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WVU Extension Safety and Health awarded first of its kind endowment for workforce development

Nancy Valentine Haper and David Harper

West Virginia University Extension Safety and Health received its first endowment to establish scholarship assistance for individuals seeking to obtain advanced certifications in safety and health. Nancy Valentine Harper of Rivesville, West Virginia, pledged a portion of her estate to support scholarships and a training room at WVU Extension’s Safety and Health at One Waterfront Place.  

While the Safety and Health program has previously received grants and corporate scholarships for program efforts, this is the first time a scholarship program has been established to support individuals. The David Warren Harper, M.S., Workforce Development Fund was established in memory of Harper’s late husband, David Harper, who had a career in occupational safety and health management. Launching a professional career with his WVU degrees as the foundation, he started as a public school teacher. He then provided safety, health and loss control services to five states as a safety director for multiple construction companies and industrial businesses, and as a loss control director for insurance companies. As a WVU employee, he managed the WVU Office of Insurance and Risk Management.   

“My overall philosophy for providing financial support to the Safety and Health program is captured in the quote, ‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’ I hope that by providing scholarships to people that they will be ‘fed’ for a lifetime by acquiring academic knowledge, skills and abilities to improve their own lives, the lives of others, their communities and the world,” Nancy Valentine Harper said.  

This endowment provides the first scholarship assistance to students enrolled in Safety and Health’s educational and training programs. The first priority will be to provide services to under-resourced residents of West Virginia by offering innovative, flexible learning opportunities, degrees and certifications for a wide variety of learners including, but not limited to, rural, first-generation students, veterans, minorities and those with disabilities.  

“We want to help people in need and this gift allows us to give scholarships to students who need assistance in getting the training they want,” Mark Fullen, WVU Extension Safety and Health director, said. “I think Nancy saw that we focus on teaching occupational safety and health identification and prevention in the workplace and that connected with the work that her husband spent his life doing.” 

“The field that my husband spent his professional career working in is a very important area of study for both academic degrees and advanced training,” Valentine Harper explained. "By establishing a planned gift in my husband’s memory, I believe that lives will be saved and accidents will be reduced well into the future as a result of Safety and Health’s various programs.”  

In addition to the scholarship fund, a training room at Safety and Health is being named in honor and memory of her husband. The WVU Safety and Health Extension David Warren Harper Training Room offers a space to learn and practice and will be used to deliver safety and health training to students taking courses in a Safety and Health program. 

“This new training room is part of a larger training center and faculty and staff office space that includes an additional training room, a video conference room, a conference room, offices and storage,” Fullen said. “The new training room will honor David and serve as a great space for learning about all aspects of occupational safety and health in the workplace including electrical safety, first aid and CPR, oil and gas industry hazard awareness and much more.” 

Valentine Harper wants her gift to inspire other people to give and know that estate plans are an option to support programs like WVU Extension’s Safety and Health.  

“This endowment will have a huge impact for Safety and Health by providing financial assistance and support for generations to come,” Jorge H. Atiles, WVU Extension Dean of Extension and Engagement, said. “Nancy’s goal through these scholarships is to give people the opportunity to be trained and certified in her husband's name because he was very passionate about safety and health.”  

Through her planned gift, Harper has also established the David Warren Harper, M.S., and Nancy Valentine Harper, Ed.D., 4-H Youth Development Fund to support programmatic needs that help reduce the costs for 4-H campers at WVU Jackson’s Mill, and the David Warren Harper M.S., and Nancy Valentine Harper, Ed.D., Scholarship Fund to support WVU students earning a degree in an academic program that aims to improve lives and livelihoods. 

Valentine Harper was a lifelong 4-H member and retired as a national 4-H program leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. David was very active in FFA. Both are two-time graduates of WVU. Nancy earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling psychology and a doctorate in higher education administration. David earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies, health and physical education, and secondary education and a master’s degree in industrial safety and safety education. 

Harper’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. 

WVU Extension Safety and Health Extension offers many trainings and programs to help individuals lead safe, prosperous lives. To learn more about what WVU Extension Safety and Health Extension offers, visit  

If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.  



CONTACT: Sophia Darmelio 

Marketing Strategist 

WVU Extension