"We see West Virginia State University as a major economic factor in the Kanawha Valley," he said. "I believe WVSU can and will continue to be a really bright spot in this economy, and it is essential to the long-term viability of this community."
The donation is the latest in a string of big gifts to support programs at WVSU.
In October, an anonymous donor provided $1 million to the university to build a new athletic complex and to support several scholarships.
With WVSU about halfway through its fiscal year, $1.8 million in gifts and pledges has been donated to the school, according to a university spokeswoman. That's more than double the total donated by this time last year, with the number of donors increasing from about 200 to more than 450.
Hemphill said that by allowing more opportunities for undergraduates, including freshman and sophomores, through the program, students will be more motivated to continue their education.
Right now, 55 percent of first-time freshmen at WVSU return for their sophomore year. Of those, 24.5 percent earn their bachelor's degree within six years.
"This will truly allow us to engage students in meaningful hands-on research with our faculty," Hemphill said. "One of the things that is pretty clear is that, on college campuses, research is designed to engage graduate students. We're doing something really special here."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.