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Mathematics alumnus makes $1.5 million gift

Jay Nitz

Mathematics grad Jay Nitz always knew he would end up at West Virginia University. Though the Philippi native started college as a pre-pharmacy student at Alderson Broaddus University, he transferred to WVU as soon as he was accepted into the School of Pharmacy.

“I never thought of going out-of-state,” Nitz said. “I knew I would stay in the state and graduate from WVU.”

But like most college students, Nitz had a change of heart about his future plans. He changed his major and returned to his first love, mathematics.

“Math was more in line with my strengths,” Nitz said. “I’m a people person, but also very analytical and organized. My math degree has allowed me to enjoy the best of both worlds.” 

As a mathematics major, he found a family in the Department of Mathematics’ intimate community. The small class sizes and regular interaction with professors provided a team atmosphere that he wishes more students could experience. 

“Not a lot of students find math to be exciting. But because so many of today’s top professions require quantitative skills, there is a real need to educate students about math and to make it personally relevant to them,” Nitz said. “I really attribute my success in learning math to not being bored in the classroom. If you have teachers that can do that, it really helps.”

That experience and aspiration for future students led him to donate a portion of his estate, currently valued at $1.5 million, to the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

“I strongly feel that this gift is my way to give back. It is a chance to give students the opportunity to get a quality education, especially when the rising cost of education is a big factor in their decisions to go to college,” Nitz said. “I had such a good experience at WVU, and I think every student in the state should be able to come here and experience that without being burdened with the debt of college that you hear about so often.”

Nitz’s gift helped the Eberly College’s Office of Development raise $5.8 million in fiscal year 2015-16.

“College is a transformative experience that for some students wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of folks like Jay,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re thrilled to accept his gift, knowing that it will create the financial bridge for students who need the assistance while supporting the department of mathematics.

As a very intentional person, giving through his estate was the 40-year-old’s philanthropic outlet. He recommends this giving approach especially to other young alumni planning for the future.

“I am very planned out—I like to have all my ‘i’s’ dotted and ‘t’s’ crossed,” Nitz said. “Most people don’t think about getting their affairs in order at my age, but I feel better having everything prepared and documented for safety. This (type of gift) is a good way to know where the money is going to meet your wishes and build a legacy for you.”

Since graduating from WVU, his switch to mathematics led him to a career in human resources within the hospitality and commercial real estate industries. He currently lives in Chicago, but no matter where his travels take him, Nitz said he always considers West Virginia home.

“I love West Virginia; I love coming home. West Virginia will always be home to me,” Nitz said. “Every other place I live will just be a stop along the way until I make it back home.”