Wvfunnyman, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
For many years, the bond between Marshall University and Woodlands Retirement Community has remained strong. Both are pillars of Huntington, WV, but this relationship goes beyond proximity. Many Woodlands residents have a deep connection to the local university, whether they’re alumni, former faculty or the proud parents (and grandparents) of Marshall graduates. Even those who aren’t personally affiliated with the school before moving to Woodlands soon become part of the Herd.
The Marshall Alumni Association plays an important role in this inclusivity, and they are always looking for new ways in which the two organizations can support one another. The relationship with Woodlands is so special and it goes way back nearly 30 years.
“Even though Woodlands residents aren’t right here on campus, they’re in Huntington and, you know, that’s not far away. We can easily take elements from campus directly to them, so we can share and experience things together,” Matthew Hayes, former executive director of the Alumni Association says. This premise led to the popular Marshall Monday series that brings new presentations to the Hampton Room on the first Monday of each month. Topics range from research, business and medicine to everything in between, with residents regularly contributing new ideas and subjects for discussion. “You don’t have to be Marshall alumni to attend,” he explains. “You can be a friend of the university or just be curious about the event or what we’re talking about that night.”
Although the series took an extended break in the midst of the pandemic, everyone was enthusiastic about its return last fall. Since then, knowledgeable speakers have been welcomed to Woodlands every month. Hayes attends each session to greet familiar faces and new attendees alike. “The residents are so engaged; they’re plugged in. They’re asking the right question,” he shares, especially during a recent presentation on cybersecurity featuring Marshall’s IT team. As they discussed ways to protect digital assets, from IP addresses to personal information, it was obvious that both sides were enjoying themselves immensely.
When asked about his favorite part of the continued collaboration between the university and Woodlands, Hayes specifically cites Marshall Mondays. “I always position myself where I can see both sides of the room. I like to have a good view of the resident group’s reactions and the presenters,” he reveals. This strategy paid off during February’s presentation on global environmental studies. “Thinking back to how they lit up when they saw footage from all over the world, it was incredible. They were mesmerized by things they’d never seen before—things that we don’t even have a name for yet.” It’s his favorite program up to this point, but he has faith that each session will only get better.
Bringing residents on campus
Still, the Marshall Monday series isn’t the only opportunity Woodlands residents have to interact with students and staff. With only a short drive separating our community from the campus, shuttle services are regularly offered. Hayes says, “We’ve hosted tours of numerous buildings specifically for Woodlands Retirement Community. I love meeting residents in the parking lot and ensuring they have VIP treatment and access every minute that they spend on campus. They may see things changing over time, but it’s not until they set foot in a recently renovated space that they understand what we’re able to accomplish in it.” He’s already looking forward to showing the brand-new college business facility once it’s complete. Construction should begin soon, giving him another reason to invite residents on-site.
If you’ve ever attended one of the university’s legendary homecoming events, then you’ve likely run into some Woodlands residents. Everyone comes out to support the Marshall Thundering Herd football team between the pep rallies, tailgate parties and games. “Homecoming is really the ideal time for organic interactions between residents and students,” Hayes explains. “So many student organizations sponsor different activities and residents are always encouraged to come. It’s great to see new connections form because of good conversation.” He’s even watched residents become mentors to current students during homecoming. With more first-generation Marshall freshmen incoming each year, those opportunities to gain insight and guidance are becoming invaluable.
Looking to the future, the Alumni Associations’ primary goal is to continue fostering the relationship between Woodlands and Marshall University. They hope to introduce even more collaboration, whether it takes the form of student performances and art exhibitions within the community or exclusive dinner theater options on campus. “If you have a Marshall connection, being at Woodlands is as close as you could be to living on campus again,” Hayes says.
Experience all the options and all the excitement retirement should bring. Learn more about what the connection to Marshall University means to current residents and how you can reap the benefits by calling Woodlands home. Call 304-697-1620 today or schedule your visit to see Huntington’s premier retirement community.