Cornwell Begins Term as ABOD President
As is often the case with Ferrum College students, once Alumni Board of Directors President Joey Cornwell ’02 saw the campus, he knew Ferrum was the only college he wanted to attend. Cornwell grew up on a dairy farm as a third-generation farmer, and was heavily pushed to attend Virginia Tech, but after visiting that campus on a dairy farm tour, he realized that Tech was just too large for him. A good friend, Jay Yankey ’01, invited him to Ferrum one weekend to attend an Agriculture Club banquet. Cornwell stayed in the dorm with him and quickly realized this was the school for him.
Cornwell currently works with Farm Credit of the Virginias, as a branch manager for the Roanoke and Rocky Mount offices, supervising a territory of 10 counties. Since graduating from Ferrum, Cornwell has stayed in contact with the College, regularly attending alumni events and college functions. In 2005, the alumni office reached out to him, asking him to serve on the Alumni Board. He recently completed a two-year term as president-elect and stepped into his new role as president. One of Cornwell’s main goals is to increase alumni giving percentage and alumni support of the College. “Our experiences at Ferrum mean something to us, so we need to think about what our diplomas will be worth in 20 or 30 years if we don’t support our alma mater. The size of the gift doesn’t matter, but if we don’t support the college, why should others do so?” says Cornwell. He reminds other alumni that if the alumni of Ferrum College do not appear to believe in the mission and purpose of the College and demonstrate that through giving, then the College cannot expect foundations and outside individuals to support the institution. Cornwell notes that there are numerous ways to support Ferrum, from a monetary gift in any dollar amount to attending alumni chapter functions or events on campus.
Over the years, he has seen the campus change a great deal. He remembers that when he was a student, there was no cell phone service on campus—students had to go into Rocky Mount for good reception! The entrance has been renovated and the Agriculture Center and the Farm to Café program did not exist when he was a student. “There are so many more opportunities for students now,” he says. “During Dr. Braaten’s tenure, more facilities and more programs have been added, and unlimited experiential learning resources are available for current Ferrum students,” Cornwell notes.
Even though Ferrum has added new programs and new buildings, the campus still has the same feel and welcoming aura as it did when he was a student. Among his best memories of his years at Ferrum are his days playing intramural softball; Cornwell played on the same team for seven semesters and never won a championship. He decided the best way to remedy that was to switch to what he thought was a winning team. Once he switched, his new team fared no better than his old—they did not win a championship and Cornwell still did not get his championship t-shirt! Working in the community and with local farms as a member of the Agriculture Club remain some of his most meaningful experiences. Perhaps the best of all his memories revolve around his wife, Margaret Johnson Cornwell ’02, whom he met as a sophomore at Ferrum and married just a few years after graduation.
Cornwell returns to Ferrum on many occasions and not just for Alumni Board of Trustee meetings. He has spoken to classes, at campus events, and at alumni gatherings and regularly attends the Folklife Festival. He feels the emphasis on development as part of the Centennial of the College is vital for the continued success of Ferrum. “We need the funding and support to keep Ferrum going for another 100 years,” he says. He believes in giving back at any level. “The fact that you give means you want to see your diploma worth something. Host an alumni event or give a recent graduate a chance to get started in the real world. There are so many ways to support Ferrum.”
If Cornwell’s enthusiasm and dedication to his role as president of the Alumni Board of Directors represent the general attitude of young alumni, there is indeed a very strong foundation for the next 100 years at Ferrum College.