- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

MONTGOMERY, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia University Institute of Technology has held its final commencement ceremony on its Montgomery campus.

Media outlets report that nearly 180 graduates received their diplomas Saturday.

West Virginia University is completing its move of WVU Tech’s operations from Montgomery to Beckley this summer.

Campus President Carolyn Long said during the ceremony that the Montgomery campus will be missed, “but we’re confident in our future as an institution because this is about the students. You are the soul of WVU Tech, and that’s not going anywhere.”

Saturday’s keynote speaker was Bruce Wiegmann, a NASA aerospace engineer and 1981 WVU Tech graduate. He pointed out that he experienced downsizing early in his professional life that took an emotional toll. But he said it “planted seeds of determination in my character.”

Student body president Rob Leibel said he started his college career in Montgomery, “and I’m happy I finished here.” He told fellow graduates that as they return to the Beckley campus, “we’ll still come back as family.”

Earlier this year, Olathe, Kansas-based KVC Health Systems announced it will take over several buildings at the WVU Tech campus in Montgomery.

KVC, which specializes in behavioral health care and child welfare, plans to give children coming out of the foster care system a chance to earn two-year degrees at no cost to them.

Shawn Ferguson completed his engineering degree at WVU Tech in 1999 and watched his nephew graduate this year.

“I had a lot of great memories,” Ferguson said. “I hate to see a town dying like this … For the college to thrive, it’s probably better to be down there in a more central location in West Virginia. But when you’re from this area, you hate to see business leave, and that’s all this is, really.”

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