Reflecting Along the Journey

February 22, 2018

Dear College Community,

Many books have been written concerning leadership. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes, as well as personalities and styles. Yet all, who are effective, have in common the ability to move a group or organization forward, effect positive change and bring out the best in people - be they employees, volunteers or followers.

Davis & Elkins College has a long history of enabling leaders. That enabling begins with our learned faculty, leaders and experts within their disciplines. Among our alumni base are myriad leaders in their chosen fields, change-makers within communities, and national and international influencers. So often, I hear alumni say if it were not for the profound influences upon their lives from their time at D&E, they would not be doing what they are doing today. The transformational educational experience at Davis & Elkins College changes lives and injects into the communities throughout this state and beyond those who will lead, and who will positively shape our society for many years to come.

At the heart of D&E is our students. I cannot write about leadership and not reflect on them. One of the hallmarks of a small private liberal arts college is the opportunity for students to assume leadership. Academics, student clubs and organizations, religious life on campus, athletics, the arts and community groups are a sampling of where D&E students are honing their leadership abilities and affecting some aspect of campus life.

Recent campus elections for the leadership of the student government association, known as Student Assembly, reaffirmed the opportunities to learn and lead on campus. Three of our four officers elected for next year are completing their first year at D&E.

The president-elect for the 2018-2019 academic year is Maddy Brown, a stellar student and athlete from Hedgesville, West Virginia, in the Eastern Panhandle. She came to D&E as the winner of a competitive scholarship in leadership for incoming students. It is clear that Maddy is a leader. During her freshman year at D&E, she has quickly made her mark and gained the respect of her fellow students. Young and energetic, she embodies the purpose and the promise of this institution. During her four years on campus, she will make an impact upon this College, to be sure.

What motivates and invigorates me is to think of the impact Maddy will have on her community, state and nation when she graduates from D&E and lives out her rich and promising life. In addition to Maddy, I see so many emerging leaders among our student body. They give me hope for the future of our state and society.

With gratitude to American scholar Warren Bennis concerning his work around leadership, I hope, trust and intend that D&E will keep three simple yet profound principles at the very heart of our mission to train and produce leaders. First, leadership is all about translating vision into reality. Second, the character of our leaders counts. Finally, putting the interest of others at the center of our decisions is imperative. To phrase this another way consistent with my vocational background as an ordained pastor, true leadership is servanthood. May we keep these principles at the core of our teaching, learning and living.

The journey continues....

Chris A. Wood
President Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College