University of Charleston

University of Charleston

As your Director of Alumni Relations, one of my favorite tasks is to sit down with my fellow alumni, listen to how their experience here shaped their life and career paths, and then share those stories with the entire Golden Eagle community.

Typically, the conversation takes place via Zoom between me and only one alumnus. This highlight, however, covers a family who has Golden Eagle roots running four generations deep.  We were able to gather three of those generations and I was joined by Dr. Tom and Gloria Pauley, Dr. Beth Pauley, and Eli Watson.

A clearly labeled family tree with photos would be helpful as I share our conversation here but, alas, we are confined to words. So, allow me to introduce these family members who are also University of Charleston/Morris Harvey College graduates, professors, and administrators.

Between 1949 and 1951, Dr. Leonard Riggleman was president of the college, construction on the Rotunda had just been completed, and the first generation of this family earned their degrees. The Musser brothers,  Dwight and Ray, came to MHC after receiving their GI bills.

Ray was a member of the spring class of 1949, the first class to graduate in the new gymnasium. The gymnasium was the first permanent structure completed on our current South Ruffner property and was later named the Eddie King Gym. The gym has now been transformed to be part of the Wehrle Innovation Center.

Dwight was just behind his big brother and graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 1949 with his first degree and completed a second degree in 1951.

George Pauley, although not yet connected to the Musser brothers, also graduated in 1951. George was involved in the campus Ministerial Association as a student and earned a bachelor’s degree in religion.

Now, on to generation number two.  George Pauley’s son, Thomas, graduated from MHC in 1962 earning a bachelor’s degree in biology. Ray Musser’s daughter, Gloria, graduated from MHC in 1966 with a degree in history. Gloria attended Dunbar Baptist Church and after her grandfather retired as the minister, Tom’s father stepped into the position.  Their connection through the church and both being commuter students from Dunbar created a beautiful love story. Before she graduated, Gloria Musser became Mrs. Gloria Musser Pauley.

Tom shared, “My Dad went to MHC and even though I visited other schools, I just didn’t like what I saw at the other schools. I am convinced that if I had gone to any other school, I would not be where I am now. I give Morris Harvey all the credit. After teaching at other colleges and universities for 47 years, I look back and I can recognize what a wonderful experience it was.

“After I finished my bachelor’s at MHC, I started teaching in the public schools. While I was teaching, I finished my master’s degree in biology at Marshall University in 1966.  I then took a teaching position at Salem College in Harrison County, WV and was there sixteen years. While I was teaching there, I completed my PhD in biology and ecology from West Virginia University. I taught at the University of Pittsburgh for five years before coming back to the area to teach at Marshall University in 1987 and retired in 2013.”

Gloria shared, “I was planning on going to Marshall, but the dorms were full and back then, if you couldn’t get into the dorms, then you couldn’t go to school.  So, I thought I would go to Morris Harvey for one year. When I got there, I really liked it and decided to stay. It all turned out ok, I got a degree and a husband while I was there.

“You couldn’t get a degree in Elementary Education at MHC back then and I loved my history teachers, so I got the history degree.

“I taught elementary school for 30 years. During the time we lived in Pennsylvania, I earned a master’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and was a reading specialist at a private detention center – that was an interesting job!

“I finished up my last twelve years teaching in Cabell County, WV, and that’s about it.”

Well, that wasn’t really all there was to it, their marriage produced generation three – our very own Assistant Provost, Dr. Beth Pauley.

Although we skip a generation of MHC and UC graduates here, Dr. Beth Pauley and her husband, Dr. Mark Watson, are certainly part of the Golden Eagle family.  Beth serves as Assistant Provost and Mark as full-time professor and chair of the natural sciences and math departments.

Mark and Beth both attended Marshall University, though not at the same time. Mark is from Barboursville, just a few miles from Marshall’s campus, which made Marshall an obvious choice for college. He completed his undergraduate degree in biology and botany in 1986, his master’s degree in biology in 1988, and his doctorate degree in botany from the University of Georgia in 1996.

Beth shared, “In 1986, we were living in Pennsylvania, and it was time for me to pick a college. I knew I wanted to be a biology major, so, Dad suggested Marshall. I got my undergraduate and master’s degree, with Dad, in biology.

“My mother was my elementary school teacher for several classes and then I had Dad for several courses at Marshall. He could not be my official thesis advisor, but he certainly advised me. Having a parent as a teacher has always been part of my life.

“Mark started teaching at UC in 2004 and I started in 2006, both in the biology department. We both love the department and the students. We feel this is one of the places where you can really make a difference in a student’s life. Some of our very first students are now physicians and pharmacists and it’s amazing to see.

“Once I started working here, I went back to Marshall and earned my doctorate in curriculum and instruction. I moved into this administration role in 2018 but I am still teaching in the first-year program and this year I am teaching a biology class, so that’s fun.”

“I worked from 1998-2004 as an environmental professional and as the daughter of two educators, I had no intention of ever stepping into the classroom. But here we are.”

“Her father and I always knew she should be a teacher and she always said, ‘No.’ Well, I think mother knows best,” said Gloria.

Then, Tom chimes in with, “Yes, just like Eli is going to be a college professor, mark my word!”

Ah, yes, Eli! We’ve now reached the fourth generation, Eli Watson, UC class of 2022 and Mark and Beth’s youngest son.

Eli shared, “I graduated high school in 2018 in Cabell County (same county as Marshall University). Almost all my friends went to Marshall, but I decided I wanted to do something different.

“Plus, my brother, who attended Marshall and is four years older, talked about how big the school is and how you don’t really get to know your professors.  I didn’t want an experience where information would be just thrown at me, I wanted to get to know my professors. That is why I picked UC.

“I graduated with my political science degree in May 2022. Then, in August 2022, made a last-minute decision to teach. We happen to go to church with the vice principal of Sissonville High School and when the opportunity to teach was placed in front of me, I decided to give it a go.

“I was able to jump through all the hoops to be ready to start the 2022-2023 school year on time.  I am currently working on my teaching certificate and teaching freshman World History at Sissonville High School. It’s a good experience, sometimes it’s very enjoyable and I get a lot from it. Other times, it’s more challenging.

“When I graduated, I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew that with my minor in communications and criminal justice, I had my bases covered to do whatever I may want to do.  I did not think that my experience with small classes and getting to know my professors more personally would help me be a better teacher, however, it certainly has come into play.”

“Eli was also a peer educator at UC and in the honors college, so I know that helped prepare him, too. I am his mother, I can brag on him all day,” says Beth.

She continued, “Not one time while Eli was a student here did I think, ‘Oh, I can’t look that professor in the eye because they have Eli,’ it was a positive experience as a parent. He navigated his own way, but we knew what kind of experience he would have here, and it was great.”

As I allowed each generation to take their turn sharing their Golden Eagle experience, it was heartwarming to see both grandparent’s and mom’s faces change to total pride when Eli started to speak.

Tom and Gloria both are filled with pride and joy to have a daughter and son-n-law teaching, and a grandson now a graduate of their alma mater.

“When Gloria and I started dating, I never thought in a million years that our daughter would end up a professor there. And I certainly never dreamed I would have a grandson graduate from my alma mater.

“After Morris Harvey, I went on to get other degrees but there is nothing quite as special as your undergraduate degree experience and mine was great. It is very rewarding to have Beth and Mark teaching there and to have a grandson who graduated from there,” said Tom.

When Eli graduated, Tom and Gloria gifted him George Pauley’s (Tom’s father) Morris Harvey class ring. Eli reflected, “I had a little more of the ‘carrying the torch’ feeling once I graduated. When you are a student, you are just in survival mode. Once I left, I was proud to carry on the tradition.”

The more our conversation continued the more commonalities I found between this family and my own.  I am a third generation Morris Harvey/University of Charleston student, my grandfather-n-law (Harold A. Carr) graduated in 1949 with the Musser brothers, I was also a commuter kid from Dunbar, and my dad taught at Sissonville High School for nine years. I left this Zoom chat hoping they added me to the family reunion invitation list!

This campus along the river holds a special place in so many hearts, when it is part of your family’s legacy, it makes it all the more meaningful.  Thank you to Dr. Beth Pauley and her family for allowing me to share their story.