ELKINS, W.Va. — Davis & Elkins College students, staff, instructors, alumni and residents gathered at Robbins Memorial Chapel for a candlelight vigil in support of D&E President G.T. “Buck” Smith.
The vigil came following a vote by staff Tuesday in which 37 of 53 eligible faculty members participating handed down a no-confidence resolution against Smith.
Participants in the vigil had the opportunity to share stories, memories, praise and even tears as they talked about Smith. D&E Assistant Professor of Art Michael Doig said the event was designed to gather ideas about how to move forward and heal feelings on the campus.
Those gathered for the vigil lit candles and moved onto the plaza between the Robbins Chapel and the Myles Center for the Arts, forming a large circle. Smith and his wife, Joni, also were present at the vigil.
“Thank you so much to Buck and Joni for giving us the opportunity to serve and Davis & Elkins College,” said Lowe Del Aviles, who provides assistance to international students at D&E. “I enjoy what I do here and without the opportunity you have given me, I would not have met the students, staff and faculty. Thank you. We love you.”
“When I first came here, Buck was president and being here felt like family. For the next two years, while Buck was gone, it kind of felt like that family was broken. Now that Buck is back, the family atmosphere at D&E feels stronger again. I want to thank you for that. That is what I wanted from a small college,” said D&E student Kelsey Mullens.
Elkins resident Dick McGraw shared a story about the first time he met Smith.
“You had not been here long, sir,” McGraw said. “I went to a girls soccer game and a gentleman and lovely lady came over and sat next to us. He knew each person on the team, where they were from and what they were majoring in. He had a love for these students.”
McGraw said he believes that is what everyone respects.
“He has the feeling for each and every person here. It is going to be hard to find anybody to ever replace him. He cares about each and every one of you, whether you work here or are a student here. And he knows your name. I think that is very unusual and very important,” McGraw said.
D&E College Associate Registrar Amelia Rossi said she feels D&E is a family.
“Three years ago, I was facing an illness. When I came back on campus, Joni came and talked to me for way more than an hour. You are not going to get that everywhere. Joni and Buck have a heart about them and that is their personality and what we love about you,” Rossi said. “Buck has done so much good for the college and he has raised the money we needed to bring us out of debt. This college and this community should be very grateful for you, Buck.”
Smith spoke to those gathered at the vigil, saying on their journey through life, they would touch lives in ways they never could imagine.
“Usually you will touch lives when you are not even trying,” Smith said. “So, therefore, we must always be the authentic person we are, whatever that person may be. We are indeed lighting a candle for another person at all times.”
“We have no idea what world that waiter or waitress came from or what family they had to leave at home or what hardships he or she is dealing with,” Smith said. “But here they are, serving us, being pleasant to us and filling our water glasses.”
Smith said folks have an opportunity each day to touch someone’s life for good.
“We don’t have to try – we just be who we are – and when I look around this circle, all the people on the hillside today and tonight, they are all a reflection of that light and an inner warmth,” he said.
“Among the 10 principals Joni and I suggested for the campus eight years ago, one is there is more good in the world than bad. Most people are trying to do the right thing. There are times when there is anger or bitterness or intentional hurt. We must always practice believing there is more good in the world than bad. And we must try to believe most of the time people are trying to do the right thing.”