Marshall University posthumously confers degrees on victims of plane crash

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HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — To this day, the Marshall plane crash remains the deadliest in American sports history, as 75 people lost their lives.

Today, the students who died received posthumous degrees from the university.

Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert previews a diploma. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

Organizers of the ceremony say it’s a somber but celebratory occasion to help the families of the victims, and this community, heal.

“It’s the first time that we’ve done a posthumous ceremony for the plane crash victims.” 

Jerome Gilbert, president of Marshall University

Nearly 50 years to the day after the tragic plane crash, the victim’s families finally got some long-awaited closure.

“It brings a little closure, but you know. Your heart is still heavy, and it’s just like it was yesterday.” 

Sharon Anthony, sister to #80 Dennis Blevins

The ceremony took place Friday afternoon in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

Only families of the plane crash victims were in attendance—and socially distanced—to watch as 39 degrees were awarded, and claim the diploma their family members never got a chance to.  

“It is indeed a special day. A day in a week filled with mixed emotions: both happiness and sorrow….As we remember these departed souls, the sons of Marshall.” 

Jerome Gilbert, president of Marshall University
A team photo of the fallen football team adorns the stage. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

Organizers of the event say they felt the time was finally right to present these degrees, even if the students weren’t there to receive them.

“It grants closure to the family, and to the university, to say that we have recognized that individual.” 

Jerome Gilbert, president of Marshall University

This recognition is what many say has been a long time coming.

“It was great.  I’m so glad that they thought of all the players. It was a long time, took 50 years, but I’m glad it happened today.” 

Sharon Anthony, sister to #80 Dennis Blevins

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