Walker named Grand Groundhog Watcher at Concord University

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Walker named Grand Groundhog Watcher at Concord University
Concord Charlie peers out from among tendrils of ivy at Concord University at Athens, W.Va. (Photo: Abigail Lynn)

Officials at Concord University have named Mountain Lion head football coach Dave Walker as Grand Groundhog Watcher for 2020, joining "Concord Charlie" in the spotlight during this year’s Groundhog Day Breakfast.

According to tradition, if Charlie or any other apt groundhog sees his shadow on the morning of February 2, six more weeks of winter will follow. Otherwise, the region can expect an early spring, according to Sarah M. Pritchett of the university's Office of Advancement.

As February 2 falls on a weekend this year, Pritchett says, Charlie's 2020 announcement will be made February 3.

The groundhog has a standing appointment with the university’s president each year to offer his predictions and insights on the duration of winter, which the president then relays to breakfast guests.

Festivities get underway at 8 a.m. in the university Point’s Pais Fellowship Hall, Pritchett said.

Concord announced Walker’s appointment to lead the Mountain Lions in December. He comes to campus from Martinsburg High School in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he built the school's Bulldogs into one of the most successful programs in the history of high school football in the state, she said.

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Claiming his fourth consecutive Class AAA State Championship in 2019, he led Martinsburg to 56 straight wins—the second-longest active winning streak in the entire country—before assuming the head coaching role at Concord.

Under Walker’s leadership at Martinsburg, the Bulldogs won eight state championships while playing 12 state championship games since 2001.

Overall, the Pineville, West Virginia, native amassed more than 300 wins in 32 seasons as a head coach, including his time spent at East Hardy High School in Baker. His 53 playoff wins between his time at East Hardy and Martinsburg are a state record.

In addition to his coaching duties in the state’s eastern panhandle, Walker was also Martinsburg’s Athletic Director and Assistant Principal.

He received his undergraduate degree from Glenville State in 1988, earned master’s degrees from Shenandoah University in Education in 1997 and Administration in 2002.

At Glenville, he was a two-time All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference offensive lineman in 1986 and 1987. At the conclusion of his career, he received Glenville State’s Montrose Award, an honor given the top senior student-athlete for performance in competition as well as service and leadership off the playing field.

Additionally, he is a 2016 inductee into Glenville State’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Before his playing days as a Pioneer, Walker starred at Pineville High School in Wyoming County.

The "Concord Charlie" tradition was originated in 1978 by the late Professor R.T. “Tom” Hill, chair of the geography department and the Appalachian Studies program. Hill started the Groundhog Day Breakfast as a means to celebrate a bit of Appalachian heritage.

Other Grand Groundhog Watchers have included the following famous West Virginians—

2018/2019, Charles T. “Charlie” Mathena
Chairman of the Board of Governors, Chuck Mathena Center

2017, Vain Colby
Playwright/actor

2016, Amy Shuler Goodwin
West Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Tourism

2015, Coach Garin Justice
Former Head Football Coach, Concord University

2014, Mr. Greg Puckett
Advocate for youth, community servant, Concord alumnus

2013, Ms. Lou Stoker
Volunteer, playwright, actress, community leader

2012, Mr. Pete Ballard (deceased)
Artist, educator, Concord alumnus

2011, Mr. Scott A. Martin
Actor, director, producer, founded Sorry Dog Productions in 1998

2010, Ms. Beverly Wellman
Executive Director, Retired, Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau

2009, Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret.)
United States Air Force General (Retired); Executive Director, Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation (ALEF)

2008, Mr. Everett Lilly (deceased)
West Virginia bluegrass artist and inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor

2007, Ms. Barbara Hawkins (deceased)
Political correspondent, columnist, investigative reporter

2006, Ms. Kate Long
Writer, bluegrass musician

2005, Mr. Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient

2004, Dr. Ancella Bickley
West Virginian and African American educator, historian and author

2003, Dr. Jay Banks (deceased)
Physician and author, lived in Union, W.Va.

2002, Dr. J. Douglas Machesney
Concord’s Vice President for Development from 1986 through 2002

2001, Mr. Andy Ridenour, Mr. Larry Groce
Created the radio show “Mountain Stage”

2000, Mr. Andrew Paterno
Insurance and banking executive, a Concord alumnus and Kanawha County native

1999, Mr. Jerry Jarrell
Retired Director of the National Hurricane Center, a Concord alumnus and Raleigh County native

1998, Recent Concord Retirees
Harold Bailey, John Seago, Paul Morgan (deceased), Bill Ryan, Bill Wells, Beryle Santon (deceased), Violet Martin (deceased), Kevin O’Sullivan (deceased), Ed Lowe, Dale Geiger, Carl Chapman, Shelva Rarick, Bernard Kiernan (deceased), Karl Fezer, Kenneth Baker (deceased)

1997, Dr. J. Elliott Blaydes, Jr. (deceased)
Bluefield eye specialist and philanthropist

1996, Mr. Frankie Ferrante (deceased)
Owned Mercer County restaurant, Frankie’s La Salute, and was an active civic and community leader

1995, Mr. Thomas Conlin
Former West Virginia Symphony Artistic Director and Conductor

1994, Ms. Denise Giardina
McDowell County native, successful novelist focusing on the vibrant culture of the coalfields

1993, Ms. Katharine Tierney (deceased)
Bluefield civic leader and longtime friend of Concord

1992, Ms. Jean Battlo
Published poet and playwright from McDowell County

1991, Ms. Nelrose Richards Price (deceased)
Retired Registrar of Concord, 41 years of service

1990, Dr. James Bailey (deceased)
Co-founder of Veterinary Associates of Princeton and a Mercer County civic leader

1989, Reverend Harry Christie (deceased)
Former pastor of Princeton Presbyterian Church

1988, Mr. R. T. Hill (deceased)
Father of the Concord Groundhog Day Breakfast and former Professor of Geography at Concord

1987, Mr. Edward J. Cabbell
Appalachian scholar, founder of the John Henry Foundation

1986, Mr. Ken Hechler (deceased)
Former W.Va. Secretary of State and former Congressman

1985, George A. Daugherty
“The Earl of Elkview,” a prominent Charleston attorney

1984, Dr. Charles Kenneth Sullivan
Executive Director of the West Virginia Humanities Council

1983, Mr. James Dent (deceased)
Humor columnist and cartoonist for The Charleston Gazette

1982, Mr. Don West (deceased)
Director of the Appalachian South Folklife Center, Pipestem, W.Va.

1981, Dr. E. Meade McNeill (deceased)
Professor of Biology at Concord

1980, Mr. Shirley Donnelly (deceased)
Historian and columnist for Beckley Newspapers, Inc.

1979, Mr. Jim Comstock (deceased)
Editor of The West Virginia Hillbilly

1978, Mr. A. James Manchin (deceased)
Former Secretary of State and State Treasurer of West Virginia

The cost per person for this year’s breakfast is $20. Reservations are required and may be made online at www.concord.edu/groundhog or by emailing advancement@concord.edu or calling 304-384-6311.

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