Friends For All Times

Posted by Monica Hoel
Todd Clevinger (’86) has found a creative way to remember his friend JD Washington (’86, deceased).

“Since we graduated from Emory & Henry, there isn’t a week that has passed where we haven’t talked to each other. We’re not related by blood – but we’re family.”

That’s how Todd Clevenger (E&H ’86) describes his relationship with a group of friends from his E&H college days who have stayed in touch for more than 30 years. And it explains why Todd has just made a substantial investment in the college that brought them all together. One of those very friends passed away recently, and Todd has established a scholarship in his memory.

J.D. Washington (E&H ’86) died of Leukemia in 2018, and the new scholarship that bears his name will benefit a young person attending Emory & Henry.  Todd feels like it’s a perfect way to extend J.D.’s legacy of helping people. “He really cared about others, and he put a lot of energy and effort into helping to make things better for other people. He had really solid parents who encouraged him to see that he had been blessed, and he was expected to give back. That’s just how J.D. lived.”

Todd says giving J.D.’s memory a legacy at Emory & Henry just made sense. He and J.D. were members of Beta Lambda Zeta fraternity and he recalls what Al Mitchell (E&H ’46, BLZ sponsor) said about how long their E&H bonds of friendship would follow them. “Mr. Mitchell was right: he said these guys will be your best friends for life and pall bearers at your funeral.  Emory & Henry is all about relationships: we learned how to get along, we made lifelong friends, we loved Emory & Henry, we loved our fraternity. It just made sense to honor him in this way.”

The scholarship is a way to extend J.D.’s life of service and also to honor a friend Todd greatly admired. He recounts stories of J.D.’s work ethic, including the fact that in college even though his first class was at noon he got up to work a 6 am shift in the dining hall. “Who does that?” And he talks about how much time J.D. spent serving young people as a Little League coach. “He was really well-respected in his community.” And because J.D. was a strong family man, Todd is hopeful that this scholarship will be meaningful to J.D.’s wife Lisa and his children, Drew (Bridgewater graduate), Jaylin (Senior in high school), and Isaiah (8th grade).  “This scholarship isn’t for me: it’s for J.D. and his family.”

JD had beaten cancer twice before Leukemia ended his life.  He left behind his loving family, his grateful community, and his group of E&H brothers/friends.  A group of friends who have stayed an important part of each other’s lives for over thirty years. That’s just how this group of friends has always functioned– together in all times, good and bad. “If something happens to me, these guys are the first ones I call. My life would be so different had I not been at Emory & Henry and met these people who are now my family.”

  • Pattie & Todd Clevenger, Lisa Washington, JD Washington and Drew, Jeff Keys, Stephanie, Craig and Samantha Maddox. Todd says: "This picture was taken the night before Chris Musser’s wedding in Myrtle Beach 1997. We were all so young, just really starting our families.”
“This scholarship isn’t for me: it’s for J.D. and his family.”
Todd Clevinger
E&H Class of 1986

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