One of the things I find most attractive about being back at West Virginia University is the amazing sense of community that exists in our state. This community also resonates with the Flying WV.

This community is evident in the hundreds of students that showed up for President Gordon Gee’s birthday, the large crowd gathered to honor George Spirou, Ph.D., the new Stratton Chair in Neuroscience, and the 900 people that showed up at Bob Huggins Fish Fry fundraiser.

Let me talk about the Fish Fry.

For the last four years, the event has raised money for cancer research and scholarships for the families of miners. This event helps to give hope and education to people in our state that need it the most. This is one example of Huggins’ passion and commitment to help the vulnerable of our state.

It’s amazing. A sense of community and connectedness.

This is one of the reasons why I am so hopeful that we can turn the health metrics around in West Virginia. Emerging data in several studies suggests the most important parameter of longevity after 45 years old is the maintenance of connectedness to people and purpose.

We are certainly connected to each other in our state and our shared purpose is clear. But how can we reimagine a healthier economy?

One of the hints may come from our past. One of the most amazing raffle items at the Fish Fry was art made from coal – in the form of the state and of a Flying WV.

Repurposing our most important natural resource, coal – turning energy to art. Maybe this is a microcosm for our state – rediscovery of our artisan past to create a better future. Leveraging our people and their skills.

What is next – music or food?

This is a vision where people’s new ideas and talent carry us forward economically, connecting us to each other and to our past.

A life and state of beauty and art, and a dream of rebirth for West Virginia.