Kathy and J. Wayne Richards

New faculty members in West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will now have access to funds to support travel, research and technology enhancements thanks to a $1 million endowed gift made by alumnus J. Wayne Richards and his wife, Kathy.

The Wayne and Kathy Richards Faculty Scholars Fund, a first-of-its-kind endowment at WVU, will provide flexible funds to allow the college to hire, retain, reward and recognize faculty members who have not yet achieved tenure. It will be awarded for a period of three years and is renewable if the recipient shows progress toward being granted tenure.

“This gift is unique in the fact that it addresses a real need in helping to set the stage for faculty support and tenure in the Statler College,” said J. Wayne Richards, who serves as president and chief executive officer of GR Energy Services, a Houston, Texas-based oilfield products and services company. “It provides a wide range of support geared toward attracting and retaining top-quality educators that will allow WVU to compete on a national stage in STEM-associated areas for research dollars and grants.

“Our hope is this unique gift will give leaders in the Statler College the latitude to address shortcomings in compensation that can occur during a normal academic year.”

“As funding for research and travel becomes more limited at the state and national level, it is imperative for us to find other private sources to assist us in helping to establish the careers of young faculty members,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “This generous gift from Wayne and Kathy Richards is the first of its kind at WVU. As dean, it will provide me with a consistent source of flexible funds that I can use to support non-tenured faculty members.”

WVU President Gordon Gee thanked the Richards for their generosity and called the gift “a unique and important tool to empower junior faculty to continue their STEM research and work in their respective fields.”

Natives of South Charleston, the Richards’ have a history of support to the Statler College and to WVU athletics. In 2012, the pair pledged $250,000 to the Statler College Building Fund to help fund construction of the new Advanced Engineering Research Building, which is scheduled to open in 2015. In 2013, they pledged $1.25 million to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for enhancements to the football complex.

A member of the Statler College’s Visiting Committee, J. Wayne Richards has spent his career in the oilfield services sector. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from WVU in 1981, he spent 25 years in a number of senior operational, and sales and marketing positions with Schlumberger. He then served as president and CEO of Global Oilfield Services in Sugar Land, Texas. Kathy earned her degree in dental hygiene at WVU Tech in Montgomery.

The Richards’ gift was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.