Dear Campus Community,
“A life of service is a life well and greatly lived.” — Omoakhuana Anthonia
An era came to an end last Saturday at Davis & Elkins College. Dr. Gloria M. Payne, Professor Emeritus, died at the age of 98. Gloria was a pillar of this institution from the beginning of her employment in 1945 until last week. Always a favorite of students, Gloria remained a fixture of the College long after retirement. Even when she was no longer able to come to campus, the students of the past decades came to her. The Payne residence on Davis Street was a required visit when alumni returned to their beloved Davis & Elkins.
How well I remember just a couple of years ago Lisa and I sitting at her dining room table just a few days from Christmas. Her well-honed skills as a hostess were on full display as she offered Christmas treat after treat. The table that was literally overflowing with small boxes of all sorts that were gifts sent to her was an astounding sight. I asked about the amazing outpouring of love represented by the boxes, and Gloria proudly said they were from her students. She proceeded to offer another chocolate treat as she told me who sent that particular box. Even in her late 90s, she remembered each giver, as if they had just visited her home. They may have been a student 50 or 60 years ago, but Dr. Payne remembered them fondly, and they certainly remembered, revered, and loved her.
The last time Dr. Payne was on the campus of her beloved D&E was in the fall of 2017 to receive the prestigious Crystal Mace Award. She was the inaugural recipient of this new award designed to be given to an individual whose life has had a transformative effect on this College. While her advanced age slowed her mobility, her mind was as sharp as ever. As the pictures from that day captured, her face radiated the joy of a life of service to the students of Davis & Elkins College. She was in her glory on that special day. As I had the honor of presenting her with the award, the crowd in Harper-McNeeley Auditorium rose to its feet in thunderous applause to pay tribute and celebrate a lifetime of investment and care in the lives of students.
On Saturday evening I penned an email to the D&E Community, including our alumni, informing them of the peaceful passing of Dr. Gloria Payne in the arms of her daughter, Debbie. Just over a year shy of a century of living, her life was purposeful, impactful, and faithful. For each of us, we can only hope that when we draw our final breath the world is just a bit brighter because of our life, and particularly those we impacted during our life. Dr. Gloria Payne’s life is to be celebrated and her legacy at Davis & Elkins College is secure.
Like so many of you, I am grateful that my life’s journey intersected hers. For Gloria and for each of us, the journey continues….
President Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College