In recent weeks, two events have come out of the Marshall University community that are worth noting. They point to Marshall's future and its past.
The first is the construction of a bridge in Lincoln County near the Wayne County community of East Lynn. Contractors are using an innovative construction method that was developed at Marshall and at West Virginia University.
Greg Michaelson, an assistant professor of engineering at Marshall, and Karl Barth, a professor of structural engineering at WVU, have assisted the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance and the West Virginia Division of Highways in developing West Virginia's first press-brake-formed steel tub girder bridge.
The design of the structure is viewed as more economical than other short-bridge designs and takes less time to erect, according to proponents of the design.
The old way of building a short-span bridge of this type was to take steel plates of standard sizes, cut them and weld them. The method worked on by Michaelson and Barth involves bending steel into the shape needed for the form. A concrete deck is precast on the girder, making it a modular unit that can be transported by truck to the project site.
The system works for spans up to 60 feet. It saves time and costs for bridge owners since it can be installed as a single modular unit usually in one or two days by local crews, will last for an estimated 100 years, and requires minimal maintenance during its lifetime.
The focus of Michaelson and Barth's research the past few years has been trying to make short-span steel bridge designs more economical and efficient.
West Virginia has a number of short bridges and culverts that need repair or replacement. Cost is always an issue. Any viable, innovative method that can deliver a bridge for less money and in less time is worth pursuing.
Meanwhile in Huntington, the metal sculpture that had stood outside the Pi Kappa Epsilon fraternity house on 5th Avenue is gone. It was removed late last week for restoration.
The sculpture of a crouching football player sat atop a brick base inlaid with marble plaques etched with the names Jimo Adams, Mike Blake, Pat Norrell, Bob Patterson and Ted Shoebridge. The five were PKE members who died in the Marshall airplane crash the night of Nov. 14, 1970.
The sculpture was made by Vernon Howell, who was the captain of the 1958 Marshall football team. The fraternity has disbanded, and its house is up for sale. When Howell's daughters heard the future of the statue was uncertain, they arranged for it to be removed and restored.
Even if enough money is raised for the statue to be restored, its future remains uncertain. The Howells are looking for a new home for it on or near campus, but if they are unsuccessful, it must be returned to its original base because it is owned by the fraternity.
Art is a way of telling stories, and the PKE sculpture was a reminder to the thousands of people who passed by it every day on 5th Avenue of one of the major stories of this community.
The future of the sculpture remains unknown, but it has already secured its place in the art history of Huntington and Marshall.