“More than 50 years have passed, and I still miss those days on the D&E campus.”  These words from a Davis & Elkins College alumnus from the 1960’s serve as just one of myriad comments I heard this past week during our 2023 Snowbird Tour of Florida.  Our iconic campus in the Appalachian Highlands has been the location where lives of young men and women have been molded and transformed for decades.  While most only spent four years or so in Elkins as students, the impact of Davis & Elkins College on their lives was palpable in our recent conversations.
During multiple events that took us from central Florida down the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic Coast of the Sunshine State, there were three common themes that alumni attendees continued to recite.  D&E’s effect on its alumni can be summed up with the three “p’s” of people, place, and purpose.
“People” are the heart of a college and they impact our lives.  Alumni talked frequently of the lasting impact of beloved faculty and staff from bygone days.  Remembrances of eccentricities of some of those faculty produced many frivolous moments, yet the laughter always subsided to words of gratitude for devoted men and women who poured themselves into students.  Of course, alumni also talked a great deal about their classmates, many of whom became lifelong friends and some even lifelong partners.
Conversation about “place” focused on the D&E campus and the experiences that shaped young lives on the hills in Randolph County.  Many remembered the shenanigans of adolescence that serve as a rite of passage in college.  Laughter always accompanied the many stories that spanned the decades and included fraternity pranks, panty raids, sneaking into a boarded-up Graceland, sledding down Coronation Hill on cafeteria trays, and Icehouse memories, among others.  Time and again D&E alumni expressed their deep thanksgiving for a place and the special people that influenced them…forever altering their life journeys.
Underlying all our conversations over the past week was “purpose.”  Entering D&E as adolescents, these alumni graduated as young adults with a strong sense of their life’s vocation and the education necessary to pursue it.  The decision they made decades ago to travel curvy country roads to Elkins influenced what they did and continues to influence who they are becoming.  D&E is a part of them, and they are forever a part of D&E.
While in Florida, in addition to sharing updates on current happenings at D&E, we shared details of our current “Creating Home: It Takes a Village” Capital Campaign that will result in a new Freshman Village at D&E.  Not surprisingly, the campaign’s purpose was well received, and numerous gifts were pledged by those in attendance. Why?  Because the people who have experienced and benefited from a Davis & Elkins College education over the years understand that it imperative that it continues to be made available to students today and tomorrow. People, place, and purpose has sustained our alumni through the decades, and it is worth our investment for the future alumni of D&E that have yet to begin their collegiate years on the hallowed grounds of our beloved campus.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College