BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — West Virginia Wesleyan College is mourning the loss of one of their own, Daniel Stein, who was one of the 11 victims tragically killed Saturday in the shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pa.
“We’re really sad about this, and we’re sad for all the victims. It’s a terrible tragedy,” West Virginia Wesleyan Vice President for Advancement Bob Skinner said Monday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Stein was a 1969 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and was active in intramurals, Skinner said.
Skinner said it’s “a really good story” of what attracted the suburban Pittsburgh native to Buckhannon’s rural Methodist campus, though he admits, “I don’t know that yet, but we’re going to try to find out how that happened.”
However, Skinner said it was fairly typical for students from the Pittsburgh area to attend WVWC at that time.
“In those days, we attracted a large cohort of kids from Pittsburgh. That was our number one recruiting area,” he said. “Almost as many kids from western Pennsylvania came as they did from West Virginia.”
Skinner recently spoke with Stein’s college roommate, David Kirby, a native of southern West Virginia. The two met during their freshman year at Wesleyan in 1965.
“David was a born and bred United Methodist from southern West Virginia, and Daniel was a Jewish student from Pittsburgh. Who knew that they would become friends and then become roommates,” Skinner said.
In fact, he said, the two friends used to hitch hike to Pittsburgh on the weekends during their college years.
“They’d dress in coats and ties and they would hitch hike and go to Pittsburgh and spend the weekends there going to Forbes Field, watching Clemente, Mazeroski and company,” Skinner said. “Then they would drive to southern West Virginia on the weekends they didn’t go to Pittsburgh, and I guess Dan didn’t handle the roads too well driving to southern West Virginia. That was a new experience for him.”
Despite their different religions and different backgrounds, Kirby and Stein formed a true friendship that continued far beyond Wesleyan’s campus.
“Both of them just accepted each other as soon as they met each other, and that’s part of what college is about, you know?” Skinner said. “And at a small school like Wesleyan that is really all about treating everyone with respect and dignity, they just fit right in.”
Kirby’s was one of many testimonies to Stein’s character that Skinner has heard since hearing the news this weekend.
“He was a great guy,” Skinner said. “Everybody that we’ve spoken with talked about his infectious smile and that he was probably one of the nicest guys you’d ever met on campus.”
As a graduate, Stein maintained a close relationship with his alma mater, donating frequently to the college.
“He was a faithful donor to the school, made gifts for years and years and years. When I saw his name pop up, I knew immediately that name rang a bell because when you sign the thank yous and acknowledgement letters,” Skinner said. “I thought, ‘Boy I know that name.’ That scared me to death, and my fears were realized when I learned that he was our Dan Stein.”
To honor Stein’s life and his contributions to West Virginia Wesleyan, the college is now planning a number of ways to pay their respects.
“We’re in the midst of planning our next worship service on campus, and we will probably do something in honor of Dan,” Skinner said. “We’ve got a number of members from the Class of ’69 that have already reached out to us about perhaps doing a scholarship in his memory. We’re putting those pieces together right now.”