Concord University Geologist Dr. David Matchen Speaking For Coal Heritage Public Lecture Series

For Immediate Release: 
Mar 26 2013

CONTACT: Sarah Dalton
Concord University
Office of Advancement
PO Box 1000, Athens, WV 24712
(304) 384-6312,



BEAVER, W.Va. – The rich and enduring history of coal is explored in “The Coal Heritage Public Lecture Series.” Sponsored by the Beckley Center of Concord University and the Coal Heritage Highway Authority, the series takes place on the first Monday of the month from February to May at the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center on Airport Road in Beaver, W.Va. The lectures are free and open to the public.

The series continues on Monday, April 1 with a lecture by Concord University Associate Professor of Geology Dr. David Matchen. Matchen will discuss the similarity between coal mining and fracking and the impact these industries have on the environment.

The presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Erma Byrd Higher Education Center in Room E 10. For more information, contact the Beckley Center of Concord University at (304) 256-0270.

As the demand for West Virginia’s energy resources in the form of coal, oil and natural gas has boomed, so has the scale of extraction. The geological processes that generated the Appalachian coal reserve are the same processes that created the current natural gas boom. Matchen will discuss the larger geological setting and the economic and social conditions that continually place West Virginia at the center of this activity.

Matchen worked for 13 years as a petroleum geologist and field geologist with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D in geology from West Virginia University.

The public lecture series is a part of an academic class in Appalachian Studies offered by Concord University at the Beckley Center. The class, “Coal Culture in West Virginia,” is taught in the spring semester by Karen Vuranch.

“The course covers the history and technology of coal mining in West Virginia,” Vuranch stated, “but more importantly it explores the cultural impact on the people of our state.”

Students taking the course for credit hear lectures, watch films and participate in field trips that help them better understand the rich history of coal in West Virginia. Community members are also welcome to audit the course, where they attend all sessions without having to complete assignments for a grade.

The 2013 Lecture Series will conclude on Monday, May 6 with a concert of labor music by Elaine Purkey. Purkey is a traditional mountain singer and songwriter and a community activist.

Born “up a holler” in Lincoln County, Elaine learned early the hardships of life. Her parents passed on their belief in not only the importance of the union and the community, but also of mountain music. Her father was a banjo player and played numerous other instruments. Her mother was from a family of singers with a regional reputation.

Elaine married a UMWA coal miner and her adult life has been spent organizing communities and union through her powerful mountain music. She has appeared at festivals and events throughout the nation and has been featured in several books and movies.