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Former UC man to guide evolution from MSU

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former University of Charleston official will return to the school to oversee the former Mountain State University operations in Beckley and Southern West Virginia.

UC President Ed Welch introduced Jerry Forster at a news conference Friday morning in Beckley as the area president. Forster will act as the region's executive representative and work to build relationships between UC and the community.

Forster is a UC graduate who left his job as treasurer and chief fiscal officer at Sewanee University in Tennessee to take the job. He served as UC's vice president for administration and finance from 1992 to 2001 and has also served as Kanawha County manager and assistant Charleston city manager.

Because Mountain State was stripped of its accreditation in July due to ongoing academic and financial troubles and a lack of leadership, the position will bring on some difficult tasks, Forster said.

MSU officials worked out a deal with the HLC to extend the school's accreditation through Dec. 31 to allow MSU to implement a teach-out program for students who are eligible to graduate by the end of 2012.

"It will be a challenge. We're going to have to crawl before we walk and walk before we run, but we will do it right and methodically and start to change those problems of the past," Forster said. "This is a unique opportunity to take the steps that need to be taken, and the beginning of that is establishing relationships with elected officials and business folks nearby campus so that the city can depend on the UC-Beckley center to be an educational hub for the community."

Welch said he has complete confidence in Forster's abilities, having worked with him in the past.

"Some people would shy away from this because it is going to be hard work, but he's excited about the venture. I'm very excited to have someone with his fantastic financial background head up these entrepreneurial enterprises," Welch said. "He is ideal for the job."

In his previous stint at UC, Forster oversaw the growth of an endowment that more than doubled as a result of investment returns and oversaw the completion of a new $6 million residence hall, according to a news release.

"My connection to UC as a former student and employee gives me a good perspective of the quality of education UC works for. I know firsthand the leadership and emphasis on students' quality of life Dr. Welch believes in," Forster said. "Whether students are on Charleston's campus or, as we go forward, are distance learning, we will make sure that UC quality is expected everywhere."

UC has submitted requests to the HLC to continue some programs currently offered by Mountain State, as well as to provide programs offered on UC's campus in Beckley and Martinsburg. The HLC is expected to announce its decision sometime in December.

"The next steps will come when we get the final word that we can move forward in December," Welch said.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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