- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Marshall University President Stephen Kopp was remembered on Thursday as a devoted leader with a passion for higher education.

Kopp became ill at home Wednesday night and was taken to a Huntington hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 9 p.m., Marshall said in a news release. The university did not provide details.

Kopp was 63.

“Dr. Kopp came to Marshall with a vision for growth and opportunity for its students, the faculty, the staff and the entire Huntington community,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Thursday in a written statement. “Throughout his more than nine years as president, he dedicated himself every day to fulfilling that vision and ensuring the success of students not just at Marshall but across his adopted home state.”

Kopp had served as Marshall’s president since 2005. During his tenure, he oversaw $200 million in new buildings and renovations, and Marshall established schools of pharmacy, physical therapy and public health. The university also re-established an undergraduate engineering program.

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said he met with Kopp on Monday to discuss higher education priorities for the 2015 legislative session.

“For the past nine years, his leadership at Marshall University and his passion for education has enriched not only the city of Huntington but the entire state of West Virginia. I, along with the entire Mountaineer family, appreciate his service, his dedication and his contributions. He will be greatly missed,” Gee said Thursday in a written statement.

Michael Sellards, chairman of the university’s Board of Governors, said the school had “lost one of the most dedicated and long-serving presidents” in its history.

“President Kopp was thoroughly devoted to Marshall University, and especially to its students,” Paul Hill, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, said in a written statement. “Under his thoughtful leadership, Marshall has thrived as a place for students to learn, to grow, and to give back to our state and the people around them. Our higher education community is diminished by President Kopp’s passing.”

The university’s leadership team met Thursday to review plans for continuity of operations. Marshall University General Counsel F. Layton Cottrill said he is in the process of compiling a list of possible search firms for both an interim and permanent presidential successor.

An interim president will likely be named in the next several weeks. Until then, Marshall cabinet members, most of whom are senior vice presidents or vice presidents, will be responsible for their individual areas.

Before coming to Marshall, Kopp served in leadership posts at Midwestern University, Central Michigan University and Ohio University.

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