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WVU alumnus, utility executive Charles Bayless named new president at Tech

Charles E. Bayless

Charles E. Bayless

Charles E. Bayless, a native West Virginian and business executive long recognized as one of the most respected leaders in the nation’s utility industry, has been named president of the West Virginia University Institute of Technology effective April 4, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. announced today (Feb. 11).

WVU’s Board of Governors and the Higher Education Policy Commission approved the appointment Friday.

Bayless said he plans to make himself available for campus consultations prior to the April start date. He will also be formally introduced to the campus and local community later this month.

A 1968 Tech graduate who has headed major utilities from New Hampshire to Arizona , Bayless was chosen for the top post at the Montgomery school from a field of three finalists and 40 applicants. He replaces Dr. Galan “Lanny” Janeksela, who has been serving as interim president since the retirement of Dr. Karen LaRoe last year.

Bayless, 62, is a Kanawha County native who also earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and a law degree – both from WVU – and an MBA in finance from the University of Michigan .

“I am more than pleased that Charles Bayless will be WVU Tech's next president,” Hardesty said. “I am excited. His education, experience, commitment and personality will make him a terrific asset, not only to the institution, but also to the Greater Kanawha Valley and Southern West Virginia . We are committed to supporting his efforts during the years to come, and look forward to having him as a part of the WVU leadership team.”

Gov. Joe Manchin applauded the appointment, saying “WVU and the Tech campus are to be commended for their effectiveness in attracting such a quality individual as Charles Bayless. He is without a doubt a respected CEO who has tremendous experience leading successful organizations. And the fact that he is a West Virginian is truly a plus.”

On behalf of the Higher Education Policy Commission, Secretary Mike Garrison added, “I am pleased to approve the appointment of Charles Bayless as the new president of WVU Tech. Charles is a proven leader who understands the importance of WVU Tech to the Kanawha Valley and all of Southern West Virginia . I commend President David Hardesty and the WVU Board of Governors for their foresight and attention to this very important matter and look forward to working with the WVU team in the future.”

Bayless said he is “thrilled and honored” at the chance to return to his home state and his alma mater, WVU Tech.

“Tech is where it all began, really,” Bayless said. “My professors at Tech gave me a whole foundation of learning to build my career upon. It’s time to give back.”

Bayless grew up in Dunbar and Nitro, in West Virginia ’s famed “ Chemical Valley ,” where his father worked as a laborer at Union Carbide, and then later as a small business owner who took advantage of economic opportunities in the boom years after World War II.

His mother was a high school teacher, and both his parents valued books and learning. Young Charlie Bayless attended Dunbar Elementary School , Nitro High School and then Greenbrier Military School , where he ran track.

At WVU in the fall of 1960, however, the freshman physics major didn’t run fast enough in the classroom to keep up – and found himself looking at a less-than-stellar grade-point-average midway through that first semester.

He went home to Nitro and joined the Army – where he more than made the grade as an electronics expert assigned to Nike-Hercules missile batteries in New York and Greenland .

In 1964, his hitch was up – and he came back home to give college another go.

This time, things were different.

He enrolled in WVU Tech as an electrical engineering major, met his wife to be and began drawing up a circuit for his future. Four years later, the newly recharged student was back in Morgantown to attend both graduate school in electrical engineering and law school at WVU’s College of Law .

Bayless worked on his engineering and law degrees concurrently, earning an engineering graduate degree from WVU in 1971 and a law degree in June 1972.

His degrees quickly opened doors in the corporate world, and in 1972, he signed as an attorney at Consumers Power Co. in Jackson , Mich. , working his way up the company chain there by drawing on both his engineering and law education.

He stayed in Michigan for nine years, leaving in 1989 to take a job at the Public Service Co. in New Hampshire , where he was a senior vice president and chief financial officer.

A move to Arizona followed in 1991 when he joined Tuscon Electric Power Co., where he served in the same capacities as New Hampshire and later became chief executive officer.

In 1998, he joined the Illinois Power Co.’s Illinova Corp., an integrated electric and gas utility. He retired as chairman, president and chief executive officer in 1999. Illinova merged with Dynergy in early 2000, and Bayless serves on that board as chairman of both the audit committee and the corporate governance and nominating committee.

He is also on the board of Patina Oil and Gas, Primary Energy and several small high-tech companies, while serving as a senior advisor to Chanin Capital Partners.

Bayless’ involvement with the Boy Scouts of America is extensive, and he currently serves on the national board of advisors and is past member of the national board of directors.

He is the recipient of the “CEO of the Year” bronze and silver medals and also received Wall Street Transcript’s “CEO of the Year” bronze medal.

The power industry during Bayless’s tenure had its share of battles, but through it all, he was applauded for his integrity and calm leadership -- a fact not lost on WVU Board of Governors Chairman Doug Leech, a Morgantown banking executive who oversees the University’s governing board.

“The entire Board of Governors welcomes Mr. Bayless as the president of WVU Tech,” Leech said. “Throughout his career, he has demonstrated himself as a leader. He will provide strong guidance for WVU Tech and will be a valuable contributor to our entire University community.”

What Bayless wants to do now, he said, is help ensure Tech’s place in West Virginia , which, in turn, will help West Virginia stake its claim in the world.

“Tech is vital to the future of West Virginia ,” Bayless said. “Since March 2001, West Virginia has lost over 10,000 manufacturing jobs, and West Virginians earn about 20 percent less than the national average. Tech alone cannot solve the problem, but it is an integral part to a solution that must include higher education. Joan and I are looking forward to the opportunity to move once again.”

His wife, Joan Schulter Bayless, is an Allentown , Pa. , native and 1967 Tech graduate who taught public school in Preston County , while Bayless was in law school. The couple has two children – Charles Jr., a third-year law student at WVU, who was born in Morgantown when the Baylesses were resident assistants at Towers, and Lisa, who is working on a master’s degree at Boston University .

WVU Tech is a regional campus of WVU and is located in Montgomery , 30 miles southeast of the state capital in Charleston .

Tech’s approximately 1,800 students take advantage of top-notch baccalaureate degree offerings in engineering, engineering technologies, the sciences, math, computer science, nursing, business programs, social science programs, and the humanities. Several associate degrees are also offered through a separate Community and Technical College on the WVU Tech campus. Many of the students who earn an associate degree continue on for a four-year program at WVU Tech.

Tech baccalaureate graduates have the highest average starting salary of all in-state colleges and universities.

Tech’s undergraduate engineering program last year was applauded nationally by U.S. News & World Report magazine in its annual “ America ’s Best Colleges” publication. In 2004, WVU Tech was ranked fourth among comprehensive colleges in the South by this same magazine.

To access a biography on President Bayless, go to www.wvutech.edu/pressreleases/President_ Bayless/Bayless_bio.html.