John W. Wells pointed out the characteristics of his accent that would let anyone familiar with the idiosyncrasies know he’s from the Appalachian Mountains. He was emphatic; he never apologizes for that fact.
This portion of the Appalachians, he said, “is the most beautiful and blessed place.” He spoke particularly of the values and sense of community that exist here.
Wells told the Marion Town Council Monday evening that he wants the students who come to Southwest Virginia to be shaped by those values and community awareness. For those who come to Marion, for the college’s School of Health Sciences, he wants them to also take away the hospitality he believes they’ll experience in the town.
During last Saturday’s commencement exercises for the school, Wells said students spoke of their connection to the college and to Marion. Most of those students, he said, feel as they’ve added another hometown to their life story.
Wells experienced a hint of life in Marion as he toured the downtown early Monday.
Wells’ tour and address to the town council comes following his move into the college president’s office in July. He’d served as E&H’s provost and dean of faculty since 2017. He is the college’s 22nd president.
The institution’s new president has ties to the college that go back generations. He told the council that his grandmother served as dorm mother for Hillman Hall on the campus. It was the only job she ever held outside the home. She spoke affectionately of E&H until she died, he recalled.
Wells’ father, who grew up in Tazewell County, graduated from the Methodist Church-affiliated institution in 1959. He went on to become a Methodist minister.
As E&H benefited his family, Wells wants to see it help the entire region. Monday, he said, the college has a duty to help develop and revitalize the Appalachian economy. He hopes students will develop moral depth during their time at the college and become change agents.
The new president celebrated the health-care professionals going into the world from the Marion campus. He expressed a sense of pride in the cooperative partnership forged between Marion and Emory & Henry, calling it good for students and good for the community.
“I assure you,” he said, “the relationship between Emory & Henry and Marion will only grow deeper.”
“There’s lifeblood flowing between Marion and the Emory campus. I intend to honor it,” he told the council.
Marion Mayor David Helms assured Wells and the contingent of college leaders accompanying him that Marion looks forward to the relationship’s growth and wants to help make change happen.
Helms reflected that it was rewarding for him to see last week’s graduation ceremonies at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion. “Ten years ago,” he wondered, “who would have thought of that happening in Marion?”
The School of Health Sciences offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs in occupational therapy, physician assistant training, physical therapy, athletic training, exercise science, pre-health, and nursing RN to BSN.
The campus has been developed in and around Marion’s former hospital.