Waugaman remembers White, welcomes new university president

Duncan Waugaman has worked closely with three Marshall University presidents during his two years as student body president.

The death of university president, Stephen J. Kopp in late 2014 was a surprise to the Marshall community, resulting in a 10-month presidential search that culminated in the selection of Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Gilbert as the university’s 37th president.

“This is something I never thought I’d have to go through,” Waugaman said. “Losing a president, it’s something that no one’s ever ready for.”

Waugaman described Kopp as an opened minded individual who valued the opinion of the student body he represented. According to Waugaman, these leadership qualities have helped develop his own role during his two years as student body president.

“He was the smartest man in every room he walked into. He valued the student opinion and, as a student, that meant more to me than anything,” Waugaman said.

Though Kopp’s death was unexpected, Marshall remained vigilant during its presidential search. This was mostly due to the efforts of interim president, Gary G. White. Waugaman expressed his admiration in how White led the university through an event as monumental as the death of university president.

Additionally, Waugaman said that his relationship with White was a friendly one and that White took a personal interest in him during his tenure as interim president. As a former president of the coal association, White was able to introduce Waugaman to notable members of the legislature.

“He and I just hit it off from the word ‘go,’” Waugaman said. “We talk a lot outside of the workplace, but also we have a lot of shared interest in the legislature.”

While Waugaman has not had ample time to mold a definitive impression of Gilbert, Waugaman said he can see Gilbert’s reputation resulting in a number of positive changes at Marshall.

“He’s going to be able to look at what [Mississippi State] did academically as a provost, the head of academics, and be able to take those great things and synthesize them down into a perfect fit for Marshall University,” Waugaman said.

Waugaman said he looks forward to working on Student Government Association resolutions with Gilbert. But, as of right now, Waugaman said he and the SGA are focused on acclimating Gilbert to the Marshall environment.

“We’re going to be able to work with him and be an ally to him,” Waugaman said.

“He’s coming in and he doesn’t really know a lot of people, so we’re going to be there to present a helping hand.”

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected]