For 118 years, West Virginia has been home to Davis & Elkins College. However, during the last week in February, Florida served as our home away from home. The “D&E 2022 Snowbird Tour” found Lisa and I joining the Institutional Advancement staff caravanning from the central part of the state to multiple stops down the west coast and an event on the southern Atlantic side as well. The temperatures were certainly warmer than in Elkins, but the love and dedication for a unique college in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia made us all feel right at home.
This annual pilgrimage is an immersion experience in the lifelong impact of D&E on its graduates. Alumni joining us spanned the decades of the 40s to the 90s. Reflecting on a flood of memories from college days, common themes emerged from this unique prism for our alumni. Time and again we listened to life-changing and heart-warming memories of people and experiences from years ago. They were not the types of memories that would be experienced at large universities where a student is one of thousands, rather they were stories of individuals who were impacted by faculty, staff and fellow students who had become mentors and dear friends in an intimate and nurturing community.
“These were the best years of my life.” I heard this phrase uttered many times. The people uttering this phrase had experienced very meaningful and successful life journeys. And yet, the D&E years were not only preparatory, but they were also transformational. They were the years of expanded intellectual horizons, maturation and the establishment of deep and lasting friendships. In some cases, these were the years of blossoming romance and the binding connection to a life partner.
Our alumni seem to really enjoy reminiscing about their “shenanigans” as well. Day after day on our tour, a sly smile came across the face of an alumnus as he or she recalled “infractions of the rules” from those days, which seem somewhat archaic currently. How humorous it was to sit next to professionally successful executives, managers and entrepreneurs who traveled down memory lane from 40, 50 or 60 years ago to recall “what we got away with” and to this day, brings a sense of satisfaction and a smile.
Amidst all the banter, we shared honest, meaningful and important conversation with our alumni about the existential challenges to small private colleges in our day, and the necessity for alumni to give back to their alma mater. The life-changing experience they encountered will only be available to present and future generations of students if it is prioritized in the philanthropy of alumni. To those who are blessed, we are called upon to be a blessing.
I returned to Elkins from our whirlwind tour with a renewed sense of thanksgiving for Davis & Elkins College. For more than a century it has been molding young lives and contributing to the quality of life for Elkins and the region. God willing, we will continue to do so for our mission is vital.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College