Taking a class on photography during high school, I was given the assignment to take pictures from a unique perspective that would alter the way I viewed structures or communal areas within my town. All these years later, I still remember my surprise at discovering something new in objects I looked at daily simply by seeing with fresh eyes.
For the past few days, I have been traveling to visit with alumni of Davis & Elkins College. As usual, when I make trips such as this, I gain new perspective on the tie that binds alumni to this unique institution in the mountains of Randolph County. This tie for our alumni exists whether they are graduates of decades ago or recent years.
With every visit I heard variations on several common themes. Memories and stories inevitably begin to flow from college days. The four formative years on the D&E campus made deep impressions and vivid memories that range from pranks to “aha” realizations and life-changing moments.
Often, a lengthy list of names is shared, generally with influential faculty at the very top of that list. Those faculty guided, challenged and molded a young student into the person before me. Classmates who have become either lifelong marital partners or lifelong friends enter our conversation. For alumni, the ties to their alma mater are evident in the bonds formed through deep and lasting personal relationships that have survived both great physical distances and the passage of time.
During my travels I also witnessed personal reflection on the big picture impact of the decision at a young and impressionable age to attend D&E. Horizons expanded, doors were opened, and students searching for direction discovered the confidence to walk through those doors and seize life’s opportunities. Repeatedly, I have heard that “… those were the best years of my life.” With maturity comes wisdom as former students realize the gift those collegiate years provided. For most of us, it is only for a brief period that our “full-time job” is exploration, learning and growth in a collegiate setting. The unparalleled opportunity to spread one’s wings may never again repeat itself as we age and experience the increasing complexities of adult life.
Those of us who experience a setting such as D&E are the fortunate ones. It is a privilege to study and achieve a degree from a higher education institution. Many in our country, and certainly across the world, do not have this unique opportunity. Let none of us ever take this gift for granted.
The unique perspective of the past week reminded me once again how our life journeys are influenced and impacted by the decision to step onto the hallowed grounds of the D&E campus. I am grateful to each of our alumni, along with our present students, who made the wise decision to become Senators, and opened themselves to the transformative nature of a Davis & Elkins College education.
As I experienced many years ago through that high school assignment, I am gratified future D&E students will have a unique perspective in their future. It will make all the difference by molding their lives to enable purpose and meaning to be the result.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College