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Marshall receives $721,000 gift for mechanical engineering professorship

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Marshall University has received a $721,000 bequest from the estate of Huntington businessman J. Robert "Bob" Fletcher to fund the engineering professorship bearing his name. The donation is expected to be matched through the state's "Bucks for Brains" West Virginia Research Trust Fund for a total benefit to the university of more than $1.4 million.

The J. Robert Fletcher Professorship for Engineering will support an endowed faculty position in mechanical engineering at Marshall. The Fletcher family established the endowment in 2010 with a gift of $125,000, which was matched by the trust fund at that time.

Fletcher, who died in May 2009, moved to Huntington in 1947 with the family business. Along with his father and brother, he designed underground roof support systems for coal and limestone mines and built a manufacturing plant in Huntington. Today, J.H. Fletcher & Co. is a major manufacturer of underground roof support systems.

Fletcher's daughter, Sally Fletcher Duncan, said, "My parents Bob and Kae Fletcher always felt that an education was of the utmost importance for a young person to achieve success in life. We hope this bequest will help many deserving Marshall students graduate from college and become successful and contributing members of our society."

Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp praised the Fletcher family for its dedication to the university and the community.

"This gift will continue the tradition of J. H. Fletcher & Co.'s leadership in supporting engineering at Marshall University and will carry on Bob Fletcher's legacy as a leader in catalyzing economic development in this region," Kopp said. "Marshall University owes a debt of gratitude to the Fletchers for their generosity and foresight in establishing this endowed professorship."

The Legislature created the West Virginia Research Trust Fund in 2008 with an initial appropriation of $15 million for Marshall. The university can tap into the fund to double private gifts that support specific research initiatives linked to economic development, health care and job growth.