Bethany College Announces 2014 Alumni Award Recipients

BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College will present a series of awards recognizing outstanding alumni at the Alumni Awards Dinner on May 3 in Commencement Hall.  George Manahan, Dr. Cheryl Mitchell and Don Wells will be presented with special honors as a part of Alumni Weekend activities on campus.

“As the oldest degree granting institution in the State, Bethany College maintains strong relationships with distinguished alumni across many generations,” said Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College. “We look forward to welcoming them back to campus and recognizing their significant contributions to society.”

Earlier, Dr. Miller announced that Elizabeth “Beth” Athol, an attorney from Sewickley, Pa., would receive the Alumna of the Year Award at the Alumni Awards Dinner. 

George Manahan, a 1983 Bethany graduate, will be presented with the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award, the highest recognition award given to one recipient annually for alumni involvement, volunteer service and support to Bethany.

Manahan, who currently resides in Charleston, W.Va., is CEO of The Manahan Group, one of West Virginia's largest advertising and public relations firms.

Manahan’s work in advertising public relations agency management combined with former jobs in journalism and as press secretary to Gov. Gaston Caperton led him to purchase the Charleston office of thembcgroup in October 2003 and establish The Manahan Group. The Manahan Group acquired The Phillips Group located in Elkins in 2012 and now features 15 communication professionals working in two locations - Charleston and Elkins, W.Va.

Manahan created an original process for brand development, and spearheaded the creation of a crisis communications application. His nationally award-winning work has generated success for a variety of clients in the health care, tourism, financial and legal professions, among others.

Manahan has won numerous PRSA awards, including Practitioner of Year in 2010 and the chapter's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Also in 2013, he was added to the Bethany College Communications Wall of Fame.

Manahan has served as the professional advisor for Bethany College’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter for the past three years. For the past 15 years, he has served as chair of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity’s reunion committee. The 2013 event was the fraternity’s largest gathering at Bethany, with more than 120 people in attendance. The fraternity recently recognized Manahan with its prestigious “Phi” award for service to his chapter.

In 2010, Manahan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative brain disorder that makes it difficult to control body movements, among other things. After discovering that his community didn’t have a support group for people with Parkinson’s, George created a 5K walk, The Fox Trot for Parkinson’s Research, to draw people with the disease into the public to organize monthly meetings. In just one year, the support group had more than 85 members, and the second annual Fox Trot, held in March, raised $35,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the local support group.

Manahan and his wife, Susan Napier Manahan, live in Charleston, W.Va.

Dr. Cheryl Mitchell, a 1976 Bethany graduate, will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes Bethany alumni for achievements and contributions to their profession or field.

Dr. Mitchell double majored in chemistry and biology at Bethany and went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry from Texas A&M University. In 2000, she founded Creative Research Management in Stockton, Calif., where she presently serves as the president and senior research chemist. Dr. Mitchell has recently been made President of Blue Pacific Innovative Ingredients, a new joint venture company between CRM and Blue Pacific Flavors.

Dr. Mitchell has 47 patents to her name and is recognized as a world authority on sweeteners, rice processing and the extraction and metabolism of inulin, which is a naturally occurring sugar found in the fiber family. In 1980, Mitchell co-owned and co-founded California Natural Products. Using four of her patented products, her company manufactured Rice Dream, which is the largest selling rice beverage in the United States.

Through her work in many countries affected by cholera, Mitchell’s work in Bangladesh resulted in a patent associated with the improvement of rice-based oral rehydration solutions, which are currently recognized as the most effective and affordable treatment for cholera. In November 2011, Mitchell was honored by the California legislature with the 2011 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her lifetime achievement.

Dr. Mitchell and her husband, Ken Ellis, have two daughters (Sarah and Katie) and reside in Stockton, Calif.

Don Wells, a 1943 Bethany graduate and World War II veteran, will receive the Community Service Award, which recognizes alumni who demonstrate significant leadership and service to their region or community.

Wells enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve V-7 Program while attending Bethany, and after graduating with a degree in economics, reported to the USNR Midshipmen’s School in Chicago. He participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the invasion of Okinawa.

After World War II, Wells attended the University of Virginia Law School, and he received his law degree in October 1948.

He and his wife, Eleanor, moved to Alexandria, Va., in 1950, where Wells has lived ever since. He is very involved in the community, and has served as a volunteer for the Special Olympics, Salvation Army, Alexandria Legal Aid Office, First Christian Church of Alexandria, Boy Scouts of America, and Alexandria Kiwanis Club.

At age 91, Wells still attends services and volunteers at the First Christian Church of Alexandria, still attends local middle and high school functions to tell his stories about World War II, still rings the bell each Christmas season for the Salvation Army and still attends a weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club. He currently holds the Alexandria Kiwanis record for perfect attendance – he has not missed a meeting in 56 years.

Wells has four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The Alumni Awards Dinner will take place in Commencement Hall at 5:30 p.m. To view the full schedule of Alumni Weekend events, visit To register, call Ashley Kanotz, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations, at 304-829-7299.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.