When Elkins and Randolph County are healthy and strong, it is good for Davis & Elkins College. Likewise, D&E being robust and vital is good for Elkins and Randolph County. The community and the college have a symbiotic relationship that is beneficial to both.
A couple of weeks ago the college hosted two gatherings with select community leaders. Hosted by D&E Trustee Joyce Allen at her beautiful home. These two evenings provided a valued opportunity to reflect on the impact of D&E to the local community, and particularly the enhancements to the quality of life for all residing among the beautiful mountains of Randolph County.
How does D&E improve the quality of life in the region? I invite you to consider the following. First, D&E is the county’s hometown college. Not only is it physically located in Elkins, but 17% of our students are county residents, and 28% of the student body resides in Randolph and the six contiguous counties surrounding it. The high-quality education provided to local students tops the list. Second, the economic impact on the local economy is more than $25 million annually. This does not include nearly $40 million in additional capital projects over the last five years that has largely remained in the region. Third, the college provides cultural and athletic offerings, and brings multi-faceted diversity to a rural region. Fourth, the college’s facilities, ranging from historic mansions to our arts and athletic complexes, are utilized by the broader community. Whether opening the campus to the Mountain State Forest Festival or providing our pool to swimming leagues for local children and youth, the campus and community serve one another.
The struggles of higher education institutions in West Virginia, both public and private, have been recent front-page news. From the unfortunate recent closure of nearby Alderson Broaddus University to the well-publicized financial challenges of WVU and other regional public institutions, these are tough days for institutions of higher education. When a hometown college or university struggles or closes, it has significant ripple effects to towns and regions.
For the past 119 years, Davis & Elkins College has been a cornerstone of Elkins and Randolph County. D&E has shown resiliency over those decades to face challenges and evolve into the highly respected liberal arts college that exists today. While not immune to the challenges of the current landscape, the Randolph County college, founded by the Presbyterian Church and the backing of two U.S. Senators, is standing tall and strong. Given an “A” by Forbes for financial health, welcoming the largest entering class this fall in more than a decade, doubling our endowment since 2016, expanding academic offerings to attract today’s students, building a new residence hall, preparing to renovate two additional dorms, and being the benefactor of double the total of financial gifts from the previous year, Davis & Elkins College is a blessed place.
The recent message shared with community leaders was simple and straightforward. D&E is vital and healthy, is committed to be a strong community partner, and needs the continuing support of that community, as well as alumni and friends, to remain strong. Working together toward a common goal and recognizing the blessings in our midst, our brightest days lie ahead.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College