Potomac State College was created in 1901 as "Keyser Preparatory Branch of the West Virginia University" by an act of the legislature at the urging of Mineral County Delegate Francis M. Reynolds, who was concerned about the quality of secondary education in the area. The bill provided an appropriation of $20,000 for buildings and empowered the governor to appoint a Board of Regents to govern the school.
Colonel Thomas B. Davis, a local businessman, donated more than 16 acres of land as a site for the new school. That location, formerly Fort Fuller, was a critical fortress in maintaining open roads leading to the South Branch and Shenandoah Valleys and in retaining Union control of the B&O Railroad during the Civil War; the railroad was a major supply route for the Union Army. Two notable figures each served as commander of Fort Fuller, also called Fort Kelly; Major Lew Wallace, who later wrote Ben Hur, and Major Benjamin Harrison, future President of the United States. The land on which the school is built came to be known as Fort Hill.
When it opened its doors for classes in October 1902 as West Virginia Preparatory School, the institution consisted of a multi-purpose administration building fronted by a four-sided clock tower. The building housed offices, classrooms, the library, and gymnasium. Lloyd F. Friend was appointed principal and teacher and was joined by four other teachers.
Potomac State continues today as a fully integrated division of West Virginia University enacted under a higher education reform measure, House Bill 2224, passed by the 2003 state legislative session. The integration became official on July 1, 2005.
Some of the organizational and operational changes that took effect that year included:
- Instead of the title of president and regional vice president of WVU, the College's lead administrator would be referred to as campus provost.
- The Board of Advisers was dissolved and a Board of Visitors with authority and responsibility similar to those of visiting committees for colleges in Morgantown was established.
- The Potomac State campus received access to STAR, WVU’s online customer service system. Using BANNER software, STAR enables students to register for classes, check their grades, learn their financial status, pay bills and more.
- Potomac State students received access to Mountaineer Information Express, or MIX, the University’s Web site for faculty and students. Students can log on to MIX to check their e-mail, register for classes or browse the Internet.
- Potomac State offerd its first bachelor’s degree, a bachelor of applied science degree with an emphasis in criminal justice.
- An enhanced scholarship program was initiated between the two campuses. New freshmen who enroll at Potomac State and transfer to WVU will be eligible for WVU scholarships they would have received had they initially enrolled in Morgantown.
- A $19.5 million, 358-bed residence hall was included in WVU’s capital improvements bond package. Ground breaking began in the spring of 2006 and the building was completed in fall 2007.
"The overwhelming reason Potomac State alumni cite for their love of the college is its smallness, smallness that nurtures a sense of belonging and of family, provides the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with the faculty and staff, and facilitates formation of life-long friendships."
An Excerpt from "Potomac State College of West Virginia University -- The College History Series"
by Dinah Courrier, Faculty Emeriti
To purchase a copy of the book, contact: Potomac State College Book Store
101 fort Avenue
Keyser, WV 26726