hail to West Liberty.”
Dr. Linda Cowan performed the Alma Mater and violinist Ben Podolski provided music.
Before closing the ceremony, President Evans continued his remarks, stating directly to Mrs. West:
“Thank you for the investment you made in the institution. There is a saying that behind every great man there is a great woman. You have been supportive and giving, standing with him (Gary) in support of this institution. Thank you. I realize that thank you are two small words but I want you to know how much we appreciate you.
“At graduation, I tell our graduates to give back, and refer to another saying that states ‘service is the rent you pay to be a human being.’ You have been an amazing human being in your philanthropy to WLU. I’m hoping this is just an extension of your philanthropy so please don’t stop. And now you can proudly say I am an alum of WLU.”
West and her husband are responsible for many gifts to the university that have resulted in strengthening WLU’s mission and student experience.
The Gary E. West College of Business bears Mr. West’s name as an alumnus and long-time friend of the university and in recognition of his endowment of the West College of Business Scholarship Program. Other major gifts the couple are responsible for include the West Family Stadium and the West Family Athletic Complex, along with countless smaller gifts.
West started his career decades ago by purchasing Valley Welding Supply Company and later refining the business practices he learned at WLU to grow the single shop into Valley National Gases, Inc. West’s business became the largest privately held distributor of industrial and medical gases and welding supplies in the United States.
Gary and Flip West were married in 1959.
The special ceremony is archived on Topper Station and can be viewed here.