President Evans continues to make his home in the Ohio Valley

President Evans with Wheeling City Councilwoman Rosemnary Ketchum

In the fall semester of 2020, WLU welcomed its 37th president to the Hilltop – Dr. W. Franklin Evans. Entering the role during the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Evans newfound duties and ways of communication were done remotely using Zoom. Evans is originally from South Carolina, so he was faced with some challenges when he moved here. Some of these challenges included making connections with a new community and becoming accustomed to a new climate.
The students, faculty and staff here on the Hilltop welcomed the new president, and wanted to do as much as possible to provide him with as smooth a transition. Jason Koegler, West Liberty’s vice president of external relations, created a plan with President Evans to get him out into the Ohio Valley; “Community engagement is more important than ever these days in higher ed [education]. Decreases in funding are pushing university leaders to engage and make stronger connections and relationships with community stakeholders like local business and nonprofit leaders, legislators, alumni and donors [President Evans] and I set a goal of 50 such introductions by June 30, 2021 and we are ahead of schedule,” said Koegler.

While the virtual and remote world resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be extremely challenging in many areas of work, school and life in general, there are some aspects that can be seen as positive in hindsight. Before Zoom, many WLU employees, such as Koegler or President Evans, had multiple meetings in a day’s time that would require them to drive all over the Ohio Valley or to and from Wheeling multiple times a day. Therefore, having the option of meeting virtually has aided greatly in scheduling for many area professionals.

So far, President Evans has had the opportunity to meet many notable figures including Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Congressman David B. McKinley. Some local figures, such as Alex Weld, executive director of Wheeling Heritage, Erikka Storch, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce and Member of the West Virginia Legislature representing District three, Delegate Shawn Flurharty of West Virginia. District three and minority vice-chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, Mayor Glenn Elliott of Wheeling, and Dr. Edwin Rozario of Wheeling Hospital. President Evans has also met with local area executive directors, chief executive officers and presidents that include: Todd Clausin of WesBanco, Danielle McCracken of the Oglebay Institute, Dr. Kim Miller of Ohio County Schools, Jessica Rine of United Way, Ron Scott Jr. of the YWCA, and the Wheeling City Council, Ohio County Commission, as well as the Ohio and Marshall County Boards of Education. Koegler shared in an interview with him on the topic that this list is most definitely not comprehensive; “[there are] more including clergy, business developers, teachers and even kids…. who are becoming friends with [President Evan’s two young children] Avery and Leighton.”

President Evans introduction to the Ohio Valley hasn’t been exclusively contained to countless meetings with local and statewide big wigs, he’s also made sure to try out many of our locally famous eateries; such as DiCarlo’s, Patsy’s, Figarhetti’s, The Alpha Tavern, and Coleman’s Fish. So far, Drover’s wings are his favorite.