MUAA Board of Directors Member

Barbara White

Beckley native Barbara White is a 1985 graduate of Marshall University, earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology with minors in chemistry and psychology.

Barbara, who now resides in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, is in her fifth year on the MUAA Board of Directors. She is the Operations Manager in the Department of Forest Biomaterials at North Carolina State University, overseeing facility operations and safety for an interdisciplinary department to meet the mission of teaching, research and extension at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

Tell us more about what you do. Our complex mirrors modern industry facilities and allows students and faculty to innovate and test new materials while gaining experience under actual industry conditions. This is quite an interdisciplinary program, and as such, no one person could solely “take care of the facilities and safety” without a great deal of help from others. Luckily, I am privileged to work with some people who have trained in both academia and industry, and they make sure that things are resolved and we can move forward with our mission. I have been here since 2005. 

Why did you choose Marshall? My cousin Linda was a student at Marshall before I was, and my aunt said “We are a Marshall family, that’s where you need to go too”. Once my cousin graduated, she has had a very successful career, and she loved Huntington so much that she lived there for many years. I visited campus a couple of times before becoming a student, and everyone was so friendly.  It just seemed like the perfect place to be, and it certainly was! 

What is one memory stands out most from your time as a student at Marshall? The day that Bruce Morris made the “Shot Herd Round the World” at the Cam Henderson Center. It’s not every day that you get to witness a Guinness World Record happen, especially on your own campus! 

Did you have a favorite class, professor, or mentor at Marshall? There are so many favorites at Marshall that it is really hard to pick just one. But I will say that my all-time favorite professor was Dr. Louise Hoy, who was a professor in the Classical Studies department. Dr. Hoy was my Latin professor. I took Latin because Marshall didn’t have Italian (having an Italian grandmother, I have always wanted to learn what it is they were saying when the extended family would start talking in Italian). Latin was the closest I could get to it, so I can understand a little Italian now too. Also, being a science major, I didn’t have to study nearly as hard to learn the scientific terms—they are in Latin, and I simply translated rather than having to memorize them all. I actually took three years of Latin class because she was just the right mix of having high expectations while also being very encouraging. The best thing is that twenty plus years later, I ran into her at a conference (not related to Latin). I was actually one of the speakers at the event and she was in attendance. There’s nothing quite like having to speak in front of an old professor many years later. I instantly recognized her, and at the end of my presentation thanked her for her investment in me. I rarely speak Latin now but it definitely helps me translate Spanish, which I tend to hear almost daily in our very international department. 

Talk about how you stay connected to Marshall as an alum. I am the Raleigh Durham Chapter President, and also the Chair of the Chapters Committee for MUAA.  Chapter presidents become automatic members of the MUAA Board of Directors. The HerdAlum website is one way that all Marshall alumni can learn about the many resources that the Alumni Association has for all of us, and social media of course is another way. But the best way to connect is in person through events and activities, both on campus and at locations around the country. Through local chapter events and board activities, I have made connections with Marshall alumni and met some great friends of all ages. Any time I have attended alumni events, whether at my own chapter, someone else’s, or on campus, I have always felt instantly welcomed and a part of the family. As a board member, and even at select chapter events, I have heard about all the great things that are happening on Marshall’s campus, straight from campus leadership.   

But I would be remiss if I didn’t share my favorite memory as a board member. In 2020, we hosted a Marshall Night with the Rockets when they played the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte. We were able to meet Coach Mike D’Antoni, and about eighty Marshall fans were present! I really was only expecting maybe twenty-five, but once we were inside, people just kept coming down for the shoot around, all wearing green. It was a surreal moment. At that event, (then) President Gilbert and Provost Taylor both were present, along with Rob Ellis from the Foundation and Larry Crum from MUAA. Both the President and the Provost took quite a bit of time to speak with the alums about all the wonderful things that are happening at Marshall. People were very appreciative that they took the time to come down here, and to speak with them (both as a group and individually). It was an honor and pleasure to have hosted all of them in the Carolinas. We all had a great time!   

And did I mention that “little game” called the 2020 NCAA College Cup National Championship? Several alums and supporters came to Cary to cheer for our Men’s Soccer team, and this was an absolutely amazing night for Marshall. We had excellent turnout not just from the local area here, but people came down from West Virginia and from other places to be present when history was made. It was a great time to meet even more alums—and the atmosphere was electric after that win! Everyone was just so happy and we shared it as one big Marshall family. 

How has Marshall impacted your life? The bigger question is how has Marshall NOT impacted my life. Marshall gave me a solid education and opportunities to learn leadership skills through campus organizations. Marshall also indirectly gave me my first and fourth professional jobs. In both of those positions, I worked for Research Service at the VA Medical Center in Spring Valley. While I was paid by VAMC, both of my bosses were Marshall School of Medicine physicians (Dr. Bill Leidy and Dr. James Moore).  I learned so much from both of those jobs that I have carried with me into my subsequent positions. I learned the proper way to manage a laboratory, particularly from Dr. Leidy, and how to perform cutting edge research (and do it the right way!) I had the benefit of a tiny bit of the medical school education, and was paid for it to boot. Lessons that I learned as a recent Marshall grad and young employee still serve me well so many years later in the job that I do today, and at every point in between. 

On a personal note, I have met so many friends along the way, starting as a freshman at Marshall right up until recently through MUAA. I am still in contact to this day with my group of friends from freshman year. That is truly amazing in a day where people move on as life changes. My daughter was also an indirectly a product of Marshall, as her father is also a Marshall alum. She is the most important part of it all! 

Why did you choose to serve on the MUAA Board of Directors? To be honest, initially I did not realize that being a Chapter President came with a seat on the Board. I knew that I wanted to give back to Marshall now that I was at an age and stage in life that I had more time to do so. I had no idea that this would lead to so many opportunities for growth, friendships, presence at a National Championship match, hanging out with an NBA coach, and so much more. I had taken the presidency just to give a small bit of service to the University in my local area, but just like with everything else at Marshall, I have received far more than I have ever given. I don’t think that I could ever repay this University for giving me the life that I have, for most of it actually would have never been possible without those first few seeds that were planted and nurtured at Marshall. GO HERD!.