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Gee, Kopp pledge new era of cooperation between schools

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For The State Journal

Meeting on the Marshall University campus June 3, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee and Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp pledged a new era of cooperation between the two schools.

“Collaboration,” not “confrontation,” must be the new watchwords, the two presidents said.

Gee visited Huntington and Marshall as part of a current statewide tour that ultimately will take him to all 55 West Virginia counties to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the University Extension Service, which links land-grant universities such as WVU with the states they serve. He also appeared at a private reception with WVU alumni.

At Marshall, the two presidents first talked behind closed doors, and then Kopp took Gee on a quick tour of the campus, pointing out several of the school’s new construction projects. Gee noted much had changed at Marshall since he last visited more than 30 years ago. Following the campus tour, the two sat down with members of the media at MU’s Foundation Hall.

In his opening remarks, Gee decried what he called the “hand to hand combat” that once marked relations between WVU and Marshall and said the two schools had to put that kind of competition behind them.

Today, the two are “committed to working together,” Kopp said.

“Opportunities to do so abound,” he said. “Opportunities that require collective action. That kind of collaboration has to be carried out at the highest level, it can’t be delegated.”

The two men said they intend to stand “shoulder to shoulder” and present a united front in dealing with lawmakers and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for the 2015 legislative session. In recent years, legislators have enacted dramatic cuts in higher education funding.

Acknowledging that state government faces multiple demands for its limited resources, Gee said not only WVU and Marshall but also other state universities and colleges must work together to make the case that “higher education has to be the state’s top priority.”

To commemorate their meeting, Kopp presented Gee with a miniature metal castle tower crafted by the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI). The piece was made on the new 3-D metal printer at RCBI’s Charleston Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center. Kopp noted he had a matching piece and said the two pieces “symbolize the solidarity” between the two schools.

Gee served as WVU’s president from 1981 to 1995. He returned to the post earlier this year after serving as president at Ohio State University.

“I’ve been given a warm welcome since my return,” he said. “West Virginians are warm people.”