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William and Patricia Bright

Winged Victory Award recipients

Back in 1985, dedicated WVU Cancer Institute supporters William and Patricia Bright recall sitting with late U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph and enjoying the company of celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower at the inaugural Spring Gala.

Nearly four decades later, the Summersville couple is being recognized for their generous philanthropic contributions to the WVU Cancer Institute, West Virginia University, and the Mountain State with the Winged Victory Award, a special honor bestowed each year at the Spring Gala. This year’s event, held April 26-27 at The Greenbrier, set a new fundraising record of over $1.1 million.

The award is named for the famous “Winged Victory” sculpture discovered in 1893 on the Greek island of Samothrace. Found in 119 pieces, archaeologists pieced it back together to reveal the striking figure of a winged woman. The sculpture, displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, is one of the most recognized Greek sculptures from the Hellenistic period.

For the WVU Cancer Institute, the award symbolizes the life-shattering impact of a cancer diagnosis on patients and their families. Much like the archaeologists who rebuilt the sculpture, doctors, researchers, and other healthcare providers work in partnership with support staff, donors, and volunteers to restore patients’ health. The faceless sculpture also serves as a reminder that cancer does not discriminate, and anyone can make a difference.

“We believe that every day is such a gift, and I don’t think we even realize,” Patty Bright said. “We’ve got doctors’ aides, nurses that do these miracles every day at WVU’s hospital. They perform miracles that we don’t even know about, and we should appreciate that. I guess that’s why we would give to the Cancer Institute, and we’ve done that every year.”

Making a difference

The Brights said a shared moral compass is what first brought them together more than 50 years ago, when Patty first met Bill – decked out in a cowboy hat and boots, smoking a corncob pipe – at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Together, they raised three daughters while simultaneously enriching the Mountain State as entrepreneurs, community leaders, philanthropists, and more.

Since graduating from WVU with a business degree in 1960, Bill has led more than 30 successful business ventures, including Bright of America, Bright Coal Corporation, and Bright Enterprises. He currently serves on the WVU Cancer Institute Leadership Council and previously served on the WVU Foundation Board of Directors.

Patty founded the Bright Foundation, which awards a college scholarship to a Nicholas County High School senior each year. She previously served on the visiting committee for the WVU College of Education and Human Services (now part of the College of Applied Human Sciences), where she connected with leaders who inspired her to co-found the Nicholas County Community Foundation.

The couple’s gifts to WVU have benefited Bill Bright’s fraternity, Sigma Nu, and the Art Museum of WVU, but the majority have supported the WVU Cancer Institute.

“We are grateful to Bill and Patty for their dedication to the Institute, which has spanned nearly 40 years,” Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, MD, executive chair and director of the WVU Cancer Institute, Jean and Laurence DeLynn Chair of Oncology, and associate professor of surgery at the WVU School of Medicine, said. “The philanthropic endeavors they have undertaken both in their local community and across West Virginia make clear their passion for our state’s people. Here at the WVU Cancer Institute, their generosity has made a remarkable impact on our efforts to promote better health for West Virginians through cancer prevention, treatment, and research.”

Preserving healthcare

Bill noted that the WVU Health System has grown tremendously over the past 40 years and transformed healthcare within West Virginia – including in Nicholas County, where the Brights agreed to match up to $1 million in community gifts to support the financial viability of WVU Medicine Summersville Regional Medical Center. They said the gift stemmed from a conversation with WVU President E. Gordon Gee at the Spring Gala.

Jerri Kirkland first met the Brights 18 years ago as an emergency room nurse and now serves as director of quality, risk, and compliance at Summersville Regional Medical Center. She said their support inspired others to contribute via community events and small donations deducted from their paychecks. The fundraising effort helped save lives by preserving critical healthcare services within the community.

“Bill and Patty are absolutely an amazing couple and amazing folks,” Kirkland said. “They live by what you would aspire to be. They truly are generous. They’re kind. They’re just tremendous people. They have all good qualities.”

Patty said it’s their shared commitment to family, loyalty, and giving to others that continues to unite and drive them.

“We feel very humbled to be able to give back to our community and to our state,” Patty said. “I think a lot of people that are given much – but given much through lots of hard work and diligence – but you need to share, too. We are still paying it back or paying it forward, I guess, as the old saying goes. I think the state of West Virginia becomes richer because of togetherness.”

The Bright family’s gifts are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University and its affiliated entities.

1 Medical Center Drive Morgantown, WV 26506

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