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Shepherd University names first endowed chair

ISSUED: 25 April 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
(Shepherd University names first endowed chair)

Shepherdstown, WV--The Shepherd University Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Robert Parkinson as the Ray and Madeline Johnston Endowed Chair in American History. Parkinson is a tenured associate professor of history at Shepherd. A reception was held on Shepherd's campus following a Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, April 19 in recognition of this outstanding achievement.

Endowed in 2007 by local business leaders Ray and Madeline Johnston, the faculty excellence award was Shepherd's first endowed chair. This is the first time the award has been made.

After receiving his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Tennessee, Parkinson earned his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. He was the first UVA doctoral graduate to receive the NEH Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. The fellowship was completed at the College of William & Mary. Parkinson is the author of a number of scholarly essays and articles about the American Revolution and our founding fathers, and recently published his first book titled The Common Cause: Race, Nation, and the Consequences of Unity in the American Revolution. Published by the North Carolina Press, it is a study of the racial differences that emerged from the Revolution and the way war and politics played a role in that emergence.

"This is the most prestigious honor that can be bestowed upon a young scholar engaged in the study of early American history," said Dr. Anders Henriksson, chair of Shepherd's Department of History. "Robert is a gifted teacher whom the students find inspiring. We feel lucky to have him as a colleague."

Upon receiving his award, Parkinson said, "I am deeply honored to hold the first endowed chair of history at Shepherd University. I am especially grateful to the Johnstons for recognizing the importance of research, study, and teaching of American history."

Ray and Madeline Johnston were both born into large families during the Great Depression. They were raised to value education and received excellent educations themselves through the public school system. Following service in the U.S. Navy, Ray financed his college education using the GI Bill of Rights, earning a B.S. and M.A. from the University of Northern Iowa. Ray later became a history teacher and state legislator.

In addition to establishing The Woods Resort in Hedgesville, the Johnstons have served as leaders in economic development through their associations with the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Panhandle Homebuilders Association, and the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Visitors and Convention Bureau. Ray, founder of the West Virginia Governor's Conference on Housing, brought statewide attention to the Eastern Panhandle through his service with the Home Builders Association of West Virginia.

The Ray and Madeline Johnston Endowed Chair in American History demonstrates the Johnstons' commitment to excellence in teaching and the role faculty play in guiding and inspiring students. "We want to show our gratitude for what public education has done for us," said Ray upon endowing the chair in 2007.

Surrounded by her family at the April 19 reception, Ray's wife Madeline was delighted to see her late husband's vision being realized with the chair's first appointment.

"We are all pleased the endowed chair has been awarded to Dr. Parkinson and wish that Ray was here to witness this event," she said. "Our entire family has always been focused on education, but none more so than Ray, who taught history for many years."

Endowed chairs provide funds to enable Shepherd University to recruit, recognize, and retain exceptional faculty scholars and academic leaders. They are at the top of the funding level, followed by endowed professorships and endowed lectureships.

"This is an area in which Shepherd was poised to move," said Ramon A. Alvarez, president of the Shepherd University Foundation. "On behalf of the Foundation board and staff, we are all extremely proud of the Johnstons for moving forward and being the first to start the endowed chair."

"This is a historic milestone for Shepherd University. The Johnston name will always be associated with heightened educational excellence for our deserving students," said President Suzanne Shipley, who added, "Dr. Parkinson is highly deserving of this honor."

To learn more about establishing a faculty excellence award through the Shepherd University Foundation, please contact Monica Lingenfelter, Shepherd UniversityFoundation, P.O. Box 5000, Shepherdstown, WV, 25443-5000, 304-876-5397, or visit


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From left to right are Dr. Shipley, Dr. Robert Parkinson, Sally Johnston, Madeline Johnston, Joy Johnson, her husband Greg Johnson, and Andy Michael.

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