By Cody Neff
The Eye family of “John Eye’s Big Sandy Superstore” fame saw the John W. Eye Conference Center rededicated to the family’s work and donations Tuesday. The conference center exists to serve people from all over the community.
University of Charleston - Beckley President Dr. Jerry Forster gave the first speech of the event and said the university wanted to celebrate the Eye family and their contributions to the community.
“I think there’s a long-standing history of contributing to Beckley College financial support,” Forster said. “The family was very generous to supply the building. They’ve been very generous not only in educational endeavors, but with helping a whole host of faith-based organizations and civic groups.”
Forster says the college owes a good bit of its financial success to families like the Eyes.
“It’s hugely important,” Forster said. “Nonprofit education basically succeeds in large part because of values in families like the Eye family that are willing to share their resources with institutions like ours that have a mission that connects to their family. We’re very appreciative.”
John L. Eye, son of the late John W. Eye who started the family business, says he’s just glad that the University of Charleston is helping the community.
“I just think it’s a wonderful thing that the people from Charleston University have rescued our wonderful college that so many people have come to for higher education,” Eye said.
“I’m glad and thankful that the University of Charleston has come forward and joined the community to recover the college. Education is just totally important.”
UC took over the former Mountain State University campus in January after MSU lost its accreditation.
“Everyone should try to help the young people who don’t have the financial tools to go to college,” Eye added. “Some avenue should provide those achievers with the opportunity to get a higher education.”
Eye says the family plans to be the avenue that helps good students.
“We just want to be a service to our community and help it in all ways that our health and financial abilities offer,” Eye said. “We hope to set up a scholarship endowment fund with the college whereby good scholastic children might have the opportunity to get an education through a scholarship.”
The John W. Eye Conference Center exists to help UC - Beckley students, but also people in the community.
“It serves multiple roles,” Forster explained. “For our students we can have large gatherings. It can be orientation meetings with students and their parents. A student lounge will be in the lower level of the building and there will be a very nice meeting space in the middle. We’re putting an office space upstairs. It’s very versatile and very attractive for outside groups who want to use it.”
Forster says the building has seen use from everyone ranging from the police to fashion designers.
“We’ve had, even in the eight-and-a-half months that I’ve been here, fashion shows in the building,” Forster said. “The National Guard used it for central coordination to support the (Boy Scouts) Jamboree for two-and-a-half weeks. State troopers were utilizing it. There have been nurses that were doing training, not nursing students of ours, but certified nurses who just needed some additional training. The building is really flexible and appeals to a lot of folks.”
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