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Early Mentors Plant Seeds for Success, Giving

If you talk to David Detwiler ’75 today, you would never picture the shy, reserved young man who walked onto Lycoming’s campus as an incoming freshman. Coming from a family that had little money to spare, let alone for a medical education, David was decidedly grateful for every footstep he took.

The reserve didn’t last long though. Older students, now at ease on campus, showed him that all were welcome. But what really helped David to open up and eagerly engage with others was the steady mentorship of Professor Bruce Sherbine. From Bruce, David learned to trust that friendships can be built quickly. It’s a skill that continues to serve him well as a podiatrist.

Although David’s wife, Rita ’84, was more outgoing when she arrived on campus, her college experience was just as influential to her success. She took advantage of the college’s many diverse opportunities to build skills and was especially fond of Dr. John Piper who encouraged her to run cross country. Rita is now the vice president of enrollment at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

Both Detwilers have stayed in touch with their mentors and agree that small, liberal arts schools are the best for developing professional relationships and long-term friendships. In their case, the school and their mutual commitment to education also was the impetus for their long-term marriage.

The pair first met when Rita, as a new admissions counselor, gave David and other new board members a college tour in 1984. They clearly left their mark on each other as Rita eventually called him to reintroduce herself and he drove 400 miles from Virginia to Pennsylvania to take her on their first date. Engaged six months later, David considered moving his practice to Williamsport and Rita looked for jobs in Virginia. Rita struck first with a job at Roanoke College. The pair were married in Williamsport and held their reception in Pennington Lounge.

“I am eternally grateful to the college for what it allowed me to accomplish,” David said. “Success is not what you have, but what you give back.” Rita feels the same way. And because of that, they give others the opportunity to learn and succeed.

Initially, they established the Shirley J. Detwiler Scholarship for biology majors. The scholarship is named for David’s mother who successfully raised him and his two older sisters on her own after her young husband was killed in an automobile accident.

“Despite her eighth-grade education and claims of ignorance, she instilled the right qualities in us that allowed us to attain much more than she was able to,” David said. “One of the highlights of our year is the heart-felt thank you notes that we receive from scholarship recipients.”

Recently, the Detwilers finished paying on a whole life insurance policy purchased years ago. Because they no longer need that type of financial security, they decided to name Lycoming College as the beneficiary. They also are working with their financial advisor to create a trust that would allow their daughter, as beneficiary, to give to the college in perpetuity.

The Detwilers have remained active and engaged alumni and David will be an inaugural member of the newly established President’s Leadership Council. Both contribute their time and money to other initiatives in their community and at Lynchburg. Picking up their cue, 15-year-old daughter Sarah recently asked them to contribute to a memorial fund at her summer camp.

They strive to live up to the words they regularly impress upon Sarah: Do your best. Give more than expected. Everyday.

To learn how you too can pay it forward contact Robb Dietrich, Director of Planned Giving dietrich@lycoming.edu or 570-321-4401.

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