Marshall leaders emphasize importance of Fountain Ceremony


Sadie Helmick

President Jerry Gilbert addressing the crowd during the Fountain Ceremony in 2017.

The Annual Fountain Ceremony means something different to everyone, including the President and Provost of Marshall University, who are both from out of state.

“This very somber ceremony is one of the best known nationally,” Provost Jaime Taylor said. “It is going to be a huge honor to be a part of the ceremony.”

The Marshall Thundering Herd football team was returning from a loss to East Carolina University Nov. 14, 1970. Marshall lost 75 people, including 37 football players, the team’s coach, doctors, the university athletic director and 25 team boosters.

Taylor is from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, and President Jerome Gilbert is from Mississippi State in Mississippi.

“This ceremony brings the feel of Marshall and how everyone comes together around this event,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert first witnessed the ceremony in 2015.

“It was a highly emotional, very moving ceremony,” Gilbert said. “I saw people come together to talk about what happened and how it impacted their lives and how it has brought all of the university together.”

Gilbert said the ceremony is very much a part of the fabric of Marshall University.

“It is a cement that binds the Marshall family together in a very special way,” Gilbert said. “In a sad way, but in a very resilient way where everyone is committed to not forgetting the 75 and remembering them every year coming together as a family. It is a very powerful ceremony. You can see the tears swell up in everyone’s eyes as you stand around out on the plaza and we go through the ceremony. The same emotions come back every year. It is a tremendous event that we have and one of the defining events for Marshall University.”

Gilbert has been the president of Marshall since January 2016.

“As President Gilbert was talking about it you can almost feel the emotion that this will bring out,” Taylor said.

The Fountain Ceremony will have its 48th anniversary this year at Marshall to commemorate the 75 lives lost in the Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash.

“I hope we have a good turn out tomorrow,” Gilbert said. “I hope the students will come because to not experience this is to miss out on something that is truly Marshall. I hope as many of the students as possible can make it.”

Gretchen Kalar can be contacted at [email protected].