West Virginia Folklife Center

Here at Fairmont, I write a weekly column for the Times West Virginian newspaper. I offer perspective from my Interim Presidency, and frequently weave a Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading thread. This essay/column appeared earlier in September.

When given the chance to submit my letter of interest and resume for the FSU Interim Presidency, I did what all of us do these days when we want to know a little (or a lot) more about anything. I visited the web site, which immediately piqued my interest. The web site certainly proved helpful, yet I am exceedingly spatial. I must see first-hand to truly appreciate a place.

My June 7, 2017 campus interview visit allowed time only to drive around FSU’s hilly campus, circle through the Shaw House (President’s residence) parking lot, swing by the athletic fields, and duly note the One Room Schoolhouse and the West Virginia Folklife Center. Parking behind Hardway, securing an escort to my interview with the Board of Governors at the Falcon Center, and then returning to Hardway to meet with the administrative team – all that served as merely a teaser. I wanted to know more – a lot more! About FSU and the Fairmont community, which I had seen as I drove into town and then back to I-79. But time ran out – I departed for Pittsburgh’s airport, hoping that I might be asked to return. The call came a week later.

I’ve dived deeply into FSU, Fairmont, and Marion and Harrison counties since July 1. Although I still have not examined the One Room Schoolhouse, four weeks ago I made it to the Folklife Center. Let me tell you – well worth the wait! What a tremendous regional resource. As Judy and I approached the front door, last year’s student Board member, Rachel Ball, exited with her friend Courtney. They had just left a class that meets at the Center. Rachel’s enthusiasm is richly contagious. She was among those who interviewed me at the Falcon Center. Her cheer, dedication, and love of FSU were among the factors convincing me that coming here would be a good result. Rachel encouraged Judy and me to see the new exhibit she is helping to create on the second floor.

Interim Director Pat Musick met us inside. Talk about enthusiasm – hers likewise knows no bounds. Pat’s linkage to the Center is both familial and professional, drawing her back to Fairmont after a long absence across the country. That’s another story… worth hearing and telling – another time! Judy and I fell in love with the Center. From the hemlock flooring and yellow poplar paneling (yes, I am a sucker for WV forest products!) to the local/regional historical settlement sequence from Native Americans to various waves of Europeans. The Center also incorporates FSU history.

The Center’s mission is compelling: The Frank and Jane Gabor WV Folklife Center is dedicated to the identification, preservation, and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage, through academic studies; educational programs, festivals, performances; and exhibits, publications. Everyone reading these words shares the heritage to some extent. [Note: I remind you Blog Post readers that I originally drafted these words for my Fairmont newspaper column.] Have you visited the Center? If so, come again – the exhibits cycle every few months. If not, make haste – it’s yet another element that makes FSU and Fairmont special.

I wanted to stay longer, reminding me of one of Robert Service’s poems that I read frequently during my Alaska days. From The Spell of the Yukon: There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back—and I will. I feel the same way about the Folklife Center… and about this Wild Wonderful West Virginia. Service ended his epic ballad with words that apply well to the Nature of West Virginia, It’s the beauty that fills me with wonder, it’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

A web site cannot adequately express the magic, beauty, awe, and wonder of our SPECIAL place along the Monongahela River! Experiencing is believing.

The column ends there. Restricted to 600 words, I keep the message succinct and compelling. And I focus on the paper’s readers here in the Monongahela Valley. For the purpose of this Post on Great Blue Heron, I add a little additional context. Every place has its SPECIAL Nature — it’s beauty, awe, and wonder. The magic is there awaiting discovery for those willing and able to look, see, and feel. Admittedly, I am particularly smitten by this university, its setting, and its special Nature. Perhaps because I am residing here for six months, a not insignificant period of time during my early sunset years. Perhaps because it is my own Nature to seek and grasp the positive.

Yet, isn’t that what life and enterprise management entail? Fulfillment and satisfaction do not suddenly appear. We must look, discover, and embrace them. It’s the old glass-is-half-full attitude. I could instead reduce any place or enterprise to its distasteful elements, identifying multiple reasons to wallow in despair. Life is too short to accept the shadows. Seek the light; rejoice in the possibilities; accept the challenge to soar. Nature lifts my spirits… here in Fairmont, and wherever life’s journey has rooted me.

Featured Image: The West Virginia Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University.