A wise person recently told me if you wish to determine the educational quality of an institution, check out the alumni. Lisa and I recently spent a week doing just that as we traversed the state of Florida from coast to coast and points in-between. We joined members of our Institutional Advancement team as we visited with alumni and friends on our 2024 Snowbird Tour.

During these meetings, both in group settings and numerous individual visits, there were many highlights but also recurring themes. Alumni spanning from the class of ’49 to the class of ’10 shared memories, reflections, and gratitude. Friends of the College, particularly snowbirds from Elkins, consistently shared the invaluable contribution D&E makes to the quality of life in the Elkins community.

From alumni we heard a lot about those individuals from D&E in the past that invested themselves in transforming the lives of young students. These alumni consistently remarked about the gift given to them by learned faculty and caring staff that nurtured and molded young and impressionable lives.

We also heard numerous alumni comments about the exceptional quality of the academics they received. As we traveled daily, I heard stories about a particular D&E graduate moving on to graduate school and being amazed that they were generally much better prepared than many of their new graduate classmates coming from high profile academic institutions.

Most had a few stories of their comical and/or mischievous exploits during those formative years. The stories, told with a laugh and a smile, ended with the gentle reprimand and direction of a professor, coach or house/dorm mother back to the “straight and narrow.” They were the necessary learning experiences that led to productive and meaningful lives. These stories often ended with some version of “My D&E years were some of the best years of my life.”

As alumni reflected on the decades since their days on the hallowed grounds of the Davis & Elkins campus, they often remarked about the financial struggles of attending College and the gratitude for the scholarship aid they received. Many would go on to share that they are now giving their financial gifts back to their alma mater to provide the same opportunity for the students of today and tomorrow. For those who have been blessed, they now have the opportunity to be a blessing.

During one of our final alumni events of the tour, following my opportunity to share with the group an update on the College, the construction of our new Freshman Village, and a request for their continuing monetary support, an alumnus from the 2000’s approached me. His simple yet profound words and gratitude spoke to my heart. He simply said, “You have my support. D&E changed my life and enabled my career success. I am grateful to give back.”

As if I needed confirmation, the alumni we encountered on our Snowbird Tour affirmed the quality of the educational experience that is at the heart of Davis & Elkins College. For the past 120 years, this Randolph County institution has been changing lives. What was true in the past continues to be true today and will be for generations to come.

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College