A Near-Final Week at Fairmont State University

I write these words December 3, mostly intended for my December 10, column for the Times West Virginian. For this Great Blue Heron Blog Post, I’ve added a twist and turn here and there to bring it back to my Nature-Inspired Leading and Learning theme. The Feature Photo has me standing just this week at the Crepe Myrtle in front of FSU’s iconic Falcon Center, where we hosted the robotics competition I mention in the text below.

We just returned to Shaw House from the Annual Service of Lessons and Carols, the Fairmont State University Chorus (featuring the First Presbyterian Church Cambridge Hand-bell Choir and Children’s Choir). This wonderful Holiday Festival epitomizes the spirit of FSU/Community reciprocity… the spirit I refer to as Town/Gown. The Spirit (the Holy version) also entered the afternoon concert – the Presbyterian Church is a heavenly venue!

Town/Gown may actually serve to name the local ecosystem where Fairmont State University resides. The paragraphs below speak in no small way to our relationships with other organisms residing along side us.

This entire past week offered a full menu of semester wrap-up activities, Holiday celebrations, and other events signaling my waning Interim Presidency. Judy and I over-ate Thanksgiving with our son and his family north of Pittsburgh. Our visits with them will be less frequent once we leave Fairmont. We enjoyed Sunday afternoon and Monday morning at Stonewall Jackson Resort. A symbol of north-central WV that we will carry with us. We considered it just one more slice of Almost Heaven!

Monday evening, we enjoyed sharing dinner and dessert with our Fighting Falcons Volleyball team and coaches at Shaw House. Our treat to these wonderful student athletes who graciously made us feel throughout the fall that we belonged to their family. Competitors, scholars, leaders, and citizens extraordinaire! So many people thank us for inviting them to our home. Not so, Shaw is their home. We are simply privileged to live here… and to share it with this great university community.

Judy prohibited my Tuesday evening return to Shaw until after the HOPE event – ladies only — a fund-raiser for our local battered-women shelter. Yet another great use of an FSU venue for supporting a pressing community cause. I did reap some reward by returning before catering had carted off the goodies to the Falcon Center. Ah, another FSU benefit I will miss. Aladdin does a fantastic job feeding campus and community – another invaluable FSU partner.

Wednesday, I enjoyed delivering an open lecture at West Virginia University, just 20 miles North of us. A thirty-year friend is Dean of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design. You may have guessed my topic: The Nature of West Virginia Life! We enjoyed a standing room crowd. I spread the gospel of Fairmont and sang the praises of FSU.

Thursday evening, we once again hosted a community dinner at Shaw – Leadership Marion County. Nearly fifty attendees: LMC Board, participants (and guests), and some FSU folks. I can assure you that Marion County’s future is in good hands. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food, beverages, and fellowship. How do I know? We had a hard time getting them to leave! A great bunch and a wonderful tribute to the value of investing in our community’s future.

Yet another example Saturday and Sunday of what an engaged FSU brings to our fair community, we hosted the WV State Robotics Championship. Well over 500 participants, chaperones, and family members. Saturday’s competitors were kindergarten through middle school; Sunday’s at the high school level. Many of these out of town guests spent money in town – food, lodging, etc. We hope many of the young people elect to return for subsequent competitions and eventually enroll as Falcons.

Also Saturday, Judy and I hosted another 120 of our best friends at Shaw for refreshments to recognize completing seniors and their families. We do this now in lieu of a fall graduation. We love hearing the amazing stories of family engagement to enable their offspring’s progress and degree fulfillment. Lots of laughter and tears of joy! Nothing satisfies me more than seeing success manifest as celebration.

Oh yeah, we also welcomed good crowds to the Feaster Center for both men’s and women’s Fighting Falcon basketball Saturday afternoon. Once again, a Town/Gown occasion.

I could not have better designed a week that represents this incredible FSU/Fairmont community joint venture. We are in this together. As I’ve noted before, we are jointly blessed, as James Norton so eloquently expressed in his November 30, Times West-Virginian Letter (An FSU gift to Fairmont is appreciated). He spoke of Fairmont without FSU: “How deadly would that be!” He mentioned his “moment of reconsideration and Thanksgiving, one that visualized professors, students, and other staff, and all the blessings their pursuits in science, art, literature and philosophy bring because FSU is here.”

Every ecosystem has its keystone species — there is no debate that FSU is this community’s keystone… its anchor… its distinguishing feature. FSU’s roots sink deeply into the fertile community soil here along the Monongahela River. We draw sustenance and nurture from the richness of our Marion County environment. FSU can be the mighty oak. FSU and Fairmont – mutual reciprocity; shared dreams; and absolute interdependence. I urge you to reach high together. Your future is bright.