Gary E. of West Liberty University passes away at the age of 86

Gray E. – The West Liberty University community is deeply saddened by the passing of Gary West, a prominent alumnus, benefactor, and friend who played an instrumental role in the growth and success of the university. Gary West, 86, passed away on Sunday at his home in Naples, Florida, leaving a profound void in the hearts of the Hilltopper family.

A 1958 graduate of West Liberty University with a degree in business, Gary West went on to achieve remarkable success in the business world. He transformed Valley National Gases, Inc. into the largest privately held distributor of industrial and medical gases and welding supplies in the country. His impact extended far beyond the business realm, making him a cherished figure in the West Liberty community.

West Liberty President Dr. Tim Borchers, although never having had the opportunity to meet Gary personally, expressed his deep admiration, stating, “I have the impression that he was a kind man who loved West Liberty.” Gary West was not only an ardent supporter but also an eloquent advocate for his alma mater. He credited the education he received at West Liberty for laying the foundation of his extraordinary success as a business leader and entrepreneur, remarking that without West Liberty, he might not have known what a balance sheet or profit and loss statement is.

Gary and his wife of over 60 years, Phyllis (Flip) West, both West Liberty University graduates, were the most generous benefactors in the school’s history. Their contributions funded numerous renovations throughout the campus, including the Guy H. and Mary Ann West School of Business Scholarship Endowment, the renovation of West Family Stadium, the construction of the West Family Athletic Complex, and a significant donation to the Gary E. West College of Business Scholarship Program. Just last week, the university unveiled plans for the Appalachian Aquatic Conservation Center, a project made possible by the Wests’ donation of land and a building adjacent to the WLU campus.

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Dr. Ann Saurbier, dean of the Gary E. West College of Business, emphasized that Gary West’s influence on the university’s student experience will be a lasting tribute. His generosity and dedication to the College of Business have significantly enhanced programs and the overall student experience at West Liberty University.

Lynn Ullom, the athletic director, shared his memories of Gary West, describing him as a kindhearted person who inspired others and made a lasting impression on the WLU campus. The entire West Liberty community extends heartfelt condolences to Gary West’s family.

Gary West received several prestigious honors for his contributions, including induction into the West Liberty Alumni Wall of Honor in 1993, membership in the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2006, and the title of West Virginia Wholesale Distribution Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995. In 2021, the WLU Foundation honored him and Flip with the first-ever Lifetime Impact of Philanthropy Award.

Beyond his financial contributions, Gary West provided invaluable guidance and leadership to the university through his involvement with the West Liberty Foundation’s executive committee and board of directors. Betsy Delk, executive director of the foundation, acknowledged Gary’s enduring impact on the organization and shared fond memories of their meetings.

Details regarding funeral arrangements and a memorial service to honor Gary West’s extraordinary life will be released at a later date, allowing the West Liberty community and beyond to pay their respects to this remarkable man and his profound legacy.

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