A gift to the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will provide fashion, dress and merchandising students with enhanced educational opportunities in textile science.
To strengthen textile science and curriculum, Amy Bircher, a WVU alumna and founder and CEO of MMI Textiles Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, donated more than $200,000 to establish a much-needed creative space for students.
The WVU Davis College, Morgantown, hosted a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Amy A. Bircher Textiles Laboratory on Friday, April 16.
“What a momentous occasion for me personally to be contributing to the future of my alma mater,” said Bircher, who also serves as vice chair of the board of directors of Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI). “I am so honored to be able to provide this space for current and future students to learn in a hands-on environment for textile science and innovation.”
“There are so many incredible opportunities for students to enhance their education in both fiber, fashion and clothing development, and I look forward to watching this space grow over the coming years as our industry and societal needs change,” she adds.
The space, a former home economics laboratory in the Agricultural Sciences Annex, is outfitted with new equipment to provide students more opportunities to engage directly with fabrics.
“Amy’s gift is foundational; it provides a base for us to grow bigger and better. This lab will have an immediate positive impact for our students and their understanding of the functional materials foundation of textiles design,” said Darrell W. Donahue, dean of the WVU Davis College. “Looking toward the future, we’ll be able to increase our research and textile testing capabilities with the goals of enhancing education and advancing the industry.”
Through a variety of scientific testing—including the popular burn test which helps identify types of fabric—students will better understand what properties a fiber presents including its strengths, weaknesses, how it’s made, dyed and finished.
According to Elizabeth Shorrock, visiting assistant professor of fashion, dress and merchandising, this type of knowledge will make students more marketable after graduation.
“I’ve noticed during my career upper-level design students at universities across the country have limited knowledge about textile properties and which fabric types are best suited for specific projects,” she said. “This new laboratory will help WVU and our program become leaders in textile science training.”
Founded in 1997, MMI Textiles serves customers on a global basis with innovative products that protect warfighters and enhance the lives of many others. She is a 1993 graduate of the WVU Davis College with a degree in textiles, clothing and fashion merchandising.
Bircher’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the university.