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Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications launched at Shepherd University

By Staff | Oct 11, 2019

Shepherd University Board of Governors board member Mona Kissel, left, talks with President Mary J.C. Hendrix and Gayle Manchin at the beginning of the dedication in the Wellness Center on Oct. 1. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – The Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University was launched on Oct. 1, with a dedication and luncheon in the Wellness Center’s Multipurpose Room 213.

Shepherd University professors and administrators mingled with political figures from both ends of the political spectrum.

“We are honored by your presence and especially delighted by your support,” said Institute Director David Welch, as he opened the dedication ceremony.

SU Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Rob Tudor then came to the podium, to sing “America the Beautiful,” accompanied on the piano by SU Provost Scott Beard.

“The mission of the institute is to promote honest, authentic and civil political discussion,” Welch said. “We join such amazing institutes as the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education, the Contemporary American Theater Festival . . . and other such wonderful programs.”

From left, David Avella, David Welch, SU President Mary J.C. Hendrix, Bonnie Stubblefield and Bill Stubblefield pose together during the dedication ceremony on Oct. 1. Hendrix presented awards to them, recognizing their work in founding the institute. Tabitha Johnston

Welch, who has been a local radio personality for 25 years, said he is looking forward to leading the institute, with the help of other like-minded individuals, no matter their personal political beliefs.

“When David Avella came up with the idea to start this institute, I’m so thankful he asked Scott Widmeyer to work with him. It truly speaks to the purpose of this institute, that both of them are from opposite ends of the political spectrum,” Welch said, about the board members.

According to SU President Mary J.C. Hendrix, the institute will encourage student development by hosting politicians with opposing viewpoints to converse about their opinions.

“This is such an exciting day!” Hendrix said, as she recognized Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Gayle Manchin the wife of Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. “Thank you for demonstrating the congeniality that represents the dedication of this institute. I would like to thank Doctors Bill and Bonnie Stubblefield for their foresight in establishing this institute. Thank you all for your instrumental roles – Shepherd University is proud to host this notable institute on our campus.”

According to Capito, the institute’s mission aligns with Bill Stubblefield’s political career.

Attendees of the dedication listen to Institute Director David Welch in the Wellness Center on Oct. 1. Tabitha Johnston

“Kindness and willingness to sit and listen is certainly a hallmark of Bill’s service,” Capito said.

Capito’s political career has been focused on serving West Virginia, which has often led her and Senator Manchin to collaborate in their work. Many politically-minded people today become politically polarized, because they spend too much time on the internet, rather than in talking in person with those of differing viewpoints.

“I tell students to look up. They’re looking down at their devices all the time,” Capito said. “It’s become such a vitriolic, easy way to smash people. It’s being used as a battering ram. [The internet’s] a powerful instrument for good, but it can certainly be used for bad, and can be used as a substitute for civil discourse.

“As we get into our busy lives, we lose the ability to have discourse with one another,” Capito said. “I think what you’re going to find, is that if people are treated with respect, you can really find that at the core of us, there’s more in common than what our differences are.”

Gayle agreed with Capito, as she gave her own personal address and read a message from her husband.

“There is no better time than right now to stand up and talk about civility and respect for one another,” Gayle said. “While this task is not an easy one, it is certainly an important one. Please know Joe stands behind it 100 percent. Every bill he makes, he tries to make bi-partisan.”