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New gift to Foundation will support Scarborough Library

ISSUED: 14 May 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Shepherd University Foundation announces a new deferred gift that will provide perpetual funding for the university’s library system. The Watson Family Endowment for the Shepherd University Scarborough Library was created by Dr. James Watson in tribute to his family.

As a social studies major at Shepherd from 1964 through 1967, Watson took every history course offered by Professor Ruth Scarborough, who also served as his advisor until her retirement in 1966. The following year, Watson left Shepherd to enlist in the United States Air Force, in which he served for the next four years. In 1972, he returned to college, earning his undergraduate degree in social studies from West Virginia University, where he also obtained his master’s and a Ph.D. in history. The notes he had taken in Scarborough’s classes proved invaluable throughout a teaching fellowship during his Ph.D. candidacy in which he found himself teaching Greek, Roman, and Egyptian history—areas well outside the scope of his graduate research.

“Thank goodness I had saved all of those notes because they got me through that year,” he said.

Watson’s studies led him to spend a lot of time in libraries, both in the U.S. and in Great Britain, where he performed his graduate research.

“Libraries hold a special place in my heart,” said the Martinsburg native, adding that he still has his very first library card from the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Libraries.

It was this love of libraries that led Watson to establish the Watson Family Endowment for the Shepherd University Scarborough Library.

“Libraries are the center of a college, yet they always seem to be one of the first programs for which funding is cut,” said Watson, who enjoyed a 37-year career in university fundraising and development before his retirement in 2017. Among the higher education institutions he served is Shepherd, where he held the role of vice president for institutional advancement for 10 years. He is a charter member of the Joseph P. McMurran Society, which recognizes alumni and friends who have chosen to support Shepherd through estate and other planned gifts.

The deferred gift holds special meaning for Watson on several levels.

“The gift itself is named for my family. It’s meant to honor them,” he said, noting that his mother grew up during the Great Depression and had only an 8th grade education, but was the smartest person he ever knew. “She read everything and she made sure that my brother and I knew the value of an education began with reading, spelling, and writing. She had us in libraries by the time we were five years old.”

Additionally, Watson feels it’s poignant that his gift will support a library that happens to be named after his former advisor and mentor. “It all fits,” he said.

To learn more about honoring someone with the creation of a named fund through the Shepherd University Foundation, contact Monica Lingenfelter, Shepherd University Foundation, P.O. Box 5000, Shepherdstown, WV, 25443-5000, 304-876-5397, or visit

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