Emil Czul (pronounced “Sewell”), a late West Virginia University alumnus raised in Lochgelly and a 1950 graduate of Oak Hill High School, is making certain that future generations from Fayette County will not struggle to afford college as he did.
Czul died last November at the age of 85 in Kissimmee, Florida. In his will, he left $4 million to WVU to create two endowed full-ride scholarships that will be awarded each calendar year to financially needy students from Oak Hill High School and his home county.
Czul worked as a bricklayer for three years and enlisted in the U.S. Army for two years before enrolling at WVU where he earned his degree in mechanical engineering in 1960. He enjoyed a successful career with the U.S. government in Virginia before retiring in 1988.
“My uncle was a handsome, witty and intelligent man. He was a lifelong bachelor. He was an avid reader and a self-taught investor,” said nephew Joe Czul. “He loved West Virginia and its fresh mountain air, Oak Hill High School and cared for WVU.”
WVU President Gordon Gee said, “This gift from Emil Czul is a prime example of the University’s alumni and the affection they have for this institution. He understood first-hand the struggles many students have and the barriers they face. However, he also knew the opportunities a college education provides. His concern for the people who come after him, and the desire to provide them an easier path than he had, is the embodiment of the Mountaineer spirit.”
The idea to create the scholarship for engineering students came about almost 20 years ago.
“We believe he credited the success of his career to his engineering degree. He envisioned his gift helping academically able, but financially unable students to attend WVU,” Joe Czul added.
“We will be forever indebted to Mr. Czul for his extreme generosity, and I only wish I had the opportunity to know him,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “His story is one that continues to play out today with deserving students finding it difficult to attend college. His support will allow us to provide scholarships to well-deserving West Virginia students studying engineering. Engineering is a worthy degree and it is a critically important profession to the success and well-being of the United States in an increasingly competitive global environment. We are honored that Mr. Czul invested in the Statler College.”
Joe Czul noted his uncle did not come from a wealthy family and attending college was difficult for him.
“The need for a good education was engrained in him as a youngster, and it was no doubt frustrating to not be in a financial position to follow through.”
While Czul ended up finding a way to afford college, he wanted to make it easier for future students with the same problem.
“Engineering is a difficult major, but it was my uncle’s belief that it is a worthy degree and would allow a needy student to escape poverty and lead a much better life—just as he experienced. There is little doubt this will make a big difference in the lives of perhaps scores of needy students for many years to come,” Joe Czul said.
Because of the generous sum of money left by Czul, two graduating seniors per calendar year will have access to an all-inclusive engineering scholarship to WVU. Czul’s intent was for tuition, room, board and books be provided to engineering students demonstrating need and academic promise.
The estate gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the non-profit corporation that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
Originally from Bill Nevin for WVU Today.