By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Jim Justice can remember vividly two times when he has cried in his life.
“I don’t cry often, but one time was when I graduated from Marshall as an undergrad and a second was when I got my MBA,” Justice said. “Because I loved (Marshall). It was a terrific time in my life. I got to spend a lot of time with (wife) Cathy there. I could tell you a thousand wonderful memories of the school and the friendships that last a lifetime.”
Indeed, Marshall University is special to Justice. On Friday, he gave back to the university that has given him so much.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for Marshall’s indoor practice facility, where it was revealed that a $5 million donation had been made by Justice. The gift had originally been attributed to an anonymous donor.
Justice’s donation will be given over a 10-year period.
Construction of the complex will begin next month, setting into motion the realization of a longtime goal. The facility will not only hold a football field and a six-lane, 300-meter track, but also a Hall of Fame, an academic center and sports medicine research center.
Completion of the practice facility is expected Aug. 29, 2014, with the other elements following in succession.
“To be competitive in the arena they want to be competitive in, this is just one of the stepping stones they have to have,” Justice said. “I love Marshall with all my heart — and I also love WVU and am very supportive of WVU as well as Marshall. I think this is just a great, big day for Marshall athletics. They are on their way to doing bigger and better things.”
Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort, was a three-year letterman on the men’s golf team from 1972-74. Like most everyone else associated with Marshall, Justice can remember where he was on Nov. 14, 1970, the night of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of all 75 people on board as the football team returned from East Carolina.
“I was in the South hall, in my dorm room,” Justice said. “We lost a lot of great friends. People like Gene Morehouse, people my mom and dad were close friends with. How do you ever get over something like that? You never get over it. It was such a tragedy for the (victims’) families, the university, the town and the state.”
Not only did Justice meet his wife at Marshall, but his daughter, Jill, played basketball there and is a graduate. The former all-stater at Greenbrier East played one year at Clemson before finishing her career with three seasons in Huntington.
“She has gone on now to become a doctor,” Justice said. “She cherished her days at Marshall and all her memories there.”
Justice’s relationship with Marshall was further cultivated while Jill was on the basketball team. He is close to athletic director Mike Hamrick, but really got to know current associate AD/Big Green Director John Sutherland when Sutherland was an assistant to then-women’s coach Royce Chadwick.
“Mike is doing a fine job, and John is an extremely close, personal friend,” Justice said. “He probably deserves most of the credit for getting me on board.”