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Civil Engineering Endowment Honors Professors' Legacies

In 2013, the Nester-Thornton Civil Engineering Faculty Endowment was created to support WVU Tech’s civil engineering department and to recognize two distinguished professors, Dr. Ernie Nester and Stafford Thornton, for the legacy of dedication and innovation each man left after a lifetime of service to WVU Tech.

On Monday, December 1, WVU Tech President Carolyn Long welcomed Stafford Thornton and Susan Nester, widow of the late Dr. Ernie Nester, to the Robinson House for a check presentation ceremony and to discuss future plans for the fund.

Endowment founder and member of the WVU Tech Board of Visitors, Ed Robinson and Dr. Steven Leftwich, Chair of the WVU Tech Department of Civil Engineering, addressed visitors and presented gifts to Nester and Thornton.

“I can say that both Stafford and Ernie have had a profound impact on the civil engineering department in laying the foundation and building the department into what it is today,” said Leftwich.

Dr. Ernie Nester began teaching at WVU Tech in 1966 and continued until his retirement thirty years later. He became chair of the civil engineering department in 1979 and was appointed dean of engineering in 1986. He served as Dean of Engineering until 1993, when he went back to teaching full-time until his retirement. He was awarded emeritus status in 1997. Nester passed away in March 2013.

Stafford Thornton began his WVU Tech career as a civil engineering professor in 1964, where he served for 36 years until he retired and was granted emeritus status in 2000. During his time at WVU Tech, Thornton moved from professor to associate dean of engineering. In 2008, the West Virginia Outstanding Civil Engineering Senior Awards were permanently renamed the Stafford A. Thornton Awards in his honor.

The Nester-Thornton endowment, which provides unrestricted funds for the civil engineering department, is intended to support the department by covering financial needs ranging from materials and lab equipment to programming and conference fees.

“We’re thankful for the generosity of our alumni and donors,” said Leftwich. “These funds are crucial to the continued success of our department and will be used to purchase needed equipment or provide students with materials for projects such as the concrete canoe and the steel bridge for competition in the ASCE Virginia’s Conference.”

During the event, Nester and Thornton shared stories of their experiences at WVU Tech before signing and presenting a check in the amount of $4,392.06, or one year’s interest on the endowment. Including an anonymous donation in the amount of $20,000 – $10,000 in honor of each professor – the endowment currently stands at more than $124,000 and is continually growing as fundraising efforts continue.

If you would like to make a gift to the endowment, contact the WVU Tech Development Office at 304.442.1078 or by email at

View photos from the event on Flickr.