Chancellor and wife leaving WBU with fond memories
Relaxing in a blue floral loveseat and chair set, Dr. Wallace E. Davis, Jr. and his wife Patsy are noticeably comfortable in the house he's called home since taking the helm at Wayland Baptist University in 1991.
Noting how easily the couple was able to blend each other's furnishings with the few pieces already in the home, the Davises are proud of the atmosphere of comfort they enjoy in the stately home on 6th Street.
"She's made this house a home. A lot of president's homes are like museums," Davis said. "I think when guests and students come they are first awed by the size but are comforted by the warmth of the house."
Not ironically, that warmth and comfort is also reflective of Davis' tenure as president and chancellor of the university. It's been a good fit for everyone involved. Now, with retirement a mere few weeks away, the couple speaks with a mixture of nostalgia toward the past decade and excitement toward the decades to come. But they have no regrets.
"My mother always said, 'Leave while they still like you,'" Davis quips with his mischievous smile. "I hope there are at least one or two out there who wish I wasn't leaving."
Davis downplays his role in rebuilding the West Texas university once plagued by monetary woes and image problems. He sees himself more as a catalyst for the often-painful refining process Wayland inevitably faced, something he calls "a collective effort of a lot of people - administrators, faculty, students and staff."
"I think if I did anything, I helped them believe in themselves again," he said. "And by being able to tell the Wayland story, (the community) was able to believe again in the university."
To those who were around when Davis first took office as president 11 years ago, the changes he has helped bring about are both visible and unseen to the human eye. From new curtains in Harral Auditorium - his first "beautification" project as president - to new facades on several campus buildings, the look and feel of the Wayland campus has seen a dramatic makeover. The unseen things - moving Wayland into financial security and debt-free status and reconnecting her with the community and region - are perhaps more essential.
Of all the projects he's had a hand in, Davis marks completion of the Mabee Learning Resources Center - part of the Spanning the Centuries campaign - as a major achievement personally and a most memorable moment.
"The night we dedicated the new Mabee LRC was the most memorable for me," he said. "It was really dark and we turned on the flame for the first time. It got brighter and brighter and it was as if in that flame, everything that was Wayland was being announced. The library had been such an albatross, and this put all that behind us and we were reborn. It brought a tear to my eye."
Davis' spring announcement of retirement might have been unexpected to many, but he admitted it wasn't the first time he was ready to call it quits. When his first wife, Janis, died late in 1996, Davis said two things had him contemplating retirement then.
"I really feel the university deserves two people working together as a team, and there were too many memories here of her," he recalled. But before he could compose a resignation letter for the Board of Trustees, he met Patsy Mayfield, a retired Lubbock schoolteacher and Wayland alum.
"We had so much in common," he recalls. "It was as if we had always known one another when we first met. We truly believe God intended for us to be together." The two married in July of 1998 and Davis' leadership team was again complete. He lauds Patsy's role in the administration of Wayland, though she is not a paid employee.
"She is involved in the university and the community in a quiet, dignified way," he said. "We attend school events often and she is so encouraging to the students. She knows their names and cares about them. In many ways, her presence is more important to this university than I am."
Mrs. Davis is quick to correct that perception.
"I'm very much background to him. But I kept him here; that's my big accomplishment," she says, sending a sweet smile in his direction. "He told me before I came here that this will be like a job, and it has been. But it's been one I've relished. I see my job as supporting him and encouraging him and being available."
When she joined the Wayland family again, Patsy said the faculty and staff made her transition easy and welcomed her.
"The alumni association held a reception for me in the LRC and the faculty and staff and welcomed me to the family," she recalled. "At the time I thought, 'What a nice thing to say,' but I realized later I was being welcomed into a family and I have appreciated and enjoyed that."
Patsy said her only request of her new husband was that he not leave Wayland until the class she came in with graduated. Four years later, she is almost graduating herself, for the second time, as she moves on with him.
The Davises say his decision to make the retirement move came not from unhappiness or a lack of passion for the workplace, but rather just a "knowing it was time." Grandchildren and other interests mark their future and they are excited to know Wayland is left in capable hands and in good shape.
Davis said he hopes to spend time with woodworking and painting, two hobbies he much enjoys but has had little time to do the last few years. He also hopes to try his hand at writing and has an interest in penning more devotional books to follow his first book "Breakfast with Matthew." He also wants to teach Sunday School again, something his recent years of traveling has prevented.
As for Patsy, she wants to continue writing family stories she started years before and to volunteer more as well as teach Sunday School. But the grandchildren - who will number 15 by summer's end - are a main priority for both of them, as is service.
"Our collective desire is to continue in God's service. We want to use our gifts in a way that's more exciting than what we've already done," Davis said, adding that they do plan to revisit Plainview and Wayland occasionally.
"I would hope we'd always be welcome at Wayland, just to visit and enjoy a place where we've lost our hearts."