With the spring semester well underway, I resume my weekly “Reflections Along the Journey” for the alumni and friends of Davis & Elkins College.
As is our custom at D&E, the faculty and staff of the College gather for an “Opening Session” just before the return of our students both for the fall and spring semesters. In our beautiful new space known as Senate Commons in Myles Center for the Arts, I recently had the privilege of leading this Opening Session to update all in attendance concerning the state of the college. This year, however, I began with a moment of personal privilege.
Just before Christmas, I experienced the death of my mother. As happens with all of us at some point in our lives, loss occurs in this circle of life, and the price of sharing love with another is the emptiness and despair of grief. I needed to say to the caring people who are D&E’s faculty and staff how truly grateful and touched I have been by the outpouring of love and concern. For each of us, there is a salve that is applied to the pain of grief through the prayers, outreach, and words of kindness.
However, beyond expressing my gratitude, I shared with those gathered that because of my situation, I spent a great deal of time over the melancholy holidays thinking about the power of community. At a vulnerable time in my life, I was blessed to experience that power. There is an uplifting and heartening reality to being accepted within a caring community. The low moments are made more bearable and the high and glorified times are all the more spectacular when joy is shared and multiplied. Not all workplaces are stellar examples of the power of community, but Davis & Elkins College is one such place. For those of us fortunate enough to be employed for the sole purpose of providing a transformative educational experience for students, we need to be cognizant and grateful for the blessings we experience daily.
The importance of a cohesive community at D&E extends beyond just the faculty and staff. What makes Davis & Elkins College a gem in the mountains of Randolph County is that the power of the D&E community is awaiting every student who steps foot on the hallowed grounds of the campus. It was true 50 years ago and remains true today. At a potentially vulnerable time in the life of a young student, the D&E community exists to uphold them in times of struggle and celebrate with them during mountaintop moments.
To be sure, large universities offer certain advantages that small colleges cannot. Yet, large institutions can never provide intimate and personalized experiences to students from a community whose hallmark is knowing your name and caring about the individual. On the D&E campus a student is a whole person, and we care for the mind, body, and soul because that is what caring communities do.
With a new semester underway, I do find myself “reflecting along the journey” with renewed gratitude and enthusiasm for the mission of a small college that has at its heart a caring community. As the alumni of this institution attest, lives are transformed in this blessed place.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College