Bob Skinner retired from West Virginia Wesleyan College Friday, Dec. 18, after more than 40 years of service to the Bobcats. / Submitted photo

Goodbye, Mr. Wesleyan: Bob Skinner bids the Bobcats farewell after more than 40 years

BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan veteran Bob Skinner said goodbye to his administrative duties Dec. 18, but after more than four decades of service to the Bobcats, he will remain a staunch Wesleyan advocate and volunteer in retirement.

Skinner began his career at Wesleyan in 1975 as a sports information director and an assistant resident director, and in 1978, he became the director of the Campus Center and took on the responsibility of coordinating student activities. He briefly left the college in 1985 to work for Central National Bank but couldn’t stay away for long. In 1987, he returned as the associate dean of students.

Skinner served as the director of admissions from 1991 until 2005 prior to transitioning to the director of marketing and communication from 2005 to 2010. In his final post, he was the vice president of advancement, a position he held until he became the special advisor to the president in August 2020.

“In each role, I was given unique opportunities,” Skinner reflected in a recent interview with My Buckhannon. “In my first role, I got to play out my childhood dream of being a radio broadcaster and in the days of student activities, you’re given the best role in the world because you’re the students’ best friend; I really enjoyed getting to know students, helping them, advising them and getting to develop relationships.”

Each of his various positions gave him an opportunity to see Wesleyan and its community from different perspectives.

“In admissions, I was able to find students who would benefit from being at Wesleyan. It was really fun for me to find students with potential, see them come, and see them pursue their dreams. They were transformed and then they graduated,” Skinner said. “The most memorable thing about the marketing job was being responsible for all the Sago Mining disaster-related issues and I wouldn’t call that rewarding, but you want to do a good job for the families, you wanted to protect the families and we had a great team. We wanted to portray Upshur County, Buckhannon and Wesleyan as a special place, and I think we did that.”

Wesleyan professor Dr. Joseph Wiest said Skinner brought determination and passion to each of his positions.

“Bob had a very positive effect on Wesleyan over all these years: as a sports announcer in his earliest role, as a student recruiter and then director of admissions and during that time, Wesleyan’s enrollment rose to an all-time high of 1,850 students, as a member of college advancement and alumni relations, and then the vice-president of college advancement and alumni relations,” Wiest said. “In all of his many positions, Bob has excelled in carrying out his assigned functions and being able to show excellent results.”

“The really great characteristic of Bob over his entire time at Wesleyan was that he never just did his jobs and assignments, but that he would do that extra work to ensure that everything he did was done very well,” Wiest added. “Because of that determination and a very long record of many exceptional successes, I would rank him along with the really great leaders in Wesleyan’s history.”

Skinner said his last 10 years in the department of advancement was particularly satisfying because he got to see the students with whom he had worked in his previous positions excelling in life and in their careers.

“The greatest part is getting to see so many of the students you recruited, or you knew at student activities and now they’re really successful, and they give back,” Skinner said. “I feel like the last 10 years has been a role of just gathering more and more friendships – that has just been so gratifying, and when you’re in this role, you meet fabulous people.”

Skinner and his faithful companion, Camden, enjoy a quick break during a stroll on campus. / Submitted photo

Skinner reflected on several memories during his time with student activities that he could not have experienced anywhere else.

“I was the ‘Voice of the Bobcats’ until 1985 and I got really memorable experiences there but the student activity part was amazing,” Skinner said. “Think about this: I sat with James Taylor in the back of Wesley Chapel, where we talked about the hand-carved 12 disciples, I sat beside Jimmy Carter and heard him talk about his vision for Habitat for Humanity in 1985.”

“I went to dinner at the 88 with Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and watched him order his food as Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam,” he continued. “In 1979 I sat with Maynard Ferguson, the world’s greatest trumpet player, the night of the seventh game of the World Series and he was rooting for the Orioles and I was rooting for the Pirates. In 1981, I sat in the Green Room for 15 minutes with Charlie Daniels and we just talked about life – those are experiences that I will never forget.”

Skinner said he struggled with the decision to retire, remembering when he was the youngest administrator on campus and became the oldest.

“I think anybody that knows me, knows that I struggled with this whole retirement decision for a while. I announced it once and change my mind, but since I made this decision this summer, I feel like I did my very best and I advocated for the school,” Skinner said. “I hope that in some way, I’ve been a mentor to others, and I feel good about the work and what was accomplished.”

“I worked with so many great people who were really good about telling me that not every idea I had was a great one, or that I might have changed my mind one too many times, and all the success we enjoyed came because I was surrounded by those great people,” he added.

He said the pandemic did assist him in finalizing his decision to retire, but he knows Wesleyan will overcome this challenge.

“I’ve seen Wesleyan through challenging times, and this is without a doubt the most uniquely challenging time in my career, but each and every time, you witness the dedication and commitment of people, and I’m watching that unfold again,” Skinner said. “The one thing I have not enjoyed since March is the fact that we haven’t had students on campus. I have missed them terribly – not that I had that many relationships with students now because of my role in advancement – but you do get to meet some and I’ve missed the energy they bring, so that part has been uniquely different, and it probably helped me ease into this retirement decision.”

Wiest said it will feel off not having Skinner on campus.

“It will feel very different in not having Bob as our ‘Mr. Wesleyan’ on the campus, where he has demonstrated the very best characteristics and potential of Wesleyan — from a Wesleyan student to a Wesleyan alumnus to a leader of Wesleyan in many different functions,” Wiest said. “He was a person who always loved the college and would demonstrate that love all around the state and region by doing considerable traveling and publicizing all of the great things that were happening at the college and communicating the message that Wesleyan was a great college for any young person to come to as long as they were willing to work hard and were wanting to succeed in their fields of interest.”

Skinner with his wife, Jane, at Stonewall Resort. / Submitted photo

Skinner said while he may not be part of the Wesleyan staff anymore, he fully intends to volunteer and may get some writing done about Wesleyan’s history.

“I’m really confident in Talley, (Talley Sergent, the new chief development and marketing officer for the college), and her team,” Skinner said. “They’ve been incredibly kind, and she’s going to be great in this role, and I really do want people to know that I fully endorse this team because they’re going to do great things for the school. That makes retiring really easy, because I know they’re going to keep going on.”

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