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Hinton Area Foundation brought many speakers to Summers County

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The Hinton Area Foundation (HAF) has been growing in Summers County since 1992. Thanks to Judy Peterson, HAF’s long-time secretary and keeper of its history, we have a good record of the many speakers who have headlined the event. It began in 2004 when Larry Groce (host of West Virginia Public Radio’s world-famous music program, Mountain Stage) spoke at Pence Springs Hotel.

The banquet became annual in 2006 with the guest speaker being Bob Pruitt, recent football coach at Marshall, taking the stage at Pipestem State Park. Gayle Manchin, wife of then Gov. Joe Manchin, took the place the following year when Summers County High School graduates first began receiving their scholarships at the event.

In 2015 she had become President of the State Board of Education and began the ritual of the speaker handing out the awards personally. 

In 2008, long-time board member and Hinton native, Jerry Beasley, was retiring as president of Concord College. He was lauded by Stephanie Mathews O’Keefe and Ted Rogers. The following year another sports figure, Meg Bulger, a WVU basketball star and ESPN color commentator, did the honors. 

In 2010, Jim Justice had just bought the Greenbrier Hotel for over $20 million. Well before he became Governor, he took the podium and charmed the crowd. 

After that year all the speakers were natives of Summers County.

Swanson Carter, a graduate of Lincoln School and active in its preservation, served as an FBI Special Agent before returning in 2011 to lead the program. 

Richard Lawrence spoke in 2012 of the HAF’s first 20 years, having been instrumental in its formation. Jack Holt used the platform in 2013 to publicize something he helped generate and sustain, the Making a Difference program.

Two Talcott-reared native sons headlined in 2016 and 2017. Mitch Bowling, son of Jim and Barbara Bowling, had become senior VP and CEO of Apollo Education Group. Eddie Biggers, veteran of the USDA, had become an organizer of John Henry Park.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell (HHS 1983), daughter of Bill and Cleo Mathews, went to Harvard and then Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and held several high posts in and out of government before becoming Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama. By the time she spoke at the 2018 banquet, she had become the first woman to lead American University in Washington D.C. 

Another D.C. resident, Emma Chanlett-Avery (HHS 1992), daughter of Chris and Torula, has served for two decades at the Library of Congress as a National Security Specialist in Asian Affairs. She performed as speaker at the last live banquet in 2019, before COVID concerns suspended the tradition in 2020-2021. The Hinton Area Foundation has continued to hand out scores of scholarships created by its many donors and looks forward to reestablishing the in-person Awards Banquet event as soon as possible. It welcomes interest in funneling more charitable contributions for the community.

Sylvia Mathews-Burwell spoke at the 2018 Scholarship Awards Banquet.

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