North Central College - Naperville, IL

Memories of North Central continue to shape First Lady’s university life

Jane Schade ’71 Kopp remembers visiting the home of College President Arlo Schilling when she was a freshman. Today, as First Lady of Marshall University, she extends the same hospitality to students. “I know students appreciate coming to our home for a reception or dinner, because I remember how special it was for me,” she says.

Another unlikely memory from North Central ties Kopp to Marshall. The airplane crash carrying 75 football players, coaches, fans and crew happened on November 14, 1970, during her senior year. It’s still considered the worst tragedy in college sports. “I heard about it just like everyone else—from television news reports,” she says. “I felt terrible for Marshall University—I couldn’t imagine a school losing so many athletes, coaches and community members.” Little did she know she would one day live in Huntington, WV, and experience firsthand the “ripples from this tragedy.”

In 2005, shortly after her husband Steve became president of Marshall, Warner Bros. sought the involvement of the University in making a movie about the crash. “It was a very difficult decision for him,” she says. “Some people told him not to let it happen but after discussions with former players, university and community residents and family survivors, he set out the parameters under which he hoped the filmmakers would work to produce a movie sensitive to the community.”

An added benefit for Marshall and Huntington was that parts of the movie “We Are Marshall” were filmed there. Students worked behind the scenes and in the movie, too, she said. “Another huge benefit was that the making of the movie brought the community together to talk,” she says. “Every year on November 14 a ceremony is held to remember those 75. Even coach Red Dawson now comes to the ceremony–something he couldn’t make himself do before the movie.” Dawson, an assistant coach, was the only member of the program not on the disastrous flight.

Kopp and her husband attended both the local premiere and red carpet premiere in Hollywood.

A private viewing was held for family members of those lost in the crash. “These are examples of the sensitivity that was shown to our community,” she explains.

The couple previously lived in the Chicago area, as well as in Michigan and Ohio, but they’ve come to love the West Virginia mountains and people. Today Kopp spends her time hosting and attending university events, traveling frequently to call on alumni and serving the community. “I volunteer my time and resources to try to help make this an even better community and state.” 

North Central NOW Winter 2012