Second Presidential candidate visits Marshall’s campus Wednesday


Rob Engle

Jerome A. Gilbert, presidential candidate, speaks to the audience about his plans for Marshall.


Jerome A. Gilbert said he discovered the beauty of West Virginia more than 40 years ago when he visited the state for a National Youth Science Camp. Now, Gilbert hopes to make the state he remembered so fondly a permanent home as the 37th president of Marshall University.

A Mississippi native, Gilbert currently serves as the provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State University and is one of three candidates competing for the position.

A reception at the Arthur Weisburg Family Engineering Complex brought together faculty, staff, public leaders and university stakeholders to meet Gilbert, who said in his address to the crowd that he has big plans for Marshall.

“My goal is to make Marshall the envy of the region and the envy of the nation,” Gilbert said. “I’ve seen the ability of universities to attract major industry to even a small town like Starkville, Mississippi. There are many, many positives that we can take out into the surrounding communities to attract people to Huntington.

Gilbert is a lifelong academic. Gilbert has steadily risen through the ranks at various research facilities and universities across the south, including his alma maters of Mississippi State University and Duke University, where he respectively received his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

In his address, Gilbert said the biggest areas of growth he sees for Marshall are the ones in his wheelhouse, engineering and medical. Gilbert said he wants to create interdisciplinary programs that pair these two programs together, as well as expanding the Ph.D. programs at Marshall, which Gilbert said he thinks will attract more researchers.

“Marshall has a very modest amount of research going on right now,” Gilbert said. “You could expand that significantly by tapping into agency funding. I’d like to see double the amount Marshall currently has in terms of research dollars.”

Gilbert describes himself as a collaborative manager who believes in making data-driven decisions. Gilbert said he views his leadership positions as an opportunity to serve.

“I view myself as a servant-leader because I don’t view what I’m doing as something for my own benefit,” Gilbert said. “I view it as serving the institution and advancing its mission. That’s the approach I would take, gathering lots of input, not making decisions too quickly and always keeping in mind what’s best for the university.”

Gilbert said multiple times during his address that consideration for students should always be at the center of any decision administrators make and being in a position to make those decisions is a great privilege.

“I’ve seen this generation is a very exciting one,” Gilbert said. “They have a civic commitment that I have not seen in many, many years. I am very excited about the student leaders we are producing, the ones who are going to go out and solve these great problems.”

When asked about the role of athletics at universities, Gilbert responded that athletics serve not only as a marketing tool, but an important source of pride.

“Athletics really serve as a front door to the university,” Gilbert said. “It ties our alumni back to the university and gives them something to be proud of. It allows our students to participate in an important aspect of the college experience. There’s camaraderie. There’s leadership. There are so many elements of athletes that bode well for a brick and mortar university.”

Gilbert ended his address with gratitude for the opportunity to visit Marshall and his vision if he is selected as president.

“I hope I have to opportunity to be your president and transform this university into an even greater one,” Gilbert said.

Rob Engle can be contacted at [email protected]