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CU Groundhog Day Celebrates West Virginia Heritage

By Tsivia Chonoles
On February 11, 2016

Grand Groundhog Watcher, Amy Shuler Goodwin, gives interviews to local news outlets after the ceremony. 
Photo by Tsivia Chonoles


          This year saw the 38th annual Groundhog Day Breakfast here at Concord University. The breakfast is hosted and paid for by the Advancement Office as a way to “bring the local community in with people here at Concord and build and keep relations with alumni,” said Concord University President Kendra Boggess.

    The breakfast was started 38 years ago in 1978 by Mr. R. T. Hill, former chair of Concord’s Geography department. “He just wanted to do something to highlight Appalachian heritage, from what I understand,” said Vice President for Advancement Alicia Besenyei, who introduced and presented the certificate to the Grand Groundhog Watcher. According to Besenyei, planning for the event usually starts about six months beforehand, when a nomination form for the Grand Groundhog Watcher goes around as a write-in ballot. Hill’s original intentions behind starting the annual breakfast is a main factor that goes into choosing the speaker. This year’s Grand Groundhog Watcher was Amy Shuler-Goodwin, the West Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Tourism.

“First of all I was honored,” Goodwin said about receiving the invitation two months ago, “I just took a very quick look back at some of the past recipients, like Hershel “Woody” Williams, who is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner; reporter Barbara Hawkins, who was […] in a time when women were just really making themselves known in the field of journalism. So it was an honor just to be in a list of people who I admire and who I call friends.” Goodwin spoke about her experiences as Commissioner of Tourism, letting people know just how robust the West Virginia travel and tourism industry is, and how much they are doing to bring more people into the industry and boost West Virginia’s economy. “I wanted to get across the message of it’s not just the beautiful landscapes that we have in the mountain state, it’s the lots of things to see and do. It is a great place for families, a great place for couples.”

During her speech, Goodwin spoke about an opportunity that she had to go rock climbing with one of the best in the world, as well as what she considers to be one of the most important aspect of the tourism industry: those employees who work what some may consider menial jobs. “... Again, it’s really great to flash up pictures of me rock-climbing or white-water rafting or listening to Mountain Stage, but what always strikes me are folks like Ryan and Alexa [from Aramark] in the back. Those are the folks who are running this industry, not me; they’re running it. Anytime I go out I meet everybody who is, literally, behind the curtain, because I get to be out here talking about it, but those are the folks that are making it happen.” 

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