West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) recently received a gift of $150,000 for the Bryan Bills Memorial Scholarship Fund from the estate of the late Rodney Cornell. The scholarship fund supports civil engineering students from West Virginia. The recipient must be an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and be at least a junior.
A native of St. Marys, W.Va., Bryan Bills received his associate’s degree in mechanical engineering technology from Tech in 1970 and earned his B.S. in civil engineering in 1977. While a student at Tech, Bills was the driving force behind Tech’s first concrete canoe — an annual tradition that the WVU Tech student ASCE chapter continues to this day. After he passed away in 1987, his family and friends established the scholarship fund in his memory.
“[Bryan] worked his way through school. He always wanted to see the people who were struggling receive the help they need so they could get an education,” said Bills’ sister Denyse Cornell. “We love him and would like to see his scholarship continue since education was his big passion.”
The estate of Rodney Cornell, Denyse’s former husband, was settled in late 2012 and the gift has been sent to the Tech Foundation for the scholarship fund. Rodney Cornell and his wife, Joyce, agreed to keep the Bryan Bills Memorial Fund as a benefactor in their will. “I was so happy to hear that Rodney kept that in his will,” Denyse said recently. “It means so much that he cared about my brother.”
Along with the estate gift, other gifts were recently made in memory of Bills’ mother Jackquline Mathess Bills. Combined, these gifts bring the total of the scholarship fund to approximately $159,000, which will enable WVU Tech to offer more assistance to civil engineering students.
“Bryan planted the seed that grew into a favorite activity of the ASCE student chapter — building and racing a concrete canoe in the Virginias Conference,” said Dr. Steven Leftwich, chair of the department of civil engineering. “It was students such as Bryan that have made WVU Tech a unique place to learn and have fun in such student traditions. Bryan’s memory lives on each time the students paddle to the finish line.”