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Journalism alumna and veteran reporter honors mentors with endowed gift

Martha Smith

As a young professional and a student at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism, now West Virginia University Reed College of Media, Martha Smith, (BSJ, 1970) had some unforgettable mentors.

Legendary West Virginia sportswriter Mickey Furfari, his wife Betty, a columnist at The Dominion News, now The Dominion Post and beloved journalism professor Paul

Atkins left such an impression on Smith that she is creating endowed scholarships in their names.
Smith’s planned gift of $155,000 will establish the Mickey and Betty Furfari Endowed Fund and the Professor Paul A. Atkins Endowed Fund. The money will provide scholarships to undergraduate students studying journalism at the College of Media.

As a student writer, Smith worked with the Furfaris during a summer at The Dominion News. She was able to observe Mickey in the newsroom and get hands-on experience with Betty as a contributor to her society column. She became friends with the Furfaris and remained in contact with them throughout her career.

As for Atkins, she says having him as a professor helped her become a stickler for spelling and editing.
“If I see a typo I will point it out,” said Smith. “When I do, people always ask if I’m a teacher. I respond: ‘No, I’m a journalist.’”

A first generation college graduate, Smith recognizes the importance of giving since she was able to attend WVU with the help of scholarships. Smith wants to give budding journalists the same opportunity.

“When I get the alumni magazine, I am very interested to read about the students going places and helping people,” said Smith. “I support what the College and its students are doing, and it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.”

Smith a native of West Virginia spent 50 years as a journalist including 30 years as a staff member of the Providence Journal. She has received several honors including New England Magazine Journalist of the Year and an induction into the Rhode Island Press Association Hall of Fame. She is the author of two books, her most recent, “Me and Mr. Zane Grey,” was released this year and is available nationally.

Betty Furfari was a 1947 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mickey graduated from the School in 1948. The couple met while working together at The Daily Athenaeum.

Betty passed away in 2004, just shy of the couple’s 56th wedding anniversary. Mickey referred to her as his “best friend, editor and confidant.”

Mickey passed away last July at the age of 92. He began covering WVU sports for the Times West Virginia in 1989, and he continued his column until his passing. Furfari was a five-time winner of the West Virginia Sports Writer of the Year award and a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

Known as the “Flying-A,” Paul Atkins taught at the School of Journalism for 33 years before retiring in 1986. In addition to being a full-time professor, Atkins served as the faculty adviser of The Daily Athenaeum for 12 years, holding the position longer than anyone else.

What type of legacy do you want to leave? Join other Mountaineers who are making a difference and connect with us by visiting or email Director of Development Tiffany Samuels at

The gift was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University which runs through December.