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Celebrating the life and legacy of Carolyn Eberly Blaney

Carolyn Eberly Blaney, an outstanding alumna of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University who carried on a longstanding family tradition of philanthropy that inspired the naming of our College, passed away May 8 at the age of 96.

Blaney graduated from WVU in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in speech and an emphasis in drama. Her experience as a Mountaineer, both as a student and an alumna, inspired her lifelong commitment to WVU as well as her family’s dedication to the University.

Her parents, Ruth and Orville Eberly, established the Eberly Foundation to support charitable causes throughout western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. She served in leadership roles at the Eberly Foundation and the Eberly Family Charitable Trust and participated actively in the family’s philanthropy. Through undergraduate scholarships, travel abroad funds, graduate student fellowships, academic programs and professorships, she and her family have supported the education and professional development of thousands of faculty and students.

“Carolyn’s passion and commitment to the mission of our College has been inspiring and will leave a lasting legacy of excellence,” said Gregory Dunaway, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “On behalf of the entire Eberly College community, I wish to express my deep appreciation of Carolyn and her family’s love and generous support. The impact of Carolyn’s generosity will live on in the successes of our students and faculty. We will be forever grateful.” 

To honor the Eberly family’s wide-ranging support for the liberal arts and sciences, in 1993 the College was dedicated as the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences – the first academic college at WVU to be named in honor of a benefactor.

At the College’s dedication convocation, Blaney said, “West Virginia University has meant a great deal to me in my life, and I can think of no more positive way to express my gratitude than to be afforded this opportunity of support. I’m most grateful to the trustees of the Eberly Foundation for making it possible. This will be redundant, but it bears repeating: the College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of this university.”

In closing, Blaney wished the Eberly College “a bright future and golden rainbows.” 

Gerald Lang, a former provost of WVU and interim president of WVU Institute of Technology, served as the dean of the Eberly College during its dedication. He said, “Carolyn’s love of WVU is at the core of her legacy, a love that is given and received daily. It has been said that heroes give the next generation reason to hope. Carolyn is our heroine. Her legacy is imprinted in time, with the impact ongoing in perpetuity. Her spirit remains to guide those that follow in the years ahead.”

Blaney gave generously of her time and talents, serving on the Eberly College Visiting Committee and the WVU Foundation board of directors. She was named WVU’s Most Loyal Mountaineer in 1992, inducted into the Order of Vandalia in 1995 and received an honorary doctorate from WVU in 1998.

Dean Emeritus Rudy Almasy worked closely with Blaney, both as a dean and a professor of English. He said, “I remember the generosity of her concern for students. Carolyn was, indeed, a generous person – with her resources and her wit, with her hospitality and her friendship. Carolyn was generous – and genuine – with her efforts to make a legitimate difference for students of all kinds.” 

When WVU celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Eberly College’s naming, President E. Gordon Gee, Eberly College Dean Gregory Dunaway and numerous University leaders and supporters, past and present, welcomed Carolyn Eberly Blaney and her family to campus. 

WVU President Gordon Gee said in a University statement, “Carolyn Blaney understood the importance of higher education, and its role in creating a better world. She generously gave her support to ensuring West Virginia University and other institutions were in a position to fulfill that role. She was a true Mountaineer and we can honor her memory best by following her example. She will be deeply missed.”

Strolling through the first floor of Woodburn Hall, the impact of the Eberly family’s philanthropy is impossible to miss. Plaques list the beneficiaries of their generosity, from the 30-plus faculty who have held Eberly Family Distinguished Professorships to the 800 Eberly Scholars, the College’s top annual honor and undergraduate scholarship.

In this way, Carolyn Eberly Blaney’s influence and passion will live on for many years to come – a “bright future and golden rainbows.”