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Mountwest honors past employee with Pink Out

October 26, 2012

Huntington, W.Va. - Pink will be the new blue at Mountwest Community & Technical College on Tuesday, October 30, as they honor the memory of past employee, Karen Johnson, with a Pink Out.

Johnson, a Mountwest employee for 27 years, passed away last October after a long, hard-fought battle with breast cancer. Professor Donna Donathan and Associate Professor Janet Smith are co-chairs coordinating the Pink Out. The event’s primary purpose is to raise money for the Karen Johnson scholarship fund while also bringing awareness to the community about breast cancer.

The first scholarship will be awarded this spring, and it will only be available to a breast cancer survivor or someone currently battling the disease, male or female. Donathan said faculty and staff were trying to think of the best way to honor Johnson and decided memorializing her with a scholarship was a unique way to celebrate Johnson’s life by allowing another individual to continue their education at a place that meant so much to Johnson.

Johnson was diagnosed with a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer, underwent a mastectomy and follow-up treatment, and was in remission for a while before the cancer returned. According to Donathan, Johnson dug her heels in and fought aggressively for several years, but in the end, she lost the fight. Johnson continued working at Mountwest until about two months before she passed away. Now, Johnson’s daughter, Jennifer Polo, is battling the disease.

“Karen was a lovely lady, and she didn’t want a lot of fuss made over her while she was alive, so we think she’d be pleased with the institution of this scholarship as a way to honor her,” Donathan said. “We also have several other faculty members who are survivors, so it memorializes Karen but also shows support to that community as a whole.”

Donathan said they hope to increase the $1,000 scholarship each year and make it renewable to the recipient. Much of that depends on the success of events like the Pink Out. The event kicks off at 11 a.m. with a welcome from Dr. Cotroneo, President of Mountwest, and the start of the survivors’ lap. The event will continue through 2 p.m., and Mountwest hopes to have participants walking the entire time.

The event is free, and the public is encouraged to attend. There will be numerous opportunities for attendees to donate to the scholarship fund. There will be shirts for sale, as well as raffle tickets for prizes including a handmade quilt and table runner, a Longaberger basket with gifts, and a car care kit. There will also be pizza for sale at noon, and Mountwest’s Culinary Arts students will be selling pink cookies.

Perhaps the most anticipated fundraiser of the day is Kiss a Pig. President Cotroneo, Terri Tomblin-Byrd, Chief Operating Office and CIO, and all of the Mountwest deans will have jars set up from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to accept donations for the scholarship fund. The individual with the most money in their jar at 2 p.m. will have to kiss Twinkie the pot-bellied pig. All proceeds from each fundraiser go directly into the scholarship fund.

Local health centers will also have booths set up to provide information about breast cancer awareness. Donathan said while fundraising for the scholarship is their primary purpose, they also want the public to be educated about the signs of breast cancer and treatment options.

Individuals who cannot attend the event but would like to make a donation can make checks payable to the Mountwest Foundation with Karen Johnson scholarship fund noted on the memo line.

Mountwest Community & Technical College provides programs to meet the varied educational and workforce development needs of its students and the community. Mountwest offers two-year degree and one-year certificate programs in Allied Health, Business and Information Technology, Human Services, Occupational and Technical Programs, as well as numerous continuing education opportunities and customized instruction. Mountwest is now located at its new campus located atop Fifth Street hill in Huntington. For more information about Mountwest programs and opportunities, please visit