The Anita Craven Memorial Endowment for International Education

by Billy Chandler
The Anita Craven Memorial Endowment for International Education memorializes Anita Craven, E&H Class of 1978 and offers financial assistance to E&H students who wish to travel to France.

“It was life-changing.”

That’s how Laura Craven Duncan (E&H ’84) describes her sister’s college-era trip to France.

Her sister, Anita Craven Dingus (E&H ’78), came to Emory & Henry feeling a little timid about life. Their family had moved from Oxford, Mississippi, to Boone, North Carolina, during Anita’s junior year of high school, so there was all the usual social anxiety of readjusting to new circumstances and meeting new friends.

And there was an added impact of personal loss. Anita was part of a large family (six siblings in all), and their brother Jon and his new wife had recently died in a car accident.

But the Craven family had a pastor they loved at Boone United Methodist and his wife just happened to be an Emory & Henry graduate (Miriam MacFarlan Herin, Class of ’63) who talked warmly of her E&H experience. Anita then met an admissions counselor at her high school (David St. Clair, Class of ’73) who encouraged her to consider a little college with a family-feel in Southwest Virginia.

Laura says their father taught accounting at Appalachian State University, but none of the kids considered attending ASU. “None of us wanted to attend the same school where our father was a professor!” So after a visit to Emory & Henry, Anita decided it was the perfect spot for her. She connected with a wonderful roommate and great friends, and Anita began to thrive.

But the college experience that was truly life-changing was Anita’s study abroad experience her junior year. In those days, Emory & Henry had fewer opportunities for education abroad, and France was not on a very short list of pre-ordained trips. But as a French major, Anita wanted to go to France, so Professor Chuck Byrd worked with her to find a family she could live with, helped her arrange classes, and made it possible for Anita to experience an adventure of a lifetime that would last for more than 3 months.

Her family couldn’t believe Anita’s transformation, and Laura says that in large ways and small the trip formed the adult Anita would become. “She had always been such a picky eater, but she opened her palate to trying all types of food while she was there! She wrote home about trying everything from crepes to pate!” Anita also used her time abroad to travel all over Europe. Hitchhiking and by train she experienced other countries and major cities – and she gained a great deal of self-confidence as she maneuvered around the European countryside.

And, to complete her quintessential study abroad experience, she fell in love. Laura says they stayed in touch long after she returned home.

Once she was back at E&H, things fell in place for Anita. She completed a B.A. in French, won the French Honor Award, enjoyed time with her Delta Pi Omicron sisters, and served as Phi Pi Alpha sweetheart. She graduated magna cum laude then headed to ASU to earn a master’s in accountancy (she probably ran into her dad, after all) earning summa cum laude honors there. She passed the CPA exam on the first sitting, and eventually found herself serving as the comptroller at Salem Vent International (in the Roanoke Valley). She was soon named executive vice president and general manager, and during her tenure, sales figures increased from $1 million to $4 million. Both Emory & Henry and Appalachian State named her “Young Alumnus of the Year” for her success as an entrepreneur and accountant.

Anita passed away in May of 2010 at the age of 53. Through the heartbreak of this sudden and tragic loss the family sought ways to allow her life to continue to be a beacon of light. Laura says it just felt right to establish a fund that would help other E&H students travel to France. “That trip made all the difference for Anita. She would be so happy knowing that her legacy is now helping Emory & Henry students to have similar experiences.”

When Anita died, her college friends sent flowers with a note that said, in part, “Anita was joy, wit, kindness, and love.” Now that The Anita Craven Memorial Endowment for International Education is sending E&H students to France, we can add that she will also forever be travel, adventure, and life-changing experiences.

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