UPDATE 6/26/2014 5:35 PM
One final good-bye to a Parkersburg president.
One who made a big difference on campus and in the community.
Doctor Marie Foster Gnage was the first African-American president of WVU-Parkersburg.
She started ten years ago and had a big impact on the school over the decade, with a focus on campus safety and beautification.
"It's been this journey that I've been on. To come to the college, to make a difference, but also to make a difference in the lives of the students.To make it a place that the students and the community could be proud of," says Dr. Foster-Gnage.
"One of the most important things that she has provided here on campus is a constant focus on the quality of services to students," says Anthony Underwood, Vice-President for Student Services at WVU-P.
WVU-P Thursday named Gnage president emeritus.
She is the school's second president after Dr. Eldon Miller to receive this designation.
Gnage helped create the Applied Technology Center and the Downtown Center location in Parkersburg.
Thanks to her the school now has twelve bachelor programs.
Before her there were only two.
Faculty and students agree, Gnage will be missed.
UPDATE 6/13/2014 3:10 PM
The community says goodbye to the first African-American woman to lead West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
A reception was held Thursday night in honor of President Marie Foster Gnage.
You might recall she announced back in April she's leaving.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and state college officials were among those paying tribute to Dr. Gnage, who served as the school's president for a decade.
She is leaving WVUP to become president of Florida State College.
An interim president has been chosen, while the search for her permanent successor continues.
"Walking away from this is not easy. I figure that, on the day that I'm driving out of town, I probably will want to turn back around, and come back. It means that much to me," says Dr. Gnange
UPDATE 5/22/2014 9:50 AM
The interim president for West Virginia University at Parkersburg is announced.
Dr. Rhonda Tracy is selected by the school's board of governors.
She takes the position July 1, when current president Dr. Marie Foster Gnage leaves.
Gnage just announced she plans to take the president spot at a Florida college.
Dr. Tracy has been a part of WVU-P since 2007, as senior vice president for academic affairs.
The board comments on the decision saying, "Dr. Tracy has contributed greatly to the growth and success of WVU-Parkersburg."
UPDATE 5/20/2014 4:45 PM
We now know the next stop for the outgoing president of WVU-Parkersburg.
She's going to head a college in the sunshine state.
Dr. Gnage said in March she is leaving the school when her current contract ends in June.
On July 1, she becomes the new president of the downtown campus of Florida State College in Jacksonville.
She says that school has some similarities to WVU-P, in that it offers technical and adult basic education programs.
But it's also a much larger school than her current one, even though it's part of a much larger college system of 70,000 students.
"It's a comprehensive community college on one campus. But it's one of five colleges on the Florida State College-Jacksonville district. It's a campus within a full college," she says.
Dr. Gnage says the state of Florida, due to budget cuts, is putting less money into its colleges, a situation she says she's faced recently with West Virginia funding.
In spite of that, she says WVUP has been able to expand its campus with new building projects.
The college's board of governors is to meet Wednesday night to choose an interim president.
UPDATE 3/13/2014 4:35 PM
She says she planned to stay for five years.
But the president of WVU-Parkersburg is stepping down after a decade at the school.
Marie Foster-Gnage sat down Thursday for her first interview since the announcement Monday she is stepping down June 30.
She says the school is facing challenges, thanks to the first decline in enrollment in years and recent state budget cuts.
But she adds she doesn't expect that to affect employment.
"We're such a flat operation that it would be difficult to operate if we started dropping off positions like crazy," she says. "If we decided we were not going to fill some positions because they were open and we might actually combine some duties, that might happen."
Foster-Gnage hopes the Downtown Parkersburg Center continues to expand.
It opened last year with the start of the school's culinary center.
Before she leaves, she plans to be involved in the naming of an interim president.
Dr. Marie Foster Gnage has announced that she will not renew her contract after June 30. The Board of Governors is planning for an interim president and a nationwide search for Gnage’s replacement.
“My time at WVU Parkersburg has been significant for me both professionally and personally,” President Gnage said, in a statement released by the university. “I’ve formed a deep connection to the community here. And while I will greatly miss the faculty, staff and students, I feel confident I am leaving the college in a better place than when I arrived.”
After 2008 legislation changed the college from a regional campus of West Virginia University to a stand-alone community college, Gnage took measures to ensure that WVU Parkersburg would thrive as an independent institution. Throughout her tenure, she has provided leadership and support as
WVU Parkersburg has grown in the number of students, programs, buildings and locations.
“Although the college is losing a great leader, we certainly wish Dr. Gnage well on her future endeavors,” said WVU Parkersburg Board of Governors chair Gerard El Chaar in the college's statement. “Her tireless efforts combined with a keen sense for making things happen have succeeded in making our institution the best it has ever been.”
Gnage became the first female and the first African-American president of WVU Parkersburg in 2004. She is the second-longest serving president for WVU Parkersburg. In 2012, Gnage was elected to serve as Board Chair for the American Association of Community Colleges, becoming the first community college president from West Virginia to serve and to be elected to this national organization.