"I worked so hard to see Myrtle Beach grow. Now you look at it and you wish maybe there were more tranquil parts.
"I did eight years as a dean. I have a mentor, Doug Wendell, president and CEO of Burroughs and Chapin, a big private land development company, and I worked for Doug for a couple of years as a senior VP.
"Ron Ingle, president of Coastal Carolina, hired me to come back as provost at Coastal Carolina. That's how I ended up at Glenville in 2006.
"I had never been to Glenville. Betsy and I both knew it was the right move. We fell in love with the people. All the qualities you think of in West Virginia people - hardworking, family, commitment, patriotism -- those people had that.
"When we first moved to Glenville, one of the issues was quality affordable housing for faculty and staff. Ike Morris owns Waco Oil and Gas. He said, '[We] have 22 acres behind Otterbein Church. Take it and see what you can do with it.' I had been in development, so this was exciting.
"Here's the contrast between Myrtle Beach and Glenville. With no hope of making any money, nine of us put up $25,000 apiece just to build the infrastructure to sell lots and get quality affordable housing. You could not find nine people in Myrtle Beach who would [do that]. We have about nine houses there now. The community is incredible.
"I'm a first-generation college student. About 70 percent of our kids are first-generation college students, and 65 to 70 percent are low- to moderate-income kids. They are as smart as any kids in the world, but they don't know how good they are. They haven't had an opportunity to be beyond central West Virginia.
"If you come from humble beginnings and get a college degree, it opens so many doors. I can't tell you how many times I heard, 'If it hadn't been for Glenville State, I never would have gone to college.' Glenville State is so important to central West Virginia. That can't be overstated.
"Of all the state colleges and universities, we have the highest percentage of graduates who remain in West Virginia.
"All my life I had been told that it is important for K-12 and higher education to work together. I started visiting school superintendents in the area about working together. We wanted more kids graduating from high school, higher ACT scores, more kids going to college.
"We started with 13 counties. Now we have 38 counties in West Virginia and Ohio and Connecticut as part of our Hidden Promise Consortium. We think the true promise of West Virginia lies in its people, especially its young people and their education.
"There are lots of smart kids out there who won't have the background for college. So we asked consortium members to identify five kids in their district in grades eight through 12.
"We said we would recognize those students and assign them campus passes and a mentor -- a current student at Glenville -- and just introduce them to the college culture.
"We want to get as many of them in college whether or not they go to Glenville. If you do come to Glenville, you get a $1,000 scholarship. We call them Hidden Promise Scholars.
"It started in 2006. We have about 130 now on campus. We graduated our 25th and 26th graduates the other night. I remember what they were like four or five years ago. The transformation is unbelievable.
"We have a professor who says a lot of our students don't know how to dream. They don't have the self-confidence of knowing what they can do. Kids grow up here knowing a teacher, a doctor, maybe a dentist and lawyer. If you don't want to be one of those four things, you don't have that vision of what the future is.
"The faculty and staff at Glenville care whether or not you succeed. Remember that problem I had going to class at Marshall? Here, they will come and get you.
"The one thing I would want to see happen is an institutionalization of our Hidden Promise program so that when I'm dead, there are still kids going through that program.
"I feel extremely grateful. I have had some incredible people in my life, opportunities other people haven't had, lots of mentors. I've had an opportunity to be involved in decision-making, opportunities to make things happen.
"My contract expires June 30, 2015, but I would like to stay long enough to where Glenville doesn't need a crutch, where it can grow on its own. We are the best small public liberal arts college in the country. I would like everybody to know that.
"I would like to see Gilmer County and Glenville realize the economic prosperity it is building. It still isn't where we would like it to be.
"I'm proud of what has happened in Glenville. I'm proud of my children. We have three and they are all doing well. They're all educators.
"Along with the house in North Myrtle, we have a cabin in North Carolina. When I retire, we might spend half the year in each place. But I don't know if I can leave Glenville."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.