At 180 years old, it’s easy for the Emory & Henry community to look back on the vast and impressive accomplishments of the past, yet the stability of a secure future requires that the community continue to challenge each other to find the more that is needed to engage the critical imagination, according to Dr. Gil Rendle, the keynote speaker during the annual Founders Day celebration.
As a transformative community, Emory & Henry is an institution in rural Southwest Virginia that has “taken on a process that is counter culture” – the tendency to look at the past for guidance going forward, said Rendle before a large audience assembled in Memorial Chapel.
Rendle has spent four decades working with issues of change and leadership in the United Methodist Church (UMC) as a pastor and consultant. He recently retired as senior vice president of the Texas Methodist Foundation and previously served for twelve years with the Alban Institute at Duke Divinity School as an author, seminar leader and senior consultant.
He dared Emory & Henry students to engage ideas that are not fully their own, and to reflect on how to avoid the gridlock we all experience at times.
“It is easy in our own lives to reach back for a competing nostalgia from those with whom we disagree in principle, we must not look for affirmation but instead we must challenge each other for the “more” that is needed,” said Rendle.
The pastor also praised the College for its bravery to extend a commitment to the critical mind. He stated that in order for critical thinking to succeed, it must be supported by places like Emory & Henry that allow individuals to come of one mind and be transformed in a way that empowers them to “be more.”
Founders Day at Emory & Henry, which marks its 180th year of existence, is a time to recognize others who have been generous to their College and their communities through service and success.
Two individuals and one group were honored with Founder’s Day Service Citations: Wayne Henderson, musician and luthier, Betsy White, founding executive director at the William King Museum of Art, and The College-Community Club, a group formed in 1896 and still thriving today that supports Emory & Henry and the surrounding community by through fundraising and interaction with programs and students.
Henderson grew up in Rugby in Grayson County, Virginia listening to family members play Appalachian music. Legend has it that as a young man, he ordered a guitar from the Sears catalog and was so disappointed, that he built his own out of a used dresser drawer bottom. Today, he makes instruments full-time and has a long waiting list for one of his handcrafted originals. He makes approximately 20 guitars annually and is believed to have built more than 500 to date. Henderson has built guitars for “Doc” Watson, Gillian Welch, Peter Rowan and Eric Clapton. Since 1995, he has hosted the annual Wayne C.
Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition, which has raised more than $160,000 in scholarship funds to aid young local musicians. In recognition of his extraordinary instrument making talents, he was presented a National Heritage Award in 1995 by the National Endowment for the Arts. The book, Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument (2005), outlined the process by which he built a guitar for Eric Clapton. Henderson is also an accomplished performer, having won more than 300 ribbons at fiddler’s convention competitions using his unique style of using a thumbpick and fingerpicks. Henderson has played at Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, on A Prairie Home Companion radio show, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar, and in seven nations in Asia.
White has done much to cultivate Abingdon’s arts reputation through her decades-long work bringing exhibits of fine art to the community as founding executive director of the William King Museum of Art. Through its formative years, White led the effort to convert the former William King High School into a nationally-accredited exhibition facility that enjoys a unique partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum’s outreach to second graders in 14 area school districts has delivered art education to 4,000 students annually. She has been instrumental in establishing a permanent collection that archives and showcases decorative arts and craft objects made in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee prior to 1940. This cultural heritage project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, has resulted in more than 30 exhibits and two books, which White authored: Great Road Style: the Decorative Arts Legacy of Southwest Virginia & Northeast Tennessee, published in 2006 by the University of Virginia Press, and Backcountry Makers: An Artisan History of Southwest Virginia & Northeast Tennessee, published in 2013 by the University of Tennessee Press. White twice served as president of Abingdon’s Virginia Highlands Festival and was awarded its French Moore, Jr. Award in 1996. In 2013, the Town of Abingdon presented her its highest award for community service, the Arthur Campbell Award, and in 2016, she received the Arts Alliance for the Mountain Empire’s Arts Achievement Award. The governor appointed her to the regionally focused Cultural Heritage Foundation. She is past president of ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network. A native of Virginia Beach and a graduate of Salem College, White has lived with her family in Abingdon since 1978.
The College-Community Club traces its origin to an 1896 meeting of a group of women who called themselves the Emory & Henry Library Improvement Association. The Club was begun by Edith Waterhouse, wife of then-E&H president Richard G. Waterhouse. Under Waterhouse’s leadership, the Club raised money in order to purchase books, sponsor lectures and loan money to needy students and to the College for worthy projects. Over the years, the organization’s name has changed, but members continued to enhance life at the College and in the surrounding community, and support students by raising funds to construct the west wing of Carriger Hall, provide seating for the College chapel, furnish the campus infirmary, purchase band uniforms, buy sports equipment, host welcome parties for incoming students, establish a scholarship for local high school students and engage in campus beautification projects. In 1927, Club members rescued from a local farm the deteriorating Tobias Smyth House, where the idea of locating the College in this area was conceived, and reassembled it on campus. The house serves as the group’s official clubhouse. In 2013, the house was moved approximately 200 yards west to make room for the McGlothlin Center for the Arts and once again club members helped raise funds to support the renovation effort. Today, the College-Community Club hosts an annual craft fair in support of Emory & Henry College, its students and the surrounding community.
During Founders Day, the following individuals were honored as recipients of distinctive alumni awards:
James A. Davis Faculty Award: Dr. Matthew Frederick attended West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. He began graduate school at Auburn University where he earned his master’s degree in music and then completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in trumpet performance education at The University of Texas. Frederick is E&H associate professor of trumpet, director of bands, and director of the Marching Band. He has built a trumpet ensemble that has twice earned semi-finalist honors at the National Trumpet Competition and has been selected three times to perform at the International Trumpet Guild Conference. His brass ensembles have toured Germany, Austria and China. Frederick is also music director at Pleasant View United Methodist Church, has served as co-principal trumpet with the Symphony of the Mountains, principal trumpet for the Johnson City Symphony and first trumpet for Barter Theatre. He is an active school band clinician as well as a lecturer on his current research topic, Civil War Brass Bands. His arrangements of Civil War band music have been recorded by the American Brass Quintet on their CD entitled Cheer, Boys Cheer and he has published a book entitled Trumpet Notes. He and his wife, Sandy, live in Abingdon with their two sons, Hyder and Jackson. The James A. Davis Faculty Award is presented to an E&H faculty member with a distinguished record of excellence in teaching. It is named for James A. Davis, Class of 1845, the first E&H alumnus to return to his alma mater as a faculty member.
A.L. Mitchell Young Alumnus of the Year Award: Te-Kai Shu ’04 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. For the past 10 years he has held a variety of positions at the Strongwell corporate headquarters in Bristol, Virginia, where he currently serves as the social media and business development manager. He is a strong community volunteer working with LEAD Bristol, Bristol Regional Speech and Hearing, Imagination Library and Family Promise. In 2013 he was named United Way of Bristol Volunteer of the Year, in 2014 he was awarded the Bristol Chamber of Commerce Leadership Service Award, and in 2016 he was named to the Tri-Cities 40 Under 40 list in the Tri-Cities Business Journal. He and his wife, Ashleigh Norris-Shu, have a daughter, Grace Ann Shu. The A.L. Mitchell Young Alumnus Award is given to an alumnus/a who has made outstanding professional achievements during the first 15 years after graduation. It is named for A.L. Mitchell, Class of 1946.
Fred Selfe Distinctive Service to Emory & Henry Award: Rose Neese Houk ’81 has served as a physical education teacher in Galax City Schools in Virginia for 36 years. She has taught at Galax Elementary School for 26 years while simultaneously coaching the Galax High School volleyball and track teams for 31 years. As volleyball coach, she amassed 364 wins, led the team to a district championship 12 times, made 18 regional appearances, two state appearances, won the Mountain Empire District Tournament 10 times, won the Fort Chiswell Invitational Tournament 13 times, and coached six undefeated seasons. She was named Virginia High School Coaches Association State Coach of the Year in 2009, was Mountain Empire District Coach of the Year 10 times, was named Outstanding Virginia Female Coach of the Year in 2009, Southern District Sport Professional of the Year in 2013, and was featured on the cover of Virginia Coach Magazine in 2012. She currently serves as the Virginia High School Coaches Association Volleyball All-Star Game director and is on the VHSCA Executive and Legislative Committees. She and her husband, Donald, have a son, Tyler Houk (E&H ’13). The Fred Selfe Distinctive Service to Emory & Henry Award is presented to an alumnus/a who has provided extraordinary support to the College. It is named for E&H alumnus Fred Selfe, Class of 1969.
Distinguished Achievement Award: Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr. ’76 earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond in 1979. He served as a federal prosecutor for 30 years, trying more than 200 criminal and jury trials ranging in matters from white collar fraud, tax issues, public corruption, healthcare fraud, regulatory matters and racketeering. He is admitted to practice in Virginia and the District of Columbia, and he is a Fellow with the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Virginia Law Foundation. Bondurant is consistently noted among the Best Lawyers in America for Corporate Compliance Law and White Collar Criminal Defense, and he is regularly recognized as a Virginia Super Lawyer in the areas of Criminal Defense and White Collar Crime. He is a partner with Gentry Locke in Roanoke, Virginia, where he represents corporations and individuals in all phases of the criminal process including healthcare fraud, government fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, espionage and capital murder and conducts corporate internal investigations. He and his wife, Roberta Motherway Bondurant, have three children, Kate, Jack, and Nick. The Distinguished Achievement Award is given to an individual with a record of excellence in a volunteer or professional capacity.
Carl and Ruth Looney Humanitarian Award: Dr. Carolyn June Widner Ward ’90 graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in geography. She began her career as a park interpreter at Hungry Mother State Park and worked as an interpretive consultant for the U.S. Forest Service before earning her Master of Science degree and Ph.D. from the Department of Forestry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She served as a professor at West Virginia University and Humboldt State University, where she won outstanding professor honors. In 2008 she was hired by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation as project director to implement the Kids in Parks program and was named a Champion of Change by the White House in 2012. She has served as CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation since 2011. She lives in Fairview, North Carolina, with her husband, Alan, and daughter, Virginia. The Carl and Ruth Looney Humanitarian Award is presented to an alumnus/a who has shown extraordinary commitment to others. It is named for Carl, Class of 1929, and Ruth Bourne Looney.