DR. DON CAUDILL SAYS THE STORIES OF THE WOMEN FROM THE NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN MOVE HIM TO TEARS, WHICH IS WHY HE GENEROUSLY SUPPORTS THIS “WONDERFUL AND LIFE-CHANGING PROGRAM.”
DR. DON CAUDILL, WHO LIVED IN BLUEFIELD, VIRGINIA, FOR 12 YEARS AND TAUGHT AT BLUEFIELD COLLEGE FOR FOUR YEARS, IS STILL LEAVING HIS IMPACT ON BC AND ITS NEW OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOR WOMEN. (PHOTO BY MARK HOUSER)
But, the New Opportunity School for Women could not function and the lives of these women would not have been changed without the support of NOSW donors like Dr. Donald W. Caudill.
“Don is a great example of service and mentorship,” said Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement at Bluefield College and a member of the NOSW Board of Directors. “He’s a strong Christian, a successful businessman, and a man of character. He has a long history of supporting Bluefield College, and the New Opportunity School for Women is one of his most greatest passions.”
A native of Norton, Virginia, who lived in Bluefield, Virginia, for 12 years, Dr. Caudill understands poverty, said Amanda Wood Williams, a writer and designer who once worked with Dr. Caudill at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, where he has taught since 2008. Born in the geographic center of the Appalachian Mountains to parents who worked long hours for minimum wage, Dr. Caudill was determined — at a young age — to be the first in his family to attend college.
“The only way out [of poverty] is education,” said Dr. Caudill. “Because when you learn to do something, you can make money. You just have to be creative in how you apply your knowledge.”
Dr. Caudill is also acquainted with adversity and adept at turning negatives into positives, quite similar to the mission of the New Opportunity School for Women at Bluefield College. For example, though he enjoyed academic success in high school, in addition to working afternoons and weekends at F.W. Woolworth’s department store, as well as managing several entrepreneurial enterprises of his own, Dr. Caudill’s guidance counselor discouraged him from pursuing a college preparatory track, placing him instead in vocational courses. Not letting that prevent him from pursuing his dream, Dr. Caudill took geometry and chemistry in place of his study halls and along with his general business vocational classes. The result: academic success, knowledge and skill in a variety of disciplines and the opportunity to attend college.
“This is typical Caudill style,” said Williams. “He sees opportunity in adversity, and he is unafraid to go the extra mile to turn negative situations into successes.” Much like the mission of the NOSW.
Dr. Caudill attended Berea College in Kentucky for his undergraduate degree. He went on to receive a master’s degree in business administration from Morehead State University in Kentucky, a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Memphis in Tennessee, and a doctorate from Virginia Tech. During his graduate studies he got the opportunity to teach, and while he always thought he’d be an entrepreneur, creating and growing businesses, he fell in love with working with students, and has been a teacher ever since.
He began his teaching career in 1981 as an instructor of marketing. From 2004 to 2008, he served as a professor of business at Bluefield College. He also chaired the organizational management and leadership portion of BC’s adult degree completion program. In addition, he was faculty advisor for the school’s chapters of Sigma Beta Delta, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE, now Enactus), and Phi Beta Lambda (PBL).
In addition to his commitment to educating students, Dr. Caudill has dedicated his life to giving, ever since he started tithing on his income from four businesses he operated as a teenager. In fact, in 2007 he established the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Scholarship Fund at Bluefield College in honor of his parents and in an effort to support adult education. While neither of his parents had more than an eighth-grade education, both held higher education in great esteem and made tremendous personal and financial sacrifices so that Dr. Caudill could earn a bachelor’s degree (the first in many generations of his family), two master’s degrees, and a doctorate.
“Mother’s and Dad’s sacrifices are honored,” said Dr. Caudill. “It’s totally about them. Every gift I make is given in honor of my parents, who taught me how to live.”
He has also given gifts to Bluefield College in support of scholarships, communication students, and football, but most recently his passion is BC’s New Opportunity School for Women. His gifts to the NOSW help allow the women who need the program most to attend for free. His generosity also helps provide day care for participants with children and allows the women to reside on campus for the program. In addition, Dr. Caudill is a member of the New Opportunity School’s Advisory Council where he provides valuable insight and guidance for NOSW programming.
“I have been moved to tears by listening to the women speak about their lives before and after NOSW,” said Dr. Caudill. “The return on investment is a dramatic improvement in the lives of NOSW participants. I am so very honored to support such a wonderful and life-changing program.”
Dr. Caudill said his love for the New Opportunity School for Women developed not long after his sister graduated from the program at Berea College. Jane B. Stephenson founded the NOSW there in 1987 out of an urgent need to help women in Appalachia become better educated and employed. Designed to improve the educational, financial and personal circumstances of low-income, under-educated, middle-aged women in the Appalachian region, the NOSW expanded to a second site at Lees-McCrae College in North Carolina in 2005 and then to Bluefield College in Virginia in 2013.
“We really appreciate all the support Don gives to our program,” said Bluefield NOSW director Meg Quinn. “His financial support has allowed us to do many things for this program that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”
Now a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Gardner-Webb’s Godbold School of Business, Dr. Caudill says that his success and his ability to give back is a direct result of not only his parents, but also God’s guidance. Whether in the classroom or the community, his desire is to honor God and to make a difference.
“Every success I’ve ever had is by the grace of God,” said Dr. Caudill. “Even if you only help one person, that’s worth it. You can’t put any kind of price on changing a life.”
Excerpts provided by Amanda Wood Williams, owner of a marketing firm in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photos provided by Mark Houser of Gardner-Webb University.