Skip Navigation

John F. McCuskey ‘69 Gifts West Virginia Wesleyan $1.5 Million to Create  McCuskey Family Fellowship Program, Focus on Undergraduate Research

Apr 26, 2021

Buckhannon, W.Va. – With the largest one-time contribution by a single, living donor supporting it, West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) announced today the creation of a new undergraduate summer research program, along with the first class of participants, thanks to a $1.5 million gift by John F. McCuskey ‘69.

The McCuskey Family Fellowship, an endowed scholarship, will be awarded on an annual basis to at least two incoming freshman students and a rising sophomore to conduct research, beginning in the natural sciences, with a fellowship slated in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Abigail Bowe ‘24 of Charleston, West Virginia; Logan Nelson ‘24 of Wenatchee, Washington; and John Rose ‘24 of Wheeling, West Virginia comprise the first class of McCuskey Fellows.

“The significance of this Fellowship cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Joel Thierstein, President of WVWC. “Receiving this Fellowship is a transformative moment in the life of the recipient and the program accelerates the student’s ability to understand higher level thinking.”

“John McCuskey is a genuinely nice person who cares about people and he exemplifies the best of West Virginia,” Thierstein said. “We’re grateful to John for his incredible generosity.”

McCuskey shared that his family’s deep roots at Wesleyan and his life-long passion for the Mountain State were a driving force behind the gift.

McCuskey said, “ I wanted to do something that would honor my family’s commitment to the small, liberal arts idea of education and something that would also honor my commitment to making West Virginia a better place to live and work.”

Wesleyan and McCuskey’s shared vision for the Fellowship is to engage students from diverse backgrounds in undergraduate research to better prepare them for a future in academia or the workforce. Criteria include, but are not limited to: students who hail from the Appalachian region; students of minority status; students with an intellectual or physical disability; and/or students who attend a high school deemed substandard by its State Board of Education. 

“The fellowship seemed like a great way for me to participate in the current research,” said Rose, a member of the first class of McCuskey Family Fellows, who aims to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration one day.

Talley Sergent, WVWC’s Chief Development and Marketing Officer shared that McCuskey’s gift will be game-changing for students while at Wesleyan and beyond.

“John McCuskey’s commitment to supporting West Virginia Wesleyan and the State of West Virginia is on full display with this monumental gift to his alma mater,” said Talley Sergent, WVWC’s Chief Development and Marketing Officer. “The true impact of the McCuskey Family Fellowship will come to life in the years ahead as we implement Mr. McCuskey’s vision.”

To support the McCuskey Family Fellowship or West Virginia Wesleyan, go to

Background Information on Student Participants

Abigail Bowe ‘24 – Charleston, West Virginia 

Major: Biochemistry

Member, Acrobatic and Tumbling Team

Work-study student – Department of Chemistry; Dean’s List

High School: George Washington

Abigail Bowe will be working with Dr. Bruce Anthony (Chemistry). Broadly, Abby will be investigating neuroplasticity in the brain after drug abuse in an effort to improve drug abuse recovery therapies.

Logan Nelson ‘24 – Wenatchee, Washington

Major: Biology

Member, Men’s Soccer Team; President’s List

High School: Wenatchee

Logan Nelson will be working with Dr. Matthew Reid (Biology). His project will broadly focus on plant and soil responses to warming. Specifically, the project will explore how a critical mutualism between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi is affected by the dual stressors of root-feeding soil nematodes and increased temperatures. In a growth chamber experiment, Logan will explore how soil nematodes and warmer temperatures affect plant productivity and the activity and biomass of mycorrhizal fungi.

John Rose ‘24 – Wheeling, West Virginia

Major: Physics and English

Member of the Honors College; President’s List

High School: Linsly

John Rose will be working with Dr. Joseph Wiest (Physics). His project will be applicable to the current NASA Mars Mission. Since Mars has short days and frequent dust storms, there is a need for power sources that do not rely upon the sun. John will be focusing on capturing the energy from isotopes that emit alpha particles in order to convert it to voltage and, ultimately, a power source.


West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) is a private, four-year residential liberal arts college in Buckhannon, West Virginia. A tradition of excellence for more than 130 years, West Virginia Wesleyan is home to 14 Fulbright Scholars. The Princeton Review ranked Wesleyan one of its 2021 Best Colleges in the Southeastern Region of the United States. U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best College Rankings designated Wesleyan a “Top 20” Best Value – Regional Universities (South) and one of the “Top 75” Regional Universities (South). WVWC offers students more than 40 majors and 40 minors; graduate programs in athletic training, business administration, creative writing, and nursing; 22 NCAA Division II athletic programs; multiple performing arts groups; and more than 70 organizations. Founded in 1890, the College is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church and abides by the Wesley doctrine that emphasizes service to others. For more information, visit