The Daily Athenaeum's most influential person of 2011
Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011
Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011 03:12
1. Milan "Mike" Puskar
Milan "Mike" Puskar, the co-founder and former chairman of generic drug maker Mylan Inc., made an impact on the West Virginia University community before and after his death on October 7. He died following a prolonged battle with cancer at age 77.
Puskar donated tens of millions of dollars to WVU throughout his lifetime, as well as contributing his name to the football stadium.
Puskar served 25 years as president and 16 years as chairman of Mylan Incorporated, a Fortune 500 company that produces and distributes generic drugs to more than 150 countries and territories.
In 2003, Puskar donated $20 million to the Building Greatness fundraising campaign, a gift which remains the largest one-time cash gift in WVU history.
"The West Virginia University Foundation and WVU have lost a great friend in Mike Puskar," said WVU Foundation President and CEO R. Wayne King in a statement following Puskar's death. "He embodied the true meaning of generosity by transforming and enriching lives through his philanthropy. From academics to athletics, Mike's love for WVU was evident in the depth and breadth of his support. His legacy of giving to WVU and the Morgantown community will live on for decades to come. Mike's family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers."
The University used $14.5 million of the gift for athletics, and $5.5 million supported academic and leadership programs. In 2005, Puskar was the first recipient of the Foundation's Outstanding Philanthropist Award, and the award was renamed to honor Puskar in June. He also served on the WVU Foundation's Board of Directors from 1997 to 2000.
Mylan Inc. gave more than $6 million to the WVU Foundation during Puskar's tenure as chairman. Puskar received an honorary doctorate from WVU in 2000 and was inducted into WVU's Order of Vandalia in 2003, an honor given in recognition of outstanding service to the University.
2. Oliver Luck
WHAT: WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck hired Dana Holgorsen as the head coach in-waiting and eventually promoted him to head coach after former head coach Bill Stewart resigned in June. Holgorsen won the Big East Conference in his first season and led WVU to a BCS appearance for the first time since 2007-08. He also pushed for beer to be sold at Milan Puskar Stadium for the first time this fall, which led to a decrease in the number of alcohol-related incidents at the stadium.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Luck played a key role in helping West Virginia join the Big 12 Conference. Pending a lawsuit against the Big East, the Mountaineers will join the conference for the 2012-13 season.
QUOTE: "When Pitt and Syracuse made the decision to leave the Big East and join another conference, I think all the remaining Big East schools really had to take a step back and think about what was best for that specific university," he said.
3. Katherine Bomkamp
WHAT: West Virginia University sophomore political science student Katherine Bomkamp designed an invention called the "Pain Free Socket" which is a prosthetic addition for amputees suffering from phantom limb pain, a pain felt in a limb which is no longer there. The device works by applying heat to the amputee's joint socket through thermal biofeedback. The invention is currently waiting for a patent.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Bomkamp was featured as one of Glamour Magazine's "21 Amazing Young Women." She was also featured in The Prototype column of the New York Times.
QUOTE: "I wanted to find a way to treat the problem holistically without the use of these drugs," she said. "Before, it was a project, and now it is a business opportunity that I've created a company around."
4. Daniel Brewster
WHAT: Daniel Brewster approached The Daily Athenaeum in October to publish a column titled "Enough is enough." The column also chronicled an incident at a WVU football game when a young man approached Brewster with "words of condemnation" and "defamatory terms" concerning his sexual orientation.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: The WVU President's Office for Social Justice opened an investigation of the allegations of harassment by a student against a professor following the printing of the column. Brewster said the day after the column ran that he received more than 700 emails and Facebook messages from around the country. He said he spent almost eight hours replying to each message.
QUOTE: "I've lived my life telling people that I was asexual, but I constantly fight for the rights of others. I would always defend someone else, but not myself. I have no doubt that from now on I'm going to be more confident in that," he said. "This wasn't about me or coming out. It was about the fact that I was going to use my experience to help others. This wasn't intended to be a story – it was a chance to use what happened to me as an educational tool for students, staff and faculty here at WVU."
5. Brock Burwell
WHAT: Brock Burwell was the little mascot under his uncle Rock Wilson long before he became WVU's Mountaineer Mascot for the last two years. Burwell served as the alternate mascot for two years prior to being named the Mountaineer for 2010. Burwell has attended hundreds of WVU athletic events and other WVU-related events. Burwell has embodied Mountaineer pride during his tenure as the mascot.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: While any moment seeing the Mountaineer leading the team out of the tunnels on gameday is memorable, Burwell's final run on the field prior to the Pitt game could be one of our most memorable moments. He's always cheering on the Mountaineers, rain, snow or shine. Burwell also appeared briefly on ESPN's College GameDay when the set was brought to Morgantown.
QUOTE: "Just like (former WVU quarterback) Pat White said, ‘Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,' and there is a lot of truth in that," he said. "I've been all over the region and all over the country, and it's just something different. In Morgantown, and in West Virginia, there's just something different about being a Mountaineer."