What do a tornado, an airplane crash, and an increased endowment have in common? They all occur in Dan C. West’s memoir, Causeway to a Bigger World, during chapters covering his time at Lyon College, then Arkansas College.
President of the College from 1972 to 1988, West shares about his experience working in higher education; his experience at Arkansas College spans about a third of the book.
West summarizes his time in Batesville as “the hardest work [he had] ever done and the most satisfying and the most important.” His “work” was also quite eventful.
After uprooting his wife and their two small children to live in Batesville, West quickly discovered he faced a challenge. Almost a week after his inauguration, Arkansas College was hit by a tornado. Many buildings were damaged or completely destroyed, but, as West emphasizes, miraculously no one was hurt. In fact, the campus was up and limping four days later, after brief closure and clean up.
Less than two years later, West was flying from Little Rock back to Batesville for a meeting, when the airplane engine stopped. The plane made an emergency landing on the highway. West and the pilot left unscathed, and West even made it back to Batesville in time for his meeting.
Among the many thrilling ventures West recalls, he also encountered several successful ones. West’s presidency saw several installations that still thrive today, including the Lyon Business and Economics Building, the Nichols International Studies Program, and the Scottish Heritage Program. West also left the College with a larger endowment.
When contacted about the memoir, West enthusiastically discussed his time at Arkansas College.
“We’re very grateful for the experience we had there,” said West. “The years we spent at Lyon were very important because my wife and I were quite young when we moved there, and we had two little kids. They really grew up [at the College].”
West also explained that “causeway” in the title alluded to the road he and his family travelled when moving from Galveston Island in 1949.
“That was the beginning of the journey,” said West. Many journeys require risk, and West’s is no exception. His “bigger world” included a small, liberal arts college in rural Arkansas, and despite twists and turns, he lived to write his memoir.
“What is important is that a small college which has been of vital importance to thousands of students and residents of northeast Arkansas first survived and then grew stronger and better than any time in its history,” concluded West.
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