Williston Northampton Medal 2023

Elizabeth (Wells) McIlvain ’73

Created in 2015 to honor the school’s 175th Anniversary, the Williston Northampton Medal is presented to an individual who has made significant achievements and contributions to their profession and/or community, shown a commitment to professional growth, or is recognized for leadership in their field. Their contributions do not need to be publicly renowned, but represent important creative effort or accomplishment with professional, societal, or educational value.

Elizabeth (Wells) McIlvain ’73 is a member of the 4th generation of the Wells family to own and operate the Homer Laughlin China Company, now known as the Fiesta Tableware Company and operating out of Newell, West Virginia.

Chances are you know — or would certainly recognize — this colorfully iconic brand and the largest domestic tableware manufacturer in the United States. Their forever-popular dishes — featuring art-deco-styling and boldly solid colors like scarlet, turquoise, sunflower, butterscotch, and mulberry – have inspired Fiestaware fanatics throughout the world. Since 1936, a total of 55 colors have been introduced into the Fiesta line and the company continues a tradition of introducing one new color to the dinnerware collection each year. The Class of 1973’s 50th reunion 2023 Fiestaware color by the way… is Jade.

Liz was a four-year student here – she joined Northampton School for Girls in the fall of 1969 as a 9th grader, and after the merger, spent two years at the newly-constituted Williston Northampton School.

After graduating from Bethany College in West Virginia, Liz joined the family company.  She held various supervisory roles in the plant, culminating as Superintendent of the hotel division before taking a break from her professional life to raise three daughters, two of whom now work for the company. In 1998, Liz became the first female member of the company’s Board of Directors.

She officially rejoined the company in 2007 as a Vice President and became its first woman President and CEO in 2012, succeeding her brother in the role. Under Liz’s leadership, The Fiesta Tableware Company and the American-made Fiesta® brand has flourished, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the company and 85th anniversary of the Fiesta® brand in 2021.

Liz was also personally inducted into West Virginia University’s Business Hall of Fame last year in recognition of people with strong West Virginia ties who have made a significant impact on the business landscape.

In recognition of Liz’s professional accomplishments and her leadership of this historic company, I am honored to invite Elizabeth (Wells) McIlvain, class of 1973, to the podium to receive the Williston Northampton Medal.

Watch the presentation