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Thumbs up: Cline donation is a big boost for Marshall

Jul. 26, 2011 @ 10:17 PM

People in the coal industry know about Chris Cline. The son and grandson of a coal miner, Cline grew up in Isaban, W.Va., along the McDowell-Mingo county line. He eventually joined his father in a small family coal business, and over the past 30 years, he has become one of the industry's great success stories.

In an article last fall, Bloomberg Markets Magazine noted that Cline anticipated that the greater use of scrubbers at coal-fired power plants would make the higher sulfur coal found in Illinois a more viable commodity again. He invested in reserves and operations there in 2002, and over the decade, watched the market for that coal boom. Today his privately held Foresight Energy owns about 3 billion tons of reserves, and Forbes Magazine estimates his worth at $1.7 billion.

But the former Marshall University student may not have been a household name in the Herd Nation until last week, when it was announced that his foundation had given $5 million to the university. That will be matched from the state's "Brains For Bucks" program to provide $10 million to advance both the school's sports medicine program and athletic facilities.

Cline's foundation also gave $5 million to West Virginia University this spring with $2 million to create an endowed chair in orthopaedic surgery and $3 million for a new basketball practice facility.

Clearly Cline has not forgotten his roots.

"I attended Marshall University, have been fortunate to have lived and employed people in West Virginia, and owe the state of West Virginia and its people for much of my success," Cline said in a statement last week. "I wanted to give something back that will be beneficial to the people of the state."

He has certainly done that.

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