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Marshall student struck, killed on 3rd Avenue near campus

HUNTINGTON — A 22-year-old Marshall University student was struck and killed Thursday by a vehicle on 3rd Avenue in Huntington.

The crash happened at approximately 12:15 p.m. Thursday near the intersection of 18th Street by Cam Henderson Center. Emergency personnel held a sheet over the victim. One vehicle damaged in the crash was also at the scene.

Huntington Police Lt. Shawn Bowles confirmed the death Thursday afternoon but said the name of the person would not be released until her next-of-kin is informed.

Leah Payne, director of communications at Marshall, confirmed Thursday evening the person who died was a student at the university. The woman’s identity has not been released.

Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said flags on campus have been lowered to half-staff, with permission from the Governor’s Office, in the student’s memory.

“The university community is devastated. Our Marshall family is very close, and every one of us has been deeply affected by this afternoon’s tragedy,” he said. “All our prayers are with the student’s family and friends, as well as with the driver.”

Bowles said police had the driver of the vehicle at the scene and were collecting statements from witnesses. The stretch of 3rd Avenue from 20th to 18th streets was closed temporarily.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the Huntington Police Department said in a news release. Neither drugs nor alcohol were determined to be factors in the accident, according to the department.

HPD traffic accident specialists were at the scene as of 3:48 p.m. and were investigating whether speed was a factor, according to Bryan Chambers, the city’s communications director.

“The victim’s name is being withheld until notification of family members,” the police statement said. “The incident remains under investigation.”

Gilbert said a counselor was dispatched to the scene and the university will provide assistance and support to the woman’s family. Counseling services are also available to students at 304-696-2269.

“Please keep both families in your thoughts over the coming hours, days and weeks. This is a horrible loss for them and the Marshall family,” Gilbert said.

The incident is the second to occur within two blocks of the 3rd Avenue stretch in recent weeks.

Ken O’Connor, a professor of chemistry at the university, was struck by a vehicle Oct. 18 while crossing the road at the intersection of Hal Greer Boulevard and 3rd Avenue.

University officials said he was expected to return to the classroom the week after the incident.

Health department begins administering pediatric COVID-19 vaccine

HUNTINGTON — The COVID-19 vaccine is available for a new age group, and children and families are taking advantage of the opportunity locally.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department offered the vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 for the first time and more than 60 individuals received the first dose of the pediatric vaccine Thursday.

“We’ve had parents calling us since it was announced and even before that wondering when they could get their children vaccinated. We’ve had a really great response, and I’m happy about that,” said Hannah Petracca, public information officer for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is administered in two doses, 20 days apart, and is 10 micrograms, or one-third of the size of the adult and adolescent doses. Its use was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

Among the parents who brought their children to be vaccinated Thursday was Sarah Gibbs, who has two daughters, ages 5 and 7, with preexisting heart conditions.

“They both have congenital heart disease, so I’ve been very worried for them,” Gibbs said. “I knew as soon as it was approved for their age group (they) would be getting it.”

Likewise, there was no hesitation for Shandra Inglis-Smith, the mother of a fourth-grader at Meadows Elementary School in Huntington, who has kept a mask on her daughter when in public for the length of the pandemic until she was eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve significantly restricted where we go and what we do because she hasn’t been able to be vaccinated like the rest of us. It’s been a huge impact on her to have to be constantly wearing a mask even in situations where we have maybe been able to be un-masked,” Smith said.

Opening the vaccine to a new age group is another step toward normalcy, Petracca said, adding that the vaccine clinic was busier than usual Thursday.

“This is a big deal because up until now, there was a big population, these children, that weren’t able to get vaccinated,” Petracca said. “This eligibility for them means getting closer to the end of this (pandemic).”

On Friday, Nov. 5, Marshall Health will host a pediatric vaccine clinic from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Harless Auditorium on the ground floor of the Marshall University Medical Center in Huntington. The clinic is open to walk-ins. Availability is limited.

Next week, Cabell County Schools will host a pediatric clinic Friday, Nov. 12, at Huntington High School from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children of district employees and for adults to get a first or second dose or booster shot.

‘Word on the Block’ combines entertainment, education in community event

HUNTINGTON — Multiple generations are coming together for a performance that combines education and entertainment.

Scholars, music artists and podcast hosts are coming together for a new production called “Word on the Block.” They will combine their ways of telling stories at the event from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, on 8th Avenue between Hal Greer Boulevard and 17th Street. The West Virginia Arts Council is supporting the event.

Norman Branch, a co-producer of the event and executive director of the Positive People Association, and his wife, Leah Brown-Branch, host The Biz, a podcast that focuses on what people may face in their daily lives.

“We’re moderating, but at the same time we’re encouraging audience participation,” Branch said of Saturday’s event.

Several topics are on the table and include areas such as the role of women in slavery and poetry and spoken language, he said. Carter G. Woodson, a former Huntington resident and “Father of Black History,” will be another topic.

“We’re on 8th Avenue,” Branch said. “We’re in a part of Huntington where African American history is and was relevant to the city of Huntington.”

Antoine Cabarrus, a Marshall University graduate who uses the stage name AC, was one of the music artists who wrote original songs that will be performed Saturday. After becoming involved with Word on the Block, he learned about topics that would be discussed at the event and created two songs to accompany those topics, he said. While some research was provided in a class lecture-style meeting, he said he was encouraged to explore the topics on his own.

The first topic he jumped at was mental health in the African American community because it was something that he has dealt with in his own life. He said he’s also explored this topic in his other works and as a motivational speaker.

“I think … all men are taught to, like, keep the look of strength, don’t show your emotions and stuff like that,” he said.

The second song is about freedoms of speech and the press. AC said he explored how throughout history, Black people have often not been able to tell their story, or had it told for them, he said.

Throughout his music career, AC has never performed in a show like this, he said. When the audience leaves the show, he hopes viewers take away a sense of enlightenment, an understanding of the contributions African Americans have made to society and inspiration to write and create about these topics.

Cicero Fain III, the visiting diversity scholar at Marshall University, is one of the scholars who will present information about different topics Saturday. He, too, said he’s never been involved in an event like it. For him, it was different from preparing for a lecture or college class.

“This is a completely different format or platform for me … . It’s really interesting. It’s creative. It takes me out of my comfort zone to some extent,” Fain said.

By combining the different disciplines for the event, it could make the information shared more accessible to a wider audience and show the importance of understanding the history of Fairfield and Huntington.

“It’s important to not look at, to not view the history through the lens of the contemporary. We know the challenges that are facing and affecting Black Huntington and the Fairfield West community today,” Fain said. “However, at a point in time and for a significant period of this history, the city’s history, Black Huntington was a vibrant, commercial and social enclave, as well as a religious enclave.”

Fain will discuss the history of Black entrepreneurship from the founding of Huntington to the 1980s. Throughout the city’s history, Black residents built businesses that sustained families and contributed to the city, he said. Fairfield is the home of some of American history’s important figures, like Carter G. Woodson and Memphis T. Garrison. The area has also been a social and religious enclave for its residents, Fain said. After the show, he hopes attendees walk away with a sense of community pride.

Carmen Mitzi Sinnott, a co-producer of the event and the executive director of All Here Together Productions, said Word on the Block features a multiple-disciplinary approach to entertainment and education.

“We’re all talking about what is our future, how can we be together more equitably, and it takes a lot of commitment on everybody’s part to make sure more people and different kinds of people and perspectives are brought to the stage,” Sinnott said.

She said she hopes Word on the Block brings a lot of joy to the audience as well as inspiration. The event is also a way to support artists in live performances, which is coming back after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s important to share stories with each other about our past. You’re meant to do it so you can realize who overcame, who had a great idea and made it,” she said. “So I hope people walk away feeling good in their bodies because they had some music, and I feel like their minds will be inspired. And hopefully it will give them the energy to do something new in their own life.”

The event is the next continuation of an initiative to bring arts-centered events to 8th Avenue, as the first of three murals was unveiled earlier this year. Sinnott and Branch both said they hope to host Word on the Block in the future and other events like it.


Marshall president-elect to earn $470K per year, can continue philanthropic work

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University President-elect Brad Smith will earn the same salary as the institution’s current president, according to his new contract.

The five-year contract inked by Smith last Friday allows the businessman to continue his philanthropy work, but requires him to step away from his paid roles in Silicon Valley.

The contract for Smith, who was unanimously selected as the next president by the university’s Board of Governors on Oct. 28, expires Jan. 1, 2027.

The $470,000 salary is the same salary given to current President Jerome Gilbert, who will step down from the presidency in December and transition into an advisory role for Smith until the expiration of his contract next summer. Board of Governors Chairman Patrick Farrell said Smith’s contract varies only slightly from Gilbert’s.

“The Board of Governors always intended to present a contract to the next president with the same contract terms and conditions as the one we have with Dr. Gilbert,” he said. “When it looked like Brad Smith was likely to be picked, we modified some of the contract language to address the transition of his private business interests, and to acknowledge the continuation of his philanthropic activities.”

The contract includes incentives, which say the $470,000 salary could be increased to reflect any annual experience increment available to all state employees. He will also benefit from monthly stipends of $180 for mobile phone usage and $1,800 ($900 each) for two vehicles and any costs related to them.

Included in his benefits is a membership to the Guyan Golf & Country Club, family health and life insurance and retirement plans provided through the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency.

He will accrue annual leave at the rate of two days per month and sick leave at the rate of one and one-half days per month.

Within two weeks of the contract being signed, and every year after, Smith is expected to undergo a comprehensive physical examination by a mutually agreed upon physician who will only inform the university if Smith has a condition that would affect his ability to perform presidential duties.

Smith is also required to follow ethical standards at all times in his role as president.

Smith, a West Virginia native, served as the CEO of Intuit for 11 years and is currently the executive chairman of the board of Intuit. He is also the chairman of the Nordstrom board and a board member of Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey). He formerly served on the board of Yahoo as well.

The contract states Smith may not serve as a paid member of a board of directors or paid consultant of any public or private corporate or association body during his tenure “without permission of the Board of Governors,” per the contract.

Smith and the BOG agreed to give him until January 2023 to fulfill any commitments with those boards, but the date can be extended with an agreement of the parties.

“The Board acknowledges that we have reviewed your numerous business relationships and find no conflicts of interest relative to your employment as President of the University,” the contract reads.

He will be able to continue current philanthropic activities and personal investments, however, as long as no conflict of interest exists and his presidential duties are being fulfilled.

His most recent work has focused on combating economic and lifestyle hardships for West Virginia through the Wing 2 Wing Foundation that he co-founded with his wife, Alys.

The Wing 2 Wing Foundation provides increased access and support for education, entrepreneurship mentoring and investment, according to its website.

As a special note, the Board of Governors acknowledged Smith’s work in support of the Wing 2 Wing Foundation’s philanthropic efforts, including a partnership with the West Virginia University Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and other inter-university collaborations.

The board agreed to allow Smith to continue his work in those efforts, as long as no legal conflicts of interest arise.

Smith and his wife are required to live in the university president’s residence, which overlooks Ritter Park in Huntington and is also used for official school functions. The university will remain responsible for expenses associated with the home, including domestic help and decoration.

Any capital improvements to the home or its grounds must be approved by the board.

The contract also notes Smith can be removed from the position with “cause,” which includes failing to perform his presidential duties, dishonesty and gross immorality.