“For our own success to be real, it must contribute to the success of others.” These words of Eleanor Roosevelt aptly describe the mission of Davis & Elkins College. Last Friday evening, as I listened to a group of our students share their D&E story and talk about their future, I thought of Mrs. Roosevelt’s quote with a heart of gratitude for the success of this Randolph County institution of higher education.

The Friday event was the annual 1904 Society Gala to honor and thank our donors who give annual gifts of $1000 and up. As the crowd gathered adorned in 1904 Society ties, scarves, and pins, in the Senate Commons at the Myles Center for the Arts, we were joined by selected students who tangibly represented to our donors that we are not giving dollars to Davis & Elkins College, but rather we are investing in our students. What a memorable evening we had.

Joining us from Florida, the chair of our Board of Trustees, Mark Barber, served as the moderator of a panel of five D&E students. These young men and women represented a cross section of the student body. Responding to Mark’s questions, they shared their D&E experience from their freshmen year to the present. They talked of those on campus that influenced them, their maturation, and pursuit of a sense of vocation to guide their lives. They shared favorite professors that have molded them, experiences whether in the classroom, on the stage, or on the athletic field that have challenged them, and friends that have sustained them. In short, their D&E experience is preparing them for lives of meaning and purpose. They are worth our investment.

One of our donors, who traveled several hours to attend the event, commented that the trip was well worth it. As the source of an endowed scholarship for a student, the evening’s program confirmed his investment is truly making a difference in the life of “his student,” and furthermore will continue to pay dividend’s as that student graduates and returns to his home community to serve and lead. “I am grateful that I can give” were his words to my grateful heart.

Following a banner year of philanthropic support to the College in 2023, I shared with the crowd gathered that philanthropy is a crucial component to keep small private colleges thriving in the modern day of increasing college closures and mergers. Tuition alone will no longer support institutions that do not have very sizable endowments. Thankfully, Davis & Elkins College has a loyal and generous group of alumni and friends that prioritize their giving to the students of D&E. The 1904 Society Gala offers a simple yet profound thank you to each of these individuals.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom lies at the core of who we are as a college. As long as Davis & Elkins continues to be successful as demonstrated in graduates who are prepared, passionate, and contributing to our society, then we will continue to have alumni and friends that will invest their philanthropic dollars in our students. My pledge to our generous donors is that we will never forget to say thank you, and we will continue to provide the stories of students to provide hope for our future.

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College