HUNTINGTON — While the students who now walk the halls will have never met the man whose name adorns the outside of the building, their lives will forever be shaped by the vision Stephen J. Kopp had for Marshall University and its School of Pharmacy.
The university honored Kopp's legacy Friday during the dedication of the new School of Pharmacy building, named Stephen J. Kopp Hall. The building is located on the corner of Hal Greer Boulevard and Charleston Avenue.
"I knew the Marshall community was very fond of my dad, but to see his name on the side of this building had a very profound impact on me," said Liz Kopp Layton, Kopp's daughter. "It is a wonderful way to honor his legacy and dedication to this university."
Kopp, the 36th president of the university, served from 2005 until his sudden death in 2014. During his tenure, Kopp pushed to expand Marshall's footprint, paving the way for $300 million invested in infrastructure projects, including the Visual Arts Center and the Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Complex. He also led the charge in the creation of the School of Pharmacy, which accepted its first class in 2012.
"We are humbled by your generosity in recognizing Steve's contributions to Marshall University and especially to the School of Pharmacy," Jane Kopp, Stephen Kopp's widow, said. "When he was appointed president of the university in 2005, Steve envisioned what the future of this university would look like and, more importantly, what impact it could have on the community. After studying the needs of the state, he realized West Virginia needed more pharmacists, and so opening a pharmacy school became a top priority."
The Marshall University Board of Governors voted earlier this year to name the new pharmacy building after Kopp. University President Jerome Gilbert said he enthusiastically supported the decision.
"It is clear to everyone that Steve Kopp was one of Marshall's most influential presidents," Gilbert said.
During the dedication ceremony, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams declared Friday to be Stephen J. Kopp Day.
U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also honored Kopp's memory by giving Jane Kopp a memorial American flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Gary White, who served as interim president in the wake of Kopp's death and is a current board member, and Dr. Kevin Yingling, the first dean of the School of Pharmacy, were also recognized for their efforts in seeing the new school building come to fruition.
While honoring Kopp's legacy, the dedication ceremony also looked to the future and the good things Marshall and the city of Huntington hope the new building will bring the Fairfield community where it now resides.
"We are reimagining what Hal Greer Boulevard can be," Gilbert said. "We are also hopeful we can bring a grocery store to the community. We would also like to see retail shopping, restaurants and a grocery store on the Northcott site right across the street. What do we think it will take to make the rest of this a reality? We think it will take the university, the city and the people who live right here in Fairfield shaking hands and working together. It won't be easy and it may not be quick, but we know it can happen and we are committed to it happening."
Tonia Page, Huntington City Council representative for the Fairfield district, said the community is thankful Marshall chose to locate its School of Pharmacy in their community. Along with a highly desired grocery store, she said she hoped it would have even greater benefits.
"This is a way to encourage our youth into the medical field, because we have some brilliant young students in our community that can be anybody's doctor and anybody's pharmacist," Page said.
School of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Gayle Brazeau said the school looks forward to working closely with their new neighbors in the community, along with the rest of the Health Science Campus.
Kopp Hall was built alongside Fairfield Landing, a new housing complex for graduate-level students that also opened this semester.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.