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Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall University officials unveil a plaque as to celebrate the university's designation as a Doctoral University: High Research Activity, or R2, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at the Arthur Weisberg Family Engineering Complex in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University supporters, administration and, most important, the faculty members who did the work to elevate the university's research designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education celebrated the achievement Wednesday by unveiling a commemorative plaque.

"This is a tribute to the hard work of our faculty," Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said during the ceremony. "As most of you know, I come from a research faculty background myself. I've been where you are. I know what it's like to toil in the lab - trying to balance teaching, scholarship and service. It's not easy, and it's harder today than when I did it. But it is rewarding. I thank each and every one of the researchers here today for your contributions to getting us to this moment."

The Carnegie classification is the basic framework for categorizing colleges and universities in the United States. Carnegie recently designated Marshall a Doctoral University: High Research Activity, or "R2," as it is commonly called in higher-education circles. The designation places Marshall among the top 6% of colleges and universities in the nation and is the second-highest classification an institution can receive from the organization.

For its latest rankings, Carnegie surveyed more than 4,000 universities and put just 139 in the R2 category, which includes universities that confer at least 20 research/scholarship doctorates annually and spend a minimum $5 million per year on research. With its R2 designation, Marshall joined the likes of universities such as Baylor, Wake Forest and Lehigh.

Marshall jumped up two levels with the new designation thanks to an increase in the number of research awards and doctoral dissertations, said John Maher, vice president of research at Marshall. Research expenditures at Marshall have increased 35% over the past 2 1/2 years, from $23 million to $31 million, and are expected to climb even further this year.

"Since Jerry joined us in early 2016, he has been pushing all of us to achieve the full potential of our beloved university, to do more for our students and our community," Maher said, getting choked up. "His faith in us has made an impact."

Michael Farrell, chairman of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and Marshall alumnus, said when he was student body president in 1967, everyone would be shocked to learn Marshall had achieved this status.

"Although those were the expectations that we harbored, there were those who said, 'It won't be done. It can't be done,'" Farrell said. "I give credit to President Gilbert, John Maher, to the deans, to the researchers, to the students, that you did not listen to those who wanted to define our expectations as something much lower than we have now achieved. The state of West Virginia needs Marshall University to be strong. It needs Marshall to be a leader. It needs Marshall to stand up and be counted."

The plaque will be placed outside the president's office in Old Main. Smaller replica plaques were awarded to the deans of each school as well.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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