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A $1.8 million estate gift to WVU from the family of Earl L. Core will benefit WVU Libraries and the namesake Core Arboretum. (WVU Photo/Garrett Cullen)

Core family estate gifts strengthen nature, history resources at WVU

A late relative of longtime West Virginia University biology professor and local historian Earl L. Core is providing more than $1.8 million to support the study of nature and history in his memory.

The bequest gifts from daughter-in-law Roberta Sue Core total $1,813,719 to date, with more funds expected as her estate is settled. Those dollars have been divided to benefit WVU Libraries and the Core Arboretum, a public nature preserve Earl Core helped establish during his 44 years at the University.

The Arboretum funds will go toward an endowment — named for David L. Core, Earl’s son and Roberta’s husband — that bolsters its budget in perpetuity.

“We’re very grateful for this gift,” Zach Fowler, director of the Core Arboretum, said. “We depend on support from donors for everything we do and this gift is particularly exciting for a couple of reasons. One reason is because of just how large it is. That’s especially wonderful, and it makes the future different from the past when it comes to our operating budget. But it’s also meaningful in a unique way because it came from the Core family.”

Earl Core was a Monongalia County native who received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WVU. After completing his doctoral degree at Columbia University, he returned to WVU as a faculty member in the Department of Biology. He served as department chair and director of the WVU Herbarium during his tenure, and also published many works focused on biology and botany — some which are still used by botanists in West Virginia and surrounding states.

The Core Arboretum, established in 1948, spans more than 100 acres from Monongahela Boulevard to the Monongahela River near the WVU Coliseum. Fowler said the Arboretum is used by WVU faculty and students in many natural science disciplines for coursework and research. The area also offers more than three miles of public trails and free programming focused on connecting with and learning about nature.

Roberta Core’s estate gift to WVU Libraries will support the West Virginia and Regional History Center, where Earl Core’s papers are an important part of the collections. Center Director Lori Hostuttler said the family’s gift is fitting given his legacy as a celebrated regional historian.

“I hate to say he was an amateur historian because it wasn’t quite his field, but he was very comprehensive in the historical collecting he did,” Hostuttler said. “Because of my work, I know him more as a local historian than a botanist. His five-volume ‘The Monongalia Story’ is a key resource for the history of Mon County and, because of the county’s role in West Virginia history, it’s sort of foundational for the whole state.”

Hostuttler said the Core gift will help to ensure that “The Monongalia Story,” his papers and other resources, are properly preserved and remain available to researchers and historians who visit the Center for years to come.

“This is a huge gift for us,” Hostuttler said. “We’re in a time of transformation and we are thinking strategically about the future. So, we are still determining exactly how the donation will be used, but ultimately these funds will increase our capacity to care for and share our collections.”

A native of Keyser, Roberta Core was a four-time graduate of WVU who earned degrees in education, biochemistry and law. She practiced law in Elkins for 20 years before she retired in 1999. She died Oct. 18, 2022, at the age of 83.

Core’s estate gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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