Fairmont State University will honor graduates during the University’s 153rd Commencement to take place Friday, April 29 – Sunday, May 1 in the Feaster Center. The University will welcome Fairmont State Foundation President, Gary K. Bennett, West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice, Assistant Adjutant General and Special Assistant to the Director of the Air National Guard for Diversity and Inclusion, Brigadier General Christopher S. Walker, and West Virginia Secretary of State, the Honorable Mac Warner, as they each join the platform party throughout the weekend to provide Commencement addresses.
“Commencement is one of my favorite parts about campus life,” said Fairmont State University President, Mirta M. Martin. “Nothing quite matches the pride I feel when I see Falcon students achieve their goals, and I’m humbled to be part of Commencement, and watch as they become our newest alumni. It’s a special event for our students, made even more exceptional by our extraordinary slate of speakers.”
The University’s spring Commencement ceremonies will take place as follows:
Friday, April 29:
- 6 p.m. – Special Student Athlete Ceremony and Golden Jubilee Celebration for the Class of 1972 – Commencement address provided by Bennett
Saturday, April 30:
- 9 a.m. – College of Nursing Commencement and Pinning Ceremony – Commencement address provided by Secretary Warner
- Noon – College of Education, Health & Human Performance and Regents Bachelor of Arts – Commencement address provided by Secretary Warner
- 3 p.m. – College of Liberal Arts – Commencement address provided by Governor Justice
Sunday, May 1:
- Noon – College of Science & Technology – Commencement address provided by Brigadier General Walker
- 3 p.m. – College of Business & Aviation – Commencement address provided by Brigadier General Walker
Spring Commencement ceremonies will be open to all guests and tickets will not be issued for entry. Masks are strongly encouraged to be worn by all guests during the ceremonies.Those unable to attend may join virtually to view in real-time via an event livestream, available at www.fairmontstate.edu/153rd-commencement.
Commencement details will continue to be available at www.fairmontstate.edu/commencement.
Gary K. Bennett
Gary K. Bennett is originally from Webster Springs, West Virginia. Gary graduated from Webster Springs High School in 1968. Fairmont State College in 1972 with a B. S. in Business Administration with a major in accounting and West Virginia University with a Master's in Business Administration in 1973. Gary successfully completed the Uniform Certified Public Accountants exam in 1974.
After graduating from West Virginia University, Gary taught for West Virginia University as an instructor of accounting until 1980. In 1980 Gary returned to his alma mater to teach accounting and finance until he retired in May 2008 after 35 years of collegiate teaching. Gary also served as the Assistant Chair and the Assistant to the Dean of the School of Business since 1992. In addition to teaching full-time, Gary began practicing as a CPA in Fairmont in 1975 and retired from his business in 2016.
During his tenure at Fairmont State, Gary has served as the vice-president and secretary of the Faculty Senate, created and served as the faculty advisor of the Student Accountant Society, served as the faculty representative on Fairmont State Board of Advisors, and has been a member of various other University and School of Business Committees. Gary has been recognized for the Faculty Recognition Award and the William A. Boram Teaching Excellence Award and was named the Educator of the Year by the West Virginia Society of CPA's in 2002. He was twice awarded the outstanding committee chair by the West Virginia Society of CPA's. In 2007 Gary received the award for Alumnus of Achievement from Fairmont State Alumni Association.
As a leader in the community Bennett has served as the chairman of the Board of Directors of Fairmont General Hospital. He has also served as the Treasurer of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Marion County Rescue Squad, Fairmont General Hospital, Green Hills Country Club, and Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia. Gary has been a member of Fairmont State Foundation Board of Directors since 1982 and has served as Treasurer, Vice Chair and Chair during that time. Gary has also served as President of the Foundation on three occasions. In 2019, Gary was the recipient of the Fairmont State Foundation Outstanding Philanthropy Leadership Award.
Gary is married to the former Barbara Jo Dunn. Gary and Barbara have two children Brian and Lindsey and three grandchildren, Charlie, Lauren and Claire.
Governor Jim Justice
A Raleigh County native, Governor Justice is a West Virginian through and through. With an education from Marshall University and the Greenbrier Military Academy, Gov. Justice built a career in farming and energy. Yet, he always had a profound pull to give back to West Virginia through his time, talents and resources. In 2017, he was elected as the 36th governor of the State of West Virginia and has spent his tenure finding ways to grow tourism, enhance statewide infrastructure, develop new educational opportunities and set a bright fiscal future for West Virginia. In 2020, West Virginians re-elected Gov. Justice with almost two-thirds of the vote. The only West Virginian who rivals Gov. Justice’s popularity is his English Bulldog, Babydog, who captured the hearts of West Virginians everywhere as the face of the Governor’s “Do it for Babydog” vaccination sweepstakes. Whether it be special appearances on the biggest of stages, like the Governor’s State of the State address, or simply meeting people and shaking paws in her travels, Babydog always makes everyone smile everywhere that she and the Governor go.
Brigadier General Christopher S. Walker
Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker is Special Assistant to the Director of the Air National Guard (DANG) for Diversity and Inclusion. Through the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, he is detailed to provide ANG senior leader support to the Secretary of the Air Force (DAF) Office of Diversity and Inclusion (SAF/DI). His duties include providing strategic advice/guidance for Air Reserve Component (ARC) implementation of Air Force diversity and inclusion initiatives, identifying and recommending changes to policies and procedures, removing barriers and other practices that may have an unfair effect upon underrepresented Airmen and Guardians, assessing ARC implications of DAF IG Independent Racial Disparity Review, providing recommendations to address findings, monitoring progress toward goals, providing inputs for six-month and annual progress reports, managing ARC development and implementation of the GO INSPIRE diversity recruiting program initiated 1 Jan 2021, and advising senior leaders on initiatives to improve rated diversity.
Born in New York City, NY, General Walker began his Air Force career as a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. After Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB in 1989, he served as a C-130 navigator in weather reconnaissance and tactical airlift squadrons throughout the world, including an assignment as an airdrop planner in the Balkans CAOC in Vicenza, Italy and flying in various contingencies including Operations Provide Promise, Provide Comfort, and Provide Relief.
In 1997, General Walker left active duty to join the ANG and serve as a C-130H3 evaluator navigator, and has commanded at the squadron and group level. He served in various operations and contingencies such at OEF, OIF, Joint Guard/Joint Forge, and Volant Oak/Coronet Oak. He has served as a special assistant to the Director of Mobility Forces (DIRMOBFOR) at the 609th CAOC at Al Udied AB, Qatar, and he also served as civil aviation advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation with the Coalition Provisional Authority. He has served as the ANG Crisis Action Team Director, Acting Air Mobility Division Chief at the 609th CAOC, and ANG Deputy Director of Air, Space, and Information Operations. General Walker has also served as DIRMOBFOR in two major JCS-directed exercises in Korea. In 2019, he served as Dual-Status Commander of Joint Task Force- World Scout Jamboree (JTF-WSJ), commanding approximately 1000 soldiers, airmen, sailors, and DoD civilians providing security, logistics, and medical assistance to over 45,000 scouts and support staff from over 150 countries.
General Walker is a Master Navigator with over 5200 hours in WC-130 and C-130E/H/H3 aircraft, including over 400 combat and combat support hours.
Secretary of State Mac Warner
WV Secretary of State Mac Warner is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the West Virginia University School of Law. He also holds two Masters Degrees - one in International Law from the University of Virginia and one in Military Law from the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School.
During his 23-year career in the United States Army, Secretary Warner served on four continents, deploying to military hot spots around the world while also serving on the staff at the U.S. Army War College.
Prior to being elected West Virginia’s 30th Secretary of State, Secretary Warner served five years with the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan.
Since taking his oath of office on January 16, 2017, Secretary Warner has been recognized throughout the country for his innovation in cybersecurity, secure online voting, election preparation, and user-friendly business registration and licensing.
Under his leadership, West Virginia became the first state in the nation to offer voting by mobile device for overseas citizens and WV military personnel deployed to remote areas of the world during election time. In 2020, voting from a computer, phone or tablet was expanded for use by citizens with severe mobility disabilities.
In addition to his duties as the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary Warner also serves as the state’s chief business official. Today in West Virginia, there are more than 138,000 for-profit and nonprofit entities licensed to do business in the Mountain State.
In 2018, Secretary Warner worked with the WV Legislature to establish the WV One Stop Business Center -- the first five-agency single-location business and licensing center in the nation. An application to open a new business in West Virginia that used to take up to two weeks can now take less than two hours.
Under Secretary Warner’s leadership, “It has NEVER been easier to open a new business in West Virginia!”
Secretary Warner is a sixth generation West Virginian. Both he and his wife, Debbie, grew up in the Kanawha Valley. They are the parents of four grown children, two sons and two daughters, all of whom are serving or have served in the United States military. They are also the proud grandparents of six grandchildren.
Secretary Warner is currently serving his second four-year term as West Virginia's 30th Secretary of State.