May 28, 2011
Doug Skaff tells students who ask him for advice to be sure to grab opportunities. It worked for him.
"The main thing is to take advantage of what's in front of you," he said. "Whether it's in the classroom or out, make the most of your time on campus."
The 2000 marketing graduate and 1999-2000 WVU Student Administration president knows how important seizing opportunities can be. He recalls that his career may have begun simply because he attended a lecture by Glen Hiner, then-CEO of Owens Corning. After the talk, Skaff talked with Hiner and learned of a management training opportunity with the company.
"If I hadn't talked to Glen Hiner after that lecture, I wouldn't have had that chance that led to my first job. It's important to be involved –– in student organizations and extracurricular activities. Doing these things, I believe, made me a better employee, leader, manager and person. If I hadn't been involved, I wouldn't have been student president or the youngest member of the WVU Alumni Association Board."
Steve Douglas, WVU Alumni Association president and CEO, said Skaff has made a strong contribution to the group.
"Doug is a wonderful example of what you can achieve with your degree from WVU," he said. "In addition to his accomplishments as a student, he has had tremendous success professionally. His energy and enthusiasm led him to politics where he is proudly serving his state, and most recently, as a member of our board of directors, he helped to launch a young alumni program that will be vital to assisting our newest graduates. He loves this University and remains a strong advocate of student and alumni programming."
Skaff, a graduate of South Charleston High School, received a master of science in industrial relations degree in 2001 and started his career as an area sales manager out of Pittsburgh for Owens Corning from 2002-05. He then moved to Toledo, Ohio, to work at Owens Corning World Headquarters as a human resources specialist covering North America for the Building Materials Supply Division from 2005-07. Skaff jumped at the chance to move back to his hometown of Charleston, W.Va., as a district manager for one of Owens Corning's business units, Norandex Distribution.
In 2008 Doug ran for public office and was elected to serve in the state House of Delegates, where he is serving his third year. Being an elected official, he said, is his way of giving back to the community and the state that he loves, and he hopes to create opportunities that help keep new graduates here.
He is now in Charleston working with his father, Doug Skaff Sr., who is a 1971 B&E marketing graduate. Doug assists his father with commercial development activities with Skaff Development Co. and is the managing partner for a new company they recently established, Building & Remodeling Warehouse (a wholesale building material distribution center focusing on exterior and interior products).
Skaff is largely remembered for founding the Mountaineer Maniacs, the student athletic booster club, and his help in co-founding WV Up All Night, a weekend entertainment program for students.
Back in 2000 the WVU Coliseum was being renovated, and WVU basketball fans and team members were feeling disheartened by the displacement, he said. Looking for a way to inject enthusiasm into the situation and pump up the Blue and Gold, Skaff suggested what became the Mountaineer Maniacs. Skaff also intended the program to change negative images of students at athletic games and promote responsible behavior.
"I felt there was a need to create a buzz, and a sense of unity around our athletics, and also thought it would be more intimidating to the opposing teams, so I helped create a student booster club, " he recalled. "We got some seed money from Student Affairs and The Book Exchange offered to be our first sponsor. Now, I think the Maniacs are world famous. Over the years I've gotten calls from Virginia Tech, Pitt, Marshall, Boston College and U-Conn –– all asking how to go about starting a booster group. I gave them all advice, except Pitt of course."
Skaff grabbed another opportunity when he was a junior and a member of the Student Government Association. It was during David Hardesty's administration and WVU was plagued by a Princeton Review party-school ranking. At that time President Hardesty had challenged Vice President Ken Gray and Student Government to come up with an alternative to students binge drinking.
Skaff jumped at the opportunity to be creative and provide a new concept. On weekends many students sought out entertainment in Morgantown night spots, and he thought they might opt for amusement on campus if given incentives.
"On Friday at 4 p.m. there was a mass exodus off the campus. The Mountainlair was dead," he said. "I thought we could create a nightlife atmosphere at the Lair–– dim the lights, liven things up with some music and entertainment, and most importantly offer free food –– to provide students an alternative."
Under the leadership of Gray, President Hardesty, Mary Collins, Student Affairs director, and Erick Andrews, Arts and Entertainment director, among others, Skaff helped put together a concept that eventually provided not only entertainment for WVU students, but also served as a unconventional alternative to the traditional student's night on the town.
"The hardest thing was convincing everyone that it was OK if students did other things, and that they could be drawn back to campus by free food and entertainment," he said. He did convince them, and WVU Up All Night has been lauded as a success and perhaps a milestone in rebuking the Princeton Review's rankings. "It's so rewarding knowing that programs you helped create while on campus are still around today for students to enjoy," he said.
Reflecting on his time at the College of Business and Economics, Skaff said he warmly recalls his professors. Cyril Logar left a lasting impression on him, he said, as did Paula Fitzgerald, Randy Elkin and Neil Bucklew.
"B&E was a great experience, and I owe who I am today to my time there," he commented. "I'm always applying the principles I learned there, and then some."
As a marketing person Skaff believes, "Life is one big sales call. Instead of selling products, you must first sell yourself. Once you sell yourself, people will believe in you and your ideas, and then the opportunities are endless. And remember you never know who you may meet and what that might lead to—just for taking the initiative and showing up. The sooner you can figure that out and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you, the sooner you will succeed."