Friday, March 02, 2007

Bethany College: The Value of Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Today's Charleston Gazette contained a letter to the editor, Not all is negative in West Virginia, that made me proud of my alma mater Bethany College. As the Bethany website says, Bethany is a place that gives you "permission to dream."

The letter by the grandparent of a current graduating student understands the often negative stigma that West Virginia receives and highlights the important role that places like Bethany play in the future of our state. Interestingly, I was reading this NYT article, A Fighter for Colleges That Have Everything But Status, yesterday and would put Bethany in this same category.

The letter prompted me to think about the impact the professors I had while attending Bethany from 1984-1988 had on me in developing learning skills that I apply everyday as a health care lawyer. I want to thank and recognize professors like, Trevor Pierce, Albert Ossman, Larry Grimes, John Taylor, Tony Mitch, Bob Myers, John Hull, Bob Funk, Richard Kenney, Helen Louise McGuffie and others.

These professors changed my life. In fact I wouldn't be writing this blog if I hadn't taken the freshman seminar class, Computers and Society, from Dr. Pierce who introduced me to computers or Dr. Grimes who allowed me to explore how Mac computers, hypertext and computers labs could impact (and improve) writing as a part of my senior project in the English Department.

In 1988 I struggled (probably with Dr. Grimes) trying to understand what hypertext was. It was such a foreign concept. I remember getting books through inter-library loan to try to understand the concept and how it might apply in writing. At that time I didn't imagine that it would become the basic element of today's Live Web. Writing this post has prompted me that I need to search out and find my senior project paper to see what I actually wrote during the spring of 1988 on how hypertext was going to change the way we write and teach English.

For other examples of Bethany grads living out their dreams that probably started at Bethany, check out Greg Jordan, CEO and Dave Egan, Chief Marketing Officer of Reed Smith. You can bet Alexander Campbell, founder of Bethany College in 1840, was living out his dream when he built Old Main in the hills of West Virginia in the 1800s.

I could name more -- but instead I thought I would leave it up to those of you who might read this post to leave your thoughts in the comments.

[UPDATE: I shared a copy of this post with Sven de Jong, Bethany's VP of Adminssion and Advancement (and also a grad) and he pointed me to a post yesterday by Nathan Koppel on the WSJ Law Blog titled "Almost Heaven, West Virginia." The post declares Wheeling WV as the law-firm capital of the world and highlights the impact that current West Virginians are having on the world legal community.]

Here is the letter to the editor:

Not all is negative in West Virginia

I sometimes find it depressing that so many people in our state take at total face value negative results of research and misleading statistics that are quoted in newspapers and elsewhere. Maybe one should check their sources before automatically assuming that the information is totally accurate. I refuse to allow this sort of negative publicity to deter me from giving accolades to deserving individuals who dedicate their lives to teaching and institutions that help prepare our youth so that they have the necessary skills to succeed.

My granddaughter will graduate from Bethany College in May with a degree in chemistry and biology. She has been accepted at all of the medical schools to which she applied. Although she is a bright, self-motivated student, she did not accomplish this feat alone. She was guided with the nurturing support of many professors at Bethany, especially the mentoring of her biology professor, John Burns. I publicly offer my thanks and praise to him and to others at this fine institution who have helped her so much.

I understand very well that all is not perfect in West Virginia, but I hope that people will stop perpetuating the myth that we do not offer our youth the skills they need to succeed in life.

Barbara Hutchison-Smith
Cross Lanes

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