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Hoover Foundation endows forensic and investigative science scholarship

Growing up, Tabetha Soberdash always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. 

Tabetha Soberdash

With dreams of becoming a Supreme Court justice, the West Virginia University junior aspires to be the kind of attorney who understands the science behind the evidence.

That motivation led Soberdash, a Scarbro, W.Va. native, to study forensic and investigative science.

“I knew I wanted to do something with criminal law and that I wanted to know how the background works in order to make me stand out as an attorney,” Soberdash said. “I also always really enjoyed learning about math and science. One thing led to another, and I decided the best way to study and make the most of my opportunities was to study forensic science at WVU.” 

Morgan Abbott

A scholarship from the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation in spring 2016, part of a first-of-its-kind philanthropic gift to the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science, made the experience possible for Soberdash as well as seniors Darby Stemple and Micayla Zynda and junior Morgan Abbott, WVU’s inaugural class of Hoover Leadership Scholars.  

“The WVU forensic science program is one of the very best in the entire United States, and it only makes sense that the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation supports excellence,” said Chris Hitchcock, director of scholarships at the Hoover Foundation.

The Hoover Foundation visited WVU Nov. 30 to announce an endowment of the scholarship program. Their additional $100,000 gift will annualize scholarship opportunities for forensic and investigative science students, like Stemple, a double major in forensic and investigative science and chemistry from Hickory, N.C. 

Darby Stemple

The scholarship supported Stemple’s internship this summer at the Connecticut State Crime Lab, where she worked with toxicology experts to prepare for her dream job as a FBI controlled substance analyst.

“The scholarship allowed me to complete an internship far from home and my comfort zone,” Stemple said. “The experience helped me learn about the day-to-day operations in the chemistry-related areas of the laboratory. The change in atmosphere helped prepare me for my future when I start to look for job opportunities in toxicology or controlled substance sections.”  

The Hoover Foundation is renowned for its support of forensic science programs nationally. Founded in 1965 by retired agents and private citizens, the foundation strives to promote the ideas of FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover. Since its establishment, the foundation has awarded over $3.5 million in scholarships to students studying forensic science and other related majors. 

Micayla Zynda

“To be recognized by the Hoover Foundation as having one of the very best programs in the United States is particularly rewarding and recognizes the hard work of our faculty and staff and the commitment of the University to invest in this program,” said Gerald Lang, chair of the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science. “It is a great honor for our students to be recognized as Hoover Leadership Scholars. It is a testament to their hard work and dedication, to their academic achievement and to their leadership potential.  They are great ambassadors for this tribute to Mr. J. Edgar Hoover.”

Hoover Leadership Scholarships are awarded annually to two rising juniors and two rising seniors pursuing undergraduate degrees in forensic and investigative science. Recipients must have a cumulative GPA of 3.3 while demonstrating financial need and leadership qualities. More information about Eberly College of Arts and Sciences scholarships is available at

Hoover Scholars

“The Hoover Foundation Leadership Scholarship made a major impact by helping me with some of the financial burden I face as a college student and by inspiring me to continue with my studies and to work even harder to achieve my goals and complete the path ahead of me,” Soberdash said. “I am extremely proud and honored to have received the award.”