"I majored in history to learn how to critically think. It was a liberal arts education. I did not have a career focus. I thought about pre-med, and I had some strengths there, but I quickly moved more into history and English. I stumbled into art history later and loved it. Music education or performance was not where I was.
"I was thinking corporate management and ended up moving right into a bank management training program with First Union and living in Atlanta. I started managing branch banks.
"Andy and I dated long distance for four and a half years after Davidson. He went to law school at WVU. As he was getting ready to graduate, he decided to see if I would come live in this great state. I'm a happy import.
"I love the outdoors. We love to fish and hike and bike and ski, so that was a nice draw for us, West Virginia's outdoor world.
"First Union was not in West Virginia, so I moved into the world of community foundations. That's where I got the basis of my nonprofit knowledge for what I do now. I got to be part of distribution committee, helping to give away money for the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.
"All nonprofits wanted to get money from the foundation, so people would come to me trying to get funds. I was a matchmaker in the community foundation world. Connecting a donor with a good cause was fun. It was a great way to learn the nonprofit world in Charleston.
"From there, I moved to Charleston Renaissance to work on downtown development. It was a challenging time because I was working with a new baby.
"I had my first son, Will, in 1998, and became executive director of Charleston Renaissance just as I was adjusting to the first year of motherhood. I loved the work and loved being a mother, and one of the challenges of my world is keeping that balance between contributing to this community and maintaining the home life that I cherish.
"I worked some from home doing free-lance grant writing then took some time off. Tom Beale recruited me for the West Virginia Youth Symphony Board. Then the general manager quit, and they asked if I'd be interested in the organization. That was 2008.
"I work on the administrative side to keep the operation going. We have 115 students from a seven-county radius. We have two students from Ohio.
"We teach these kids orchestral music ensemble skills. They have to audition. We have weekly rehearsals. They range in age from 7 to 20, so we've got little kids who run in hall and serious kids who want to pursue music as professionals.
"We have four concerts each year. I just held my 20th concert. It's a thrill every time.
"We graduated 23 seniors last year. It was tough to say goodbye to so many, but half the group got to travel with us to Eastern Europe this past summer. We were gone for 10 and gave three performances.
"They had to bring their skills and be ambassadors for West Virginia. I was so proud of them for the beauty and response they created.
"In Budapest, Hungary, we performed in the military museum to a standing room crowd. There were cheers at the end. It was thrilling to see musicians from West Virginia getting that kind of reaction in a foreign country. It was my proudest moment as a West Virginian. I've been one now for 18 years.
"It was an incredible experience, especially in Slovakia where we visited Charleston's sister city of Banska Bystrica. The city rolled out the red carpet for us. Twenty-four of our kids got to experience a home stay for two nights.
"You should read the write-ups some of the students wrote for Flipside. They said the trip was life-changing, that their world-view had changed. I'm grateful to have a part in that. The role was so right for me.
"I was moving to North Carolina to marry this West Virginian, and my father started telling me all these connections. My paternal grandmother was a new bride in West Virginia, as I was. She was in Morgantown where my grandfather's first teaching job was at WVU Law School. My husband went to the WVU Law School.
"My great grandfather, Alexander Napier Perryman, was a minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Ronceverte. I am a lifelong Presbyterian. He was raised by the president of Davidson College. He ended his career in Wheeling. My father has memories of going to see his grandfather in Wheeling.
"We also have a Bishop Havighurst, my maiden name. There was a Bishop Havighurst at Christ Church United Methodist. It's creepy. I told Andy I was so meant to meet him.
"I love it when people are able to give of their skills and time and make a difference, but it's a huge struggle between being a mom and my job. If I could say anything to all those working mothers, it would be, 'Keep it going, sister.' I've tried to get the best of both, and I know I have sacrificed on both ends.
"There are lots of chapters ahead for me. I'd love to keep traveling. I want to continue to learn. I like to cook and garden and see art and architecture. Growing and learning, that is key. I'm pretty excited."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.