Event Speakers

Dr. Gordon Gee-Keynote Speaker

Born in Vernal, Utah, Gee graduated from the University of Utah with an honors degree in history and earned his J.D. and Ed.D. degrees from Columbia University. He clerked under Chief Justice David T. Lewis of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before being named a judicial fellow and staff assistant to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this role, he worked for Chief Justice Warren Burger on administrative and legal problems of the Court and federal judiciary. Gee returned to Utah as an associate professor and associate dean in the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, and was granted full professorship in 1978. 

One year later, he became dean of the WVU College of Law, and, in 1981, was named WVU’s 19th president. 

Gee has served on several education-governance organizations and committees, including the Big 12 Conference Council of Presidents, the Business Higher Education Forum and the American Association of Universities. He was chair of the American Council on Education’s Commission on Higher Education Attainment and served as co-chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ Energy Advisory Committee. In 2009, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia invited him to join its international advisory board. In 2009, Time magazine named him one of the top 10 university presidents in the United States.

Mrs. Stacey Losh

Stacey grew up in Charleston, West Virginia.  She graduated from Capital High in 1994 and attended college in Bristol, Tennessee at King College.  Stacey began her teaching career in Chuckey, Tennessee, returned to West Virginia in 2008, and resumed her teaching career at J.E Robins on the west side of Charleston.  When she returned from Tennessee, Stacey moved to Putnam County and she had no intention of commuting thirty minutes to work each day. However, the students on the west side held a special place in her heart, and loving them became her mission. Later, Stacey became the Curriculum Specialist at Edgewood Elementary, and she held that position for a little over a year. However, she recently took a job with the June Harless Center at Marshall University.  In conjunction with the West Virginia State Department of Education, she works for the Campaign for Grade Level Literacy, which assists schools and students statewide.  

Mr. Steve Knighton

Steve Knighton is a lifelong resident of Kanawha County, who graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School and West Virginia State College. Steve joined the faculty of Piedmont Elementary in 1972, and served there for the next ten years as a teacher and vice principal.   His first principal-ship was Big Chimney Elementary School, where he spent seven years leading a very fine faculty. Steve returned to Piedmont Elementary School in 1989, and enjoyed twenty four years working with another outstanding cadre of teachers. Together they became a NASA Explorer School, a WV Innovation Zone school, and the first WV Year Round School. Steve was also instrumental in launching the Education Elevator Program in 2008 at Piedmont Elementary School.

Steve is married to Kathryn Seaver Knighton, and they have three children:  Retired Lt. 

Colonel Dr. Shane A. Knighton; Travis Knighton P.E.; and Dr. Kerry McCabe.  Their three grandchildren are the joy of their lives.  Kathy and Steve love to travel, and intend to spend most of their resources doing just that. They both love retirement and enjoy the

post-employment chapters of their lives.

Event Presenters

Larry Groce is one of the founders of West Virginia Public Radio's Mountain Stage, the live music performance radio program distributed to over 200 stations by National Public Radio. He has been the host and artistic director since its beginning in 1983. He was also a founder of FestivALL Charleston and served as its executive director from 2005 until 2015.


Larry began as a singer and songwriter, and has recorded twenty-four albums. The most recent, Live Forever, was released in 2016. He wrote and recorded the top ten hit song “Junk Food Junkie” as well as many Walt Disney records for children, one of which was nominated for a Grammy Award. He appeared on The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, American Bandstand, The Midnight Special and many other network television and radio programs.


In 2008 Larry was awarded the West Virginia Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts and 


in 2010 he was inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He’s received honorary Doctorates from the University of Charleston and West Virginia Wesleyan College and this month was named a 2017 “Southerner of the Year” by Southern Living magazine.


His most recent project is the new musical, “Paradise Park”, with songs by Larry and book by Daniel Boyd. It will be premiered by Theatre West Virginia next June 15. Larry lives in Charleston with his wife Sandra and two daughters.

Emcee-Mr. Larry Groce
Mr. Bob Thompson

Since 1991 Bob Thompson has been pianist, and regularly featured artist on West Virginia’s NPR Syndicated Radio Show, Mountain Stage. For the past twenty-three years he has also been co-producer and host of Joy To The World, a holiday Jazz show, broadcast on public radio stations nationwide, and heard internationally on The Voice of America. In October 2015, Bob Thompson was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Bob makes his home in Charleston, West Virginia, and has enjoyed a long and active career as a Performer, Composer, Arranger, and Educator. For decades he has played at festivals and venues around the Country, and has also taken his music to Europe, Africa, And South America.

Bob Thompson’s resume includes guest appearances on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, on National Public Radio, and BET On Jazz with Ramsey Lewis. His recordings on Intima Records, and Ichiban International, received high recognition on the Jazz Charts, with several reaching the top-ten. His recent recordings, Bob Thompson “Live” On Mountain Stage, and Smile, With The Bob Thompson Unit, are on his own label, Colortones.com.

West VirginiaYouth Symphony 
Performance Quartet

The West Virginia Youth Symphony originated in 1949 when the Charleston Woman's Club organized the Kanawha Valley Youth Orchestra. It has operated continuously since then, becoming incorporated in 1968 as the Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra and changing its name in 1991 to the West Virginia Youth Symphony. While the name has changed, the goal has remained the same - to provide opportunities for young people to perform in an orchestra setting.


Each year, about 100 young musicians participate, making it both the largest and the oldest youth orchestra in the state. Students come from as far away as Ohio to rehearse weekly in Charleston. Ages range from 7 to 20, and students from 35 public and private schools, plus college and home-school, are making music together each week.

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