West Virginia Poet Laureate to be Featured at Bethany College Founder’s Day

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College will celebrate 173 years as a small college of national distinction with its annual Founder’s Day on March 7. This year’s featured guest speaker will be Bethany alum and recently appointed West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman ’73. Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with the traditional Founder’s Day Convocation in historic Commencement Hall.

“The celebration of the founding of our great college will only be further enhanced by the presence and words of such a prestigious alumnus,” said Bethany College President Scott D. Miller. “Marc’s professional and personal accomplishments exemplify the model and tradition of Bethany.”

Harshman is a long-time Wheeling resident, where he lives with his wife Cheryl Ryan, who is also a writer, and their daughter Sarah. He earned his bachelor’s degree in literature from Bethany in 1973. He went on to receive a master’s degree in religion from Yale University and a master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

Harshman this year was selected as West Virginia’s poet laureate — an honor recently announced by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who cited Harshman’s creativity and contributions to the “immeasurable talent of West Virginia’s authors.”

To date, he has published 11 children’s stories and numerous poems for children and adults, drawing on his experiences growing up in Indiana and living in Appalachia’s foothills along the Ohio River. With vivid detail and sensitivity, his work demonstrates a deep reverence for the local landscape and explores issues such as community, moving, nature and gardening, addiction and peace.

Harshman’s awards include the West Virginia English Teacher of the Year, Parent’s Choice Award, and West Virginia Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry. His poems have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His book “Only One” was a Reading Rainbow review title on PBS TV. “The Storm” was selected for the Junior Library Guild and as a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children. He received the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Collection Fellowship from the University of Minnesota for research on Scandinavian myth and folklore.

His children’s books have even been published in Swedish, Spanish, Korean and Danish.

Miller will preside over the March 7 Convocation. A wreath-laying ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Campbell Cemetery. The wreath will be placed at the gravesite of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), Bethany College’s founder and first president. Guests are invited to visit the Campbell Mansion, one of Bethany’s National Historic Landmarks, following the ceremony.

Founder’s Day at Bethany College is observed on the first Thursday of March. The College received its official charter from the Legislature of Virginia on March 2, 1840. The charter was affirmed on June 20, 1863 by the Legislature of the newly formed state of West Virginia.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.