By Rachel Aldrich
Patrick Henry College
Abby Davis. Photo credit to Rebekah Jorgensen.
Abby Davis was only five years old when her brother Danny was part of Patrick Henry College’s first graduating class. Mostly, she just remembers talking to him about his then-future wife, who he met while he was there.
When she first started thinking about college, Patrick Henry wasn’t on her list, primarily because she wanted to study psychology. But when she got a chance to talk to Ardee Coolidge and other admissions counselors at a college fair, her interest was piqued afresh.
She described what she wanted to do with her life, and offered a challenge: “Tell me why I want to come to Patrick Henry College despite the fact that you don’t have a psychology focus.”
Coolidge took her up on it, explaining how the liberal arts education prepares students for life and graduate school better than a really specific education. The pitch made sense to Davis. But what impressed her, too, was Coolidge’s willingness to engage with her questions, when most other schools just told her to send them an email for more information.
“They didn’t know the school and they didn’t love the school,” she said of the counselors for other schools. “Ardee knew the school and Ardee loved the school.”
That got her attention, and made her strongly consider what kind of environment she wanted to learn in for four years.
“The fact that this was such a strong spiritual community, such a great group of people with high standards, that really appealed to me,” she said. “I realized that PHC was really the kind of environment I wanted to be in.”
After talking to Coolidge, Davis did her due diligence and visited the other booths.
“I just started realizing the other schools all sounded the same,” she said. “They all said the same thing and just blended together after a while. But PHC stood out.”
Visiting the campus later that year confirmed that PHC was the school for her. She is currently a freshman planning on studying Classical Liberal Arts. She hasn’t been let down.
“The student body definitely lived up to the standards I had held,” she said. “We really are such a community of excellence and… I really appreciate that.”
Aside from the academics and professors, she has also had a chance to connect with other students that share her love of missions work, particularly in China, where she did missions work last summer. She said getting a chance to share her passion for the Chinese people has been really encouraging.
Davis said she thinks the community has been continually strengthened since her brother graduated, an opinion Danny fully agreed with. Danny has come back for multiple homecomings over the past few years, and said it’s been great to see how many students come out for soccer games and competitions.
“You can tell when you come on campus, especially during homecoming, there’s definitely a very strong, strong sense of school spirit,” he said. “It’s neat to see students embracing the idea of school spirit and supporting their fellow classmates in their endeavors.”
He spoke highly of the work Dean Sandra Corbitt has done to develop student life, as well as Dr. Walker’s focus on maintaining a spiritual focus. From the interaction he’s had, he said he sees a strong focus on “honoring the Lord in what they do.”
And while Danny said there are many positive changes in the PHC his sister attends compared to the school he remembers, some things stay the same.
“I think going back to campus… we always like to see the typical college look,” he said. “Students here there and everywhere, camped out wherever they can, reading, writing studying, having a great time and in a sense, that’s something that never changes.”