HUNTINGTON — Dr. Jerome A. “Jerry” Gilbert, the 37th president in the 179-year history of Marshall University, was invested Thursday in an outdoor ceremony in the John Marshall Circle on the university’s Huntington campus.
Gilbert was accompanied to the ceremony by his family, including his nearly 95-year-old mother, Elizabeth, as well as former coworkers from Mississippi State University, Dr. William Fox and President Dr. Mark Keenum. Fox is dean emeritus of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Mississippi State. Gilbert served as provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State for six years, prior to his appointment at Marshall.
Both Fox and Keenum, speaking from years of experience, praised Marshall for selecting a president who is so student-oriented and cares a lot about the faculty. Fox, who served as a mentor early in Gilbert’s college career, mentioned three four-letter words that come to mind when talking about Gilbert – love, work and fair.
“I am honored to stand before you as the 37th president of Marshall University and humbled by this occasion,” Gilbert said. “It is not so much an occasion for me but for the office of the president of Marshall. I am appreciative to the Board of Governors for having faith in me.”
The ceremony took place on a warm, sun-drenched early autumn day. Among the speakers were Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a 1975 Marshall graduate; Dr. Paul Hill, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and a 1976 and 1978 MU alum; and immediate past interim president Gary White, who graduated from Marshall in 1997.
“I’ve gotten to know Jerry very well over the past 11 months,” White said, “and I can assure you that his leadership and vision are just what are needed to propel us forward to become an even greater university. He has incredible energy and a way of really connecting with people.
“Jerry, we are incredibly proud to have you as our new president.”
Bernie Coston, a 1979 MU graduate and former president of the MU Alumni Association, served as host of the ceremony. He recalled having had “the true privilege to meet President Gilbert at a foundation board meeting back in March at the Greenbrier.
“We sat together at breakfast one morning and visited for about 30 minutes or so,” he said. “I found him to be so down-to-earth and easy to talk to. I love what he has planned for Marshall.”
Hill, Tomblin, and Wyatt Scaggs, chairman of the Marshall Board of Governors, took part in the installation of Gilbert. It ended with Gilbert saying “that I will faithfully discharge the duties of president of Marshall University to the best of my skill and judgment and in accordance with the Marshall University Creed and the example set by Chief Justice John Marshall.”