Bluefield State College announced today the founding of the Pete Sternloff Center for West Virginia Musicology, which will archive and promote the history of music created and performed in southern West Virginia.
College President Robin Capehart says the center will fill a much-needed gap in the preservation of and education about the music that flourished in the region as cultures converged when railroads and coal mining exploded.
Initial funding for the center is a $200,000 gift from local businessman and blues musician Pete Sternloff, Capehart said, and additional funding will be sought from supportive individuals, foundations, and grants.
“We are extremely grateful to Pete for kickstarting something that has been needed here for a long time," Capehart said.
"The Sternloff Center fits perfectly within our strategic plan of bonding the college and the community closer together. We know we have a responsibility as an educational institution to gather, preserve, and present a musical tradition as vibrant as any in America."
Sternloff, an owner and partner in the Ye Olde Ugly Duckling Antiques and Rare Books in Bluefield, has been a performer and promoter of blues, jazz, and bluegrass in West Virginia for decades.
Born in Mill Valley, Calif., and a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Sternloff said the center fulfills a dream he's had for his adopted state.
"I’ve had the opportunity and play with some of the finest blues and jazz musicians in the country right here in Mercer County, Sternloff said. "I knew how much talent we had, many of whom went on to successful careers nationally and internationally.
“I also knew that Bluefield State was the only institution capable of bringing the resources to bear that would ensure that these musicians and their music were gathered in one place where others could study, enjoy, and, most importantly, build upon.”
The Sternloff Center will be housed in a wing of the William B. Robertson Library.
Librarian David McMillan said the center is an ideal complement to the library.
"This represents the kind of interactive, multimedia, multi-platform resource that we want the Robertson Library to be. I look forward to working with Pete as we plan what is going to be a very special space on this campus.”
The center will open formally by the summer of 2022 and will operate as a non-profit foundation under the direction of the college.
Donald “Pete” Sternloff grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was married to Patricia Sternloff for 44 years until her death in 2008. They have one son Scott Sternloff and three grandchildren. Prior to moving to Bluefield, he had a successful career as an innovative marketer in the auto and trucks parts supply businesses.
Sternloff served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 through 1967 and was discharged with the rank of captain. A Vietnam veteran, he received the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in a combat zone.
He moved to Bluefield in 1989 to help develop a new business with Bill Cole’s Truck City Parts and DS Parts that supplied remanufactured air brakes, electrical components, water pumps, and brake shoes for heavy trucks.
He also served as IT director for Cole Automotive Group and helped establish Cole Motorsports, which supplies windshield tear-offs for the racing industry worldwide. He has also served as a member of the board of directors for Bluefield and is a co-founder of Gary Bowling’s House of Art and the owner of East River Arts.
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