A rich Scottish heritage is prevalent at Davis & Elkins College and throughout Randolph County.  One fortunate D&E student experienced Scotland firsthand and had a royal encounter that she may tell her children and grandchildren one day.

Gabriele “Gabby” Pealer is a junior double major in chemistry and biology from Elkins.  An excellent student, Gabby worked this past summer with her academic advisor, Chemistry Professor Dr. Clinton Johnson, because of being named a Ledford Scholar by the Appalachian College Association.  An accomplished Highlands Dancer, Gabby’s artistic talent brought her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Last August, Gabby was invited to join a Canadian pipe and drum band as their featured dancer in a tour of Scotland.  Her second-ever flight and her first trip internationally made for incredible memories.  The tour schedule included a performance for the Lord Provost in Edinburgh, the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow, the Palace of Holyrood House, Stirling Castle, a double-decker bus in the rain, and Balmoral Castle.

The performance at Balmoral was for a small but distinguished audience – including the Queen of England.  In fact, Gabby’s solo performance placed her just ten feet away from Queen Elizabeth in what would be one of her Majesty’s final appearances before her death in September.  Immense pride and equally immense nerves are how Gabby describes this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  She garnered tremendous media coverage across West Virginia and with an international news organization.

It was yet another D&E connection that made Gabby’s journey possible.  The cost of a trip to Scotland for a college student is significant.  She contacted me to inquire if there might be any way D&E could provide assistance with the necessary funds.  When Gabby and I met, I shared that Davis & Elkins College is a blessed place.  Gabby’s blessing came from a devoted alumna who believes wholeheartedly in our mission because she experienced it.

Dr. Kimberly Farry, ’85, began a designated fund at D&E four years ago and continues to contribute monthly.  The purpose of the fund is to provide unique travel opportunities for students.  Dr. Farry was able to travel abroad during her senior year at D&E and recognizes the importance of learning opportunities beyond the classroom.  “We open student’s minds during their college years,” said Dr. Farry.  “It’s the best time to see beyond yourself and integrate new cultural experiences.”

Alumni of Davis & Elkins College know well the life-changing impact of four years on our scenic campus.  Gabby’s story is a powerful illustration of the D&E community caring for the whole person including the mind, heart, and spirit.  Science and the arts are both components of Gabby’s experience that prepare and inspire her for a future filled with possibilities.  Having come to know Gabby, I know her life’s contribution to society will be significant. She, too, will find a way to give back to D&E so other “Gabby’s” will have similarly transformative experiences.

We now know the answer to the question, “So what do Queen Elizabeth, an obstetrician from Buckhannon, and a student from Davis & Elkins College share in common?” They believe in dreams…making them possible and watching them become realized.

The journey continues…

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College