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President’s Club supports community outreach and storytelling throughout the region

ISSUED: 9 August 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Recognizing the power and prominence of storytelling in Appalachia, Shepherd University President Mary J. C. Hendrix has authorized a $6,000 gift from the President’s Club to Shepherd’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities and Speak Story Series for outreach into the community and public schools. The money will allow storytellers and West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman to share the stories, heritage, and cultural traditions of the region with school children and others in the community.

“Understanding the power of storytelling and our Appalachian roots and the importance of telling our own stories is the essential premise behind these events in the region,” said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, director, Shepherd’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities.

The grant will cover community outreach by Harshman, who will participate in Shepherd’s Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence program and Hardy County Heritage Weekend in September. Harshman will participate in a Shepherd Writer-in-Residence anthology reading with Karen Spears Zacharias on Tuesday, September 24, at 7 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. He will make presentations and work with more than 200 students at Washington High School September 25, and work with third, fourth, and fifth grade children at Wright Denny Intermediate School September 26. Harshman will then travel to Moorefield to work with high school students in Hardy County and participate in the Hardy County Heritage Weekend September 27-29.

High school teacher Jennifer Nicholson is coordinating the Jefferson County public schools outreach, while teacher Ashley Wilkins and Hardy County Tour and Crafts Association representative Ashley Anderson have arrange the outreach in that county.

Harshman, West Virginia’s seventh poet laureate, has published poetry in literary journals and magazines across the country. His collection, “Woman in Red Anorak,” won the 2017 Blue Lynx Prize and was just published by Lynx House/University of Washington Press. His preceding volume of poetry, “Believe What You Can,” was published in 2016 by West Virginia University Press and won the Weatherford Award. His 14 children’s books include “The Storm,” a Smithsonian Notable Book. His other many honors include West Virginia English Teacher of the Year. Harshman has just been named co-winner of the 2019 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award.

The President’s Club grant will also cover the cost of storytellers who are part of the 2019-2020 Speak Story Series season and community and public school outreach by those storytellers, including Adam Booth on August 13, Clare Murphy on September 17, Tim Tingle on October 8, Bill Harley on November 12, as well as the tellers for the spring and summer lineup.

Members of the Shepherd University Foundation’s President’s Club have been instrumental in providing the resources necessary to advance Shepherd’s strategic priorities and help raise the university’s profile through outstanding programs and academics. President’s Club donors include alumni, friends, faculty, staff, executive leadership, and board members who are committed to helping ensure the future of Shepherd through annual unrestricted gifts of $1,000 or more. Shepherd’s Writer-in-Residence program and Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities, West Virginia Humanities Council, and Hardy County Tour and Crafts Association are also funding partners for these storytelling and Appalachian events and community outreach.

For more information, visit, or contact Shurbutt at, or Shepherd Appalachian Heritage Festival coordinator Rachael Meads at

For information about Speak Story Series and details about applying for storytelling outreach, visit

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