Early Spring! Concord Charlie Does Not See His Shadow
Athens, W.Va. – At the 29th Annual Groundhog Day celebration at Concord University on February 2, Dr. Jerry Beasley, president of the University, announced that “Concord Charlie,” the region’s most respected weather prognosticator, did not see his shadow thus indicating that Four Seasons Country can expect an early spring this year. The celebration, held in the Student Center Ballroom, also honored the induction of a new Grand Groundhog Watcher. Barbara Hawkins, a recently retired political editor from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and Princeton Times, and community activist, received the special honor and gave remarks at the annual breakfast.
Hawkins has observed and written about politics for nearly 30 years, and continues to serve in a lesser capacity, with the two sister newspapers. She has served in a variety of roles including Princeton bureau chief, investigative reporter, city editor, state editor, and editorial director for the Princeton Times. During her tenure she received many awards including the first national award for a member of the Telegraph staff. Additional honors came from the Va. Press Association, W.Va. Press Association and the W.Va. Press Women. Beyond the newspaper, Hawkins was honored as “Citizen of the Year” by the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce for her help in implementing an Emergency 911 Center, establishing a town square in Princeton, and for her work with domestic violence and child abuse issues. Being inducted as a Grand Groundhog Watcher was not the first honor that Hawkins received from Concord University. In 2001, she was honored with the Linda Fink Community Service Award by the University.
The celebration began with a welcome by Dr. Joseph Manzo, director of the Appalachian Studies Program at Concord University, and a former W.Va. professor of the year. Next, Michael Curry, vice president for admissions and financial aid, provided an invocation thanking God for the public servants in all levels of government, the Concord community, faculty, and students, and for the blessing of “Concord Charlie.” Next, the guests, informally known as the “Grand Groundhog Watcher’s Association,” enjoyed a ham ‘n’ eggs breakfast provided by ARAMARK, Concord’s catering service.
Following breakfast, Dr. Beasley came to the podium to share the much-awaited prognostication. Prior to the announcement, he took time to honor the memory of R.T. Hill, founder of the Groundhog Day celebration, the events organizers, and also honored Charlie’s request to recognize “prognosticator-in-training” Cory Henderson, chief meteorologist for NBC 6. Then he made the important announcement.
“As all of you can see this morning, shadows were not in abundance in the area, and Charlie, like the rest of you, did not see his shadow and that’s good news for all of us, and it looks like we’re going to have an early spring,” Beasley shared.
He then introduced Hawkins as the new Grand Groundhog Watcher, and warned that the long-protected anonymity of the groundhog was in danger with such a seasoned reporter on campus. Beasley also passed on “Concord Charlie’s” sentiments and said that he applauded Hawkins and was pleased with her selection for this honor.
“Like everybody else I got up hoping that Charlie wouldn’t see his shadow and you gave us really good news,” Hawkins said, adding that now she can be a “real hero” since she helped convince “Concord Charlie” not to see his shadow. Hawkins then added, “But I am really disappointed because I thought Jerry was going to take me with him this morning to meet Charlie because I have lots of questions for him.”
Hawkins then took time to reflect back on her career and when she first came to the area after serving as a political reporter in Virginia. She said she did not believe at the time, as her friends from West Virginia had indicated, that “there’s nothing like West Virginia politics,” but soon came to discover that they were right. One of her most memorable first experiences was working with another Grand Groundhog Watcher, in fact, the first person to receive the honor, A. James Manchin. She said after seeing him come through town in a striped suit on a striped caboose “waving and blowing kisses,” she thought she “had seen it all.”
Frustration came with her long career, Hawkins shared, including the observation that many people lacked interest in state and local politics. “Politics is our lifeblood. Politics makes the world go round…we need to take part in it and in government elections,” she said. She then thanked Concord University for hosting a candidate’s forum last year that she noted was the best attended debate she had ever attended.
In conclusion, Hawkins said “I never thought I’d be a Grand Groundhog Watcher…and it’s an honor to me…because it comes from Concord University and a community of people whom I have come to respect, honor and love… and you’ve provided me with a lot of special memories.”
Manzo then thanked the guests for attending and invited them to take part in the celebration next year.
PHOTO: Ms. Barbara Hawkins accepts the framed “Grand Groundhog Watcher” certificate from Dr. Jerry Beasley.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Jesse Call, a senior majoring in political science and history, wrote this press release. His hometown is Pocahontas, Va.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY’S “GRAND GROUNDHOG WATCHERS”
1978, A. James Manchin (deceased)
Former Secretary of State and State Treasurer of West Virginia
1979, Jim Comstock (deceased)
Editor of The West Virginia Hillbilly
1980, Shirley Donnelly (deceased)
Historian and columnist for Beckley Newspapers Inc.
1981, Dr. E. Meade McNeill (deceased)
Professor of Biology at Concord
1982, Don West (deceased)
Director of the Appalachian South Folk Life Center, Pipestem, W.Va.
1983, James Dent (deceased)
Humor columnist and cartoonist for The Charleston Gazette
1984, Dr. Charles Kenneth Sullivan
Executive Director of the West Virginia Humanities Council
1985, George A. Daugherty
“The Earl of Elkview,” a prominent Charleston attorney
1986, Ken Hechler
Former W.Va. Secretary of State and former Congressman
1987, Edward J. Cabbell
Appalachian scholar, founder of the John Henry Foundation
1988, R. T. Hill (deceased)
Father of the Concord Groundhog Day Breakfast and former Professor of Geography at Concord
1989, Reverend Harry Christie
Former pastor of Princeton Presbyterian Church
1990, Dr. James Bailey (deceased)
Co-founder of Veterinary Associates of Princeton and a Mercer County civic leader
1991, Nelrose Richards Price
Retired Registrar of Concord, 41 years of service
1992, Jean Battlo
Published poet and playwright from McDowell County
1993, Katharine Tierney (deceased)
Mrs. Tierney was a Bluefield civic leader and longtime friend of Concord
1994, Denise Giardina
McDowell County native, successful novelist focusing on the vibrant culture of the coalfields
1995, Thomas Conlin
Former West Virginia Symphony Artistic Director and Conductor
1996, Frankie Ferrante (deceased)
Owned Mercer County restaurant, Frankie’s La Salute, and was an active civic and community leader
1997, Dr. J. Elliott Blaydes, Jr.
Retired Bluefield eye specialist and philanthropist
1998, Recent Concord Retirees
Harold Bailey, John Seago, Paul Morgan, Bill Ryan, Bill Wells, Beryle Santon, Violet Martin, Kevin O’Sullivan, Ed Lowe, Dale Geiger, Carl Chapman, Shelva Rarick, Bernard Keirnan, Karl Fezer, Kenneth Baker
1999, Jerry Jarrell
Retired Director of the National Hurricane Center, a Concord alumnus and Raleigh County native
2000, Andrew Paterno
President and Chief Executive Officer of Acordia Mid-Atlantic, a Concord alumnus and Kanawha County native
2001, Andy Ridenour, Larry Groce
Ridenour is originally from Washington, D.C., Groce is originally from Texas, both are with West Virginia Public Radio
2002, Dr. J. Douglas Machesney
Concord’s Vice President for Development from 1986 through 2002
2003, Dr. Jay Banks
Retired physician and author, lives in Union, W.Va., with his wife, “Marty”
2004, Dr. Ancella Bickley
West Virginian and African American educator, historian and author
2005, Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
2006, Kate Long
Writer, bluegrass musician