The opposite of mediocrity is excellence. Speaking recently to students, faculty, and staff at our Academic Honors Convocation, I shared my concern that today’s society is awash in mediocrity.  Davis & Elkins College is committed to a transformative educational experience that strives to redefine the “D&E” acronym to stand for “Distinction & Excellence.”

During Tuesday’s awards ceremony, many students and other campus members were recognized for excellence. All are well deserved. Two highly coveted awards are presented to the outstanding faculty member and the outstanding member of the staff. Each of these individuals epitomize excellence.

The Lois Latham Award for Teaching Excellence, as selected by the Executive Committee of the Faculty Assembly, was presented to Professor Kevin “Woody” Woodcock. The Chair of the Division of Creative Arts, Professor Woodcock joined the D&E faculty fulltime in 2017 after several years as an adjunct. He currently teaches theory, advanced painting, screen printing, printmaking, and senior studio. “Woody,” as he is known across campus, is an individual of graciousness and impeccable character beloved by his students and highly respected by his colleagues. Originally a native of New York City, Woody met his future wife, Mel Vanscoy ‘82, during her years as a student at D&E. Mel, an Elkins native, ensured Woody would make West Virginia his adopted home. For this, Mel, D&E is most grateful and in your debt.

Dr. Lois Latham was a distinguished Professor of English at D&E from 1955 to 1968 and was named Professor Emeritus until her death in 1980. As a fitting tribute, The Lois Latham Award for Teaching Excellence was established by one of her students.

This year’s winner of the Robin Price Award for Staff Excellence is Alasdair Forsythe. “Ali” traveled from his home in Dunlop, Scotland to Davis & Elkins College in 2008 as a student.  Upon his graduation in 2012, he remained at D&E putting his accounting and finance degrees to work in our Business Office. Fast forward 10 years, Ali remains in Elkins now serving as the college’s Director of Accounting as well as Head Golf Coach for both our men’s and women’s teams. He met and married D&E’s International Students Services Director, Lowe del Aviles, and they are now the proud parents of adorable Lizzy. Among the many nominations submitted for Ali recurring words included dedicated, patient, smart, caring, inspiring, and an example for others. There is no finer example of the quality of a D&E graduate than Ali.

Robin Price retired from D&E in 2019 after a distinguished 46-year career including 36 years as the Executive Assistant to the President. After receiving the Price award, Ali humbly remarked, “Being mentioned in the same breath as Robin is truly amazing after all she has done for the College.”

To all who received awards this past Thursday, and to all who strive for excellence daily, I offer my gratitude and congratulations. You and your bold efforts are the antidote to mediocrity. In the words of Ronnie Oldham, “Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College