There was a big party at Davis & Elkins College this past Saturday … actually three parties to be exact.  Unlike some late-night weekend parties in residence halls, these three parties were sanctioned and celebrated by the entire D&E community.

Commencement 2021, observed in three separate ceremonies to provide proper distancing and safety, had significance that was even beyond the usual joy of each commencement over the 117-year history of the institution.  To pretend the past 15 months were “normal” would be an absurdity, and to assume the experience of the graduating Class of 2021 was like any other would be equally ridiculous.  Led by the pipes and drums of the West Virginia Highlanders, we processed into Harper-McNeeley Auditorium in the Myles Center for the Arts and joined together to affirm, celebrate, and live out the mission of Davis & Elkins College to “… prepare and inspire students for success and for thoughtful engagement in the world.”  What a party it was!

From the podium I shared with our graduates the following:

“To the Class of 2021, I cannot let this moment pass without acknowledging all that you have endured for the past 15 months as a result of the worst pandemic to hit our country and our world in the past century.  COVID-19 turned the world and our campus upside down.  You endured a campus shutdown in March 2020 and a move to virtual learning.  You returned in August to a campus closed to the public and operating under restrictions none of us would have dreamed.  For you, as for me, all of this was foreign, and all was frightening.   

Over the past 15 months, I have learned something very important about the Class of ’21.  I have learned of your resilience, your drive to succeed, and your willingness to do whatever it takes, even in a pandemic, to reach your goals.  That is why, I know in my heart, great things await each of you in your lives, and your lives are going to make a positive difference to your families, your communities, and to our world.”

Davis & Elkins College has prepared these young men and young women for lives of meaning and purpose.  As I looked into their eyes as they received their well-deserved diplomas, I had an unshakable confidence and optimism that our future is in good hands.  God bless and Godspeed to the Class of 2021!

For D&E, our preparation for welcoming back our returning students and securing a robust entering class for the fall continues.  God willing, the worst of the crisis in now behind us.  While still exercising caution, the coming academic year promises a lessening of restrictions and a gradual return to a semblance of operations as we knew them.  Our mission as an institution continues unimpeded as our alumni base grows and new students step foot upon the hallowed grounds of D&E to be prepared and inspired for success and for thoughtful engagement in the world.

The time for the summer hiatus for this weekly labor of love I call “Reflections Along the Journey” has arrived.  May the warm and carefree days of the coming season be a time of rest, reflection, and joy for each of us on our continuing journey.

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College