The entire Radford family was saddened to hear of the death of the university’s fifth president, Dr. H. Douglas Covington, on June 27, 2012. In the days following his death, remembrances poured in to campus by email and phone, and hundreds paid tribute to Dr. Covington on Facebook and Twitter. Overwhelmingly, they honored him as a gentleman and a scholar.
Colleagues, students and friends recalled his brilliant mind and his dazzling smile. They remembered him as calm, courteous and self-deprecating—he could laugh at himself. At the same time, he spoke and wrote with eloquence and insight. Many said they were touched personally by his genuine affection for each person he knew, no matter his or her station in life. He appreciated every gesture of kindness toward him and every encouraging word, and he said so. He also showed kindness to others at every turn.
Dr. Covington truly believed that each person can succeed on her or his own merits, regardless of gender or ethnicity, age or social status. There was no place in his philosophy for prejudice or pessimism.
Dr. Covington’s belief in equality was evident in his partnership with his beloved wife, Bea. Mrs. Covington was at his side for public events and was highly visible on campus. She attended events in his stead when he had other obligations, and became well known throughout the community. Where he was dignified and stately, she was warm and funny, often described as a person who never met a stranger.
Mrs. Covington’s friendships with staff members inspired the Staff Senate, after her death, to establish an award in her memory. Each year at the staff picnic, the Bea Covington Award goes to a person who exemplifies the character and spirit of Mrs. Covington. Staff members are nominated by their colleagues. According to the award guidelines, those chosen “consistently demonstrate a positive attitude, are fun to be around and treat others with dignity, respect and kindness.”
The most visible symbol of the Covingtons’ legacy is the Douglas and Beatrice Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts. Although Mrs. Covington did not live to see this elegant building completed, Dr. Covington attended the gala opening in November 2008. The university, the local community and dear friends and family came together on that occasion to honor him and to celebrate his service, leadership and vision. Dr. Covington often commented on how proud and humbled he was to have a building named after him and his beloved Bea.
The H. Douglas and Beatrice M. Covington Endowed Scholarship in the Performing Arts was established after Bea’s death to honor Dr. and Mrs. Covington. The family requests that anyone wishing to memorialize the Covingtons do so by making a gift to the scholarship fund. Donations may be sent to the Radford University Foundation, P.O. Box 6893, Radford, VA 24142. Please note the name of the scholarship on the check’s memo line.