Pictured (from left) are Bill Willan, executive dean and vice president of Ohio University; Carol Sommer, Keith Sommer’s wife; Keith Sommer; Ohio University Eastern Dean Paul Abraham; and Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede.
Photographer: E. J. Schodzinski
Jul 28, 2014
By E. J. Schodzinski
The Eastern Ohio Alumni Chapter of Ohio University has named Keith A. Sommer as the 2014 Austin C. Furbee Award honoree, in recognition of his dedication and contribution to Ohio University and the community. An award dinner was held Tuesday, July 22, at 7 p.m. at Belmont Hills Country Club in St. Clairsville in his honor.
Ohio University Eastern Dean Paul Abraham introduced Sommer at the event. “Keith Sommer is highly deserving of the Austin C. Furbee Award,” said Abraham. “He has been an unwavering advocate for Ohio University Eastern in the community for over four decades. This is particularly appreciated since Keith is not an alumnus of Ohio University.”
Sommer was also recognized by Terry Lee, co-chair of the Eastern Ohio Alumni Chapter; the Honorable Harry W. White; Michael McTeague, emeritus professor of the Eastern Campus; Dr. Richard Greenlee, emeritus dean of the Eastern Campus; and Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede.
Favede remarked about the similarities between Sommer and Furbee. “Keith, like Mr. Furbee, returned home to Belmont County following college, and placed a tremendous importance on education. He has spent the majority of his life supporting both his alma mater and our own beloved Ohio University Eastern. In addition, Keith has also been involved in countless economic development accomplishments that have built and grown Belmont County.”
Sommer’s commitment to Ohio University has included longtime service on the Eastern Campus. He is a member of the Regional Coordinating Council, and played a key role in the last fundraising campaign in identifying and helping to secure significant donations. He has also been an adjunct instructor at the campus.
After graduating from Martins Ferry High School in 1959, he was recruited to wrestle at Bowling Green State University. He completed his undergraduate degree there in 1963 and achieved membership in Bowling Green's Athletic Hall of Fame. Sommer promptly enrolled at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University, earning a juris doctor in 1966.
He then returned to his hometown, began practicing law and became a staple of the community. In addition to his service to OUE, he is a member of the Belmont County Bar Association and Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, Belmont County Community Improvement Corporation and Estate Planning Council of the Upper Ohio Valley.
An avid reader, Sommer also serves on the Martins Ferry and Belmont County Library Boards. He is a past president of the Belmont County Bar Association and a past member of the Martins Ferry Lions Club and the St. Clairsville Sunrise Rotary.
Sommer was most appreciative of the recognition. “I was surprised and honored to be chosen for the Austin C. Furbee Award from Ohio University Eastern,” he said. “When I returned to Belmont County to practice law, I did not know of the contributions Austin Furbee made to Ohio University Eastern. I quickly learned of Mr. Furbee's legal ability, character and respect of the bar association.”
Sommer continued, “Although I have been involved in many activities at OUE, including Regional Coordinating Council, fund-raising projects and adjunct teaching, I always felt that I received more from OUE than I contributed. I have had a tremendous experience at OUE as a result of my association with former Dean Greenlee, Dr. Abraham, Dr. Bovenizer and their staff, OUE professors, and the many individuals who have volunteered and devoted their time to OUE.”
Sommer and his wife, Carol, have been married for 51 years. They are the proud parents of three daughters, Christine (Jeffrey) Furbee; Michele (Jonathan Turk) Sommer; and Julie, and also have three grandchildren, Jackson, Calvin and Carrie.
Austin C. Furbee, for whom the award is named, played a key role in the formation of the Ohio University Eastern Campus. While serving as a Belmont County commissioner, Furbee realized that there were limited opportunities for higher education in the Ohio Valley. As a result, he became instrumental in the commission’s acquisition of the former Belmont County Experimental Station farmland, which was to become a regional campus of Ohio University.
Furbee’s involvement with Ohio University grew throughout the years. He was a longtime member of OUE’s Regional Coordinating Council and also presided as chairman of the council when Shannon Hall, the first building on the St. Clairsville campus, was dedicated in 1967.
As a result of Furbee’s efforts, the Eastern Campus has continued to grow and serve the needs of the community. OUE stands as a tribute to his vision, determination and hard work.
The Austin C. Furbee award was first given in 1981 after Furbee’s wife, Gladys, established an endowed fund in memory of her husband. The award is given annually to recognize an individual who has shown dedication, commitment and service to Ohio University and to the community.
“I want to thank the Eastern Ohio Alumni Chapter of Ohio University for honoring me with the Austin C. Furbee Award,” Sommer finished. “To be included in the distinguished list of past Furbee recipients is very humbling.”
Mary J. Poston
Dr. Robert J. Parrish
Carole A. Mitchell
Thomas W. Dunlap
Roger W. Stewart
Robert W. Ney
Dr. E.R. Bovenizer
William L. Toothman
Harry W. White
George A. Carroll Jr.
James W. Newton Jr.
Daniel L. Frizzi Jr.
Terry A. Lee
Dr. David Brooks