Graduation a time to celebrate, look ahead

It is celebration time at Davis & Elkins College! For our graduating seniors, this weekend is the time when all the hard work, hopes and dreams come to fruition. As I have the privilege of presenting diplomas to our deserving students, each piece of parchment symbolizes so much more than the completion of a course of study.

For the student, the diploma represents the acknowledgment of an accomplishment as well as the opportunity to pursue dreams. Graduation is not possible without hard work, late night studying, expansion of intellectual horizons and social growth. Graduation is not possible without dedicated faculty that figuratively pour themselves into their students; filling them with knowledge, curiosity and confidence. A D&E graduate has a bigger picture of our world, and a grasp of the complexities of our culture. They also graduate with an understanding of our responsibility to God’s world and God’s people.

For the families of our graduates, the diploma represents an accomplishment for them as well. Parents and other family members have sacrificed so that their son or daughter could experience the transformative education D&E offers. In return, they receive an overflowing sense of pride in both the accomplishment and the opportunity for the future embodied in their graduate. All the sacrifice is worth it when the young man or young woman, whom they love so much, walks across that stage beaming with joy and brimming with yet-to-be realized life opportunities. Crystalized in a moment and in a life, more than two decades of work, sacrifice and nurturing become the bargain of a lifetime.

For Davis & Elkins College and each of our alumni, the diploma represents and affirms the mission of this institution and the personal love and dedication we all share for D&E. In short, this College exists to provide a transformative educational experience, and the diploma is the symbol of living out our mission. The tangible sign of success is visible in each D&E graduate, scattered in communities across this country as well as internationally, that is making a difference in the lives of people and making our world just a bit brighter.

This weekly column has been a labor of love for me over these past 10 months. I wanted to focus on my reflections on the journey with students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and friends of D&E. This coming weekend is a marker along that journey for all of us connected to this College, and particularly for our graduates. Commencement exercises are not the culmination of the journey; rather they are a milestone along the way. The journey that brought these students to the mountains of Randolph County and to the gem of an institution “on the hill” continues, and it will lead them to places and experiences that hold great promise. Like the friendships our students have forged on this campus, there are intriguing, creative and life-loving people waiting to be encountered on the journey as our graduates move on from D&E. They literally have their lives before them, and they are lives filled with opportunity thanks to their years at Davis & Elkins College.

At commencement, we pause to give thanks. Then we move on with hope and optimism, for the journey continues. …

Chris A. Wood is president of Davis & Elkins College