The dawn of 2024 marks the 120th year of the existence of Davis & Elkins College transforming lives of students. As has been the case twice a year throughout that history, the start of a new academic semester on January 15th brought the familiar hustle and bustle back to the hallowed grounds of our beloved campus. Present students, just like students over the past century, returned to cold temperatures that ushered in a foot of snow to blanket our mountains and create a breathtaking panorama across our campus. Coronation hill on the front campus had plenty of sled riders…young and old.
During the winter break, before the welcome return of our students, Lisa and I celebrated a festive family event. On January 5th, our daughter and new son-in-law were married. The date was intentionally chosen as it would have been the 75th anniversary of the bride’s grandparents (my parents). It was my honor to officiate at the ceremony, while Lisa walked her down the aisle. While I have performed a lot of weddings over the years, particularly the years I was in the pastorate, I can safely state that the most treasured were the weddings for our two daughters. As a self-avowed “softie,” I fought back tears more than once, but still treasure the opportunity to celebrate love and seal a covenant of commitment between two people who pledge themselves to each other before God. It was a memorable and sacred occasion.
The wedding itself occurred in the Great Hall of Halliehurst on the beautiful campus of Davis & Elkins College. While the event obviously held great personal meaning for me, it was also the impetus for additional reflection on the astronomical number of special and life-changing events that have occurred at Halliehurst and Graceland, the two mansions on our campus. They are both gems for the College, the community, and the state.
If the walls could talk, imagine the stories they could tell. In Halliehurst, the stories would begin with Senator Stephen Benton Elkins and his spouse, Hallie Davis Elkins. Dignitaries from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century would travel to the mountains of Randolph County to stay in the elegant Elkins home. Once the mansion and surrounding land were donated to D&E, the walls heard the conversations of students, faculty, and staff during decades of the twentieth century. The grand old mansion served as a classroom, student residence space, banquet venue, and offices among others. Lifelong friendships were formed, music was sung, love blossomed, plays were produced, education occurred, tears were shed, and hearty laughter echoed throughout the grand old home.
With echoes from the past century, this father of the bride could hear the faint noise of history coming from the walls of our grand old Halliehurst as yet another couple proclaimed their love for one another. With gratitude, Davis & Elkins College continues to be the place where dreams are realized, and new voices are added to the multitudes that make this institution a blessed place.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College