Davis & Elkins College President G.T. "Buck" Smith announced last Friday that he will be voluntarily stepping down June 30 after five exemplary years of service.
How does a community thank a man for a job well done? In fact, "well done" may be an understatement - many local residents believe that Smith managed to bring the school back from the brink of disaster when it was buffeted by a multitude of problems.
How much of a difference has Smith made since he began work July 1, 2008?
- D&E owed more than $10 million to the bank in 2008, but those debts were paid off by Nov. 7, 2012.
- Recruiting increased by 50.5 percent in only one year during Smith's tenure. Much of the hike was driven by the Highlands Scholar Program, which this year enabled 287 students from the seven counties surrounding the college to attend D&E .
- Smith has excelled at fundraising. The college has raised close to $25 million in gifts in the past five years.
- D&E has made more than $10 million in campus improvements in the past five years.
Smith has also excelled at building good will for the school within the local community. When asked in 2008 why he was coming out of retirement to lead D&E, he said his answer was simple.
"Because this is a place worth doing it for," Smith said. "Isn't that what life is all about? Everyone of us, it doesn't matter what we are doing, we like to be doing something that is worthwhile, and if we are privileged to do something worthwhile, then we also have to be in a situation where we can make a difference."
Smith said he initially turned the job down. Then after discussing the possibility with his wife, Joni, the two decided to take the college up on its offer. The couple has been a great team: both have projected a positive message in all their dealings in the community.
Taking the president's position at D&E marked the fourth time Smith came out of retirement. He will continue to serve the college as president-emeritus and college advisor, but if Smith decides to take a nice leisurely vacation anytime soon, he will most certainly have earned it. The college - and the entire local area - are grateful for his efforts.