We cried, laughed, reminisced, and gave thanks for a life lived with purpose, insight, wonder, and love. His life was celebrated on August 6th as former and current students, faculty, staff, fellow writers, neighbors, friends, and family filled the Myles Center for the Arts. I found myself deeply moved by the series of speakers, his favorite music, and selections from his own poetry. The appearance on the Myles Plaza of a blue heron with a massive wingspan at the conclusion of the service, following story after story of his love of nature in the West Virginia mountains, was moving proof for me of his spiritual presence among us.
Since Dr. Bill King arrived on the Davis & Elkins College campus in 1996, he has been beloved. As a Professor of English, Bill was popular among students and faculty alike. He had a passion for teaching and cared deeply about his students. Bill’s life was a shining example of discovering one’s vocation, that which brings meaning and purpose to life, and marrying it to career. He was passionate about the written word and found joy sharing it with students. Following the announcement that he had lost his heroic battle to cancer, the social media testimonials preached his funeral. As meaningful as they all were, none touched me more than the heartfelt and heartbroken words of his students…past and present. In those students, Bill lives on.
At his core, Bill was an artist. His medium of choice was not a canvas, nor an instrument, nor theatrics on the stage. His medium of choice was paper and a pen, or computer and a keyboard. He used words to move us, challenge us, inspire us, and transport us to somewhere beyond the here and now.
There is a photograph I will always associate with Bill. It was taken in the early days of the pandemic, when D&E’s classes had gone virtual. The picture shows Dr. King teaching via computer in his living room. His face displays great animation, his hands are gesturing, and his feet are crossed with his legs raised a foot off the ground. The photo exudes passion as Bill appears to be jumping through the computer screen to reach his students. Here is a professor who was not going to let a pandemic stop him from sharing that which he loved with those who meant so much to him. That was Dr. Bill King.
In 1996, Bill began what is now known as Writer’s Week at D&E, a celebration of the written word. I announced at Bill’s Celebration of Life Service that effective immediately, this annual event will be known as the “Dr. Bill King Writer’s Week.” Along with professors who have been immortalized through endowed chairs and named programs, Dr. King will now take his well-earned and rightful place among the most distinguished and respected of Davis & Elkins College faculty. An endowed fund has been established in Dr. King’s name to support Writer’s Week. Those wishing to honor and remember Dr. King are encouraged to provide a generous gift toward this fund. Gifts may be made online or via check mailed to the College’s Advancement Office.
Like so many of you, my life has been enriched by the intersection of Bill’s journey and mine.
His legacy lives on, and our journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College