Higher education adheres to shared governance. There are three groups that work together to operate a college; namely, the administration headed by the president, the faculty, and the board of trustees. Well-functioning institutions, like Davis & Elkins College, have all three of these working collaboratively.

The D&E Board of Trustees is a group of 25 volunteers plus the president who have fiduciary responsibility for the college. The Board is led by an elected chair who for the past 3+ years has been Mark Barber, D&E class of 1975. As Mark prepares to step down from this role at the end of June, I have been reflecting on his service.
Mr. Barber assumed the leadership of the Board in March 2020 as the COVID pandemic began to unfold and students were sent home. In this crisis, Mark and I forged a strong working relationship as D&E required bold and united leadership. Mark’s steady and visionary guidance played a significant role bringing us through an existential threat and positioning the college to rebound and grow in the coming years.

Mark credits D&E with preparing him for a successful career in corporate America. After stints at both Ford Motor Credit Company and Prudential Insurance, he spent 27 years as an integral part of the Corporate Treasury Leadership Team of General Electric where he held multiple senior executive leadership roles both in the United States and abroad.

In addition to stepping into the role of chair at a crucial time, Mark brought reorganization and responsiveness to the Board, along with professionalism, a steady hand, and a caring spirit. He invested himself in the life of the College, availed himself to faculty, staff, and students, and has been an invaluable partner and support to me. In short, Mark is a fantastic chair that has been a blessing to D&E.

Five days in September 2020 encapsulates the character and service of our board chair. When graduation could not occur on campus en masse, we decided to take commencement ceremonies to our graduates. Over five days a group from the college “hit the road” traveling to four states where our graduates were congregated to conduct eleven small open air and socially distanced ceremonies. Into parking lots and church yards, we brought academic regalia, staging, chairs, a sound system, and all necessary supplies to fulfill a pledge to our graduates. To my surprise and elation, the Chair of the Board of Trustees flew in from Florida to join the caravan. Mark was our best “roadie” and an integral participant. This is yet another example of the D&E tagline “Leading the Way.”

Mark instituted a tradition to end each Board meeting with the “Chairman’s Top 10 List” to celebrate the people and experiences that make D&E such a unique and special place. If I may have a drum roll, I offer an abbreviated “President’s Top 5 List” to honor Mark: #5, too many flights from Florida – and far too many Zoom calls – to count; #4, offering unwavering support and a listening ear around the clock – no matter the time; #3, guiding and growing a Board during truly one of the most challenging times in our history; #2, keeping students, faculty, and staff at the heart of all our decisions; and #1, a deep and abiding love for Davis & Elkins College.

The hallmark of a good leader is leaving an institution better than what was inherited. Mark Barber’s legacy at D&E is secure.

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College