He and wife Jeanne (MM Music Performance, 1999) have established a planned gift, the Dr. Gregory and Mrs. Jeanne Elmes Geography Endowment, to support undergraduate geography students in their research endeavors.
“WVU has been a really great place for me to work – very supportive over the entire length of my career. I wanted to give back in a reasonably significant way and to encourage others to do the same if they have the opportunity,” Elmes said. “Jointly, there is good reason for us to leave behind a legacy. The University has been such a great part of our lives.”
After he retired from WVU, Elmes discovered that his life insurance policy would be an ideal source for a meaningful gift. With the guidance of a financial adviser, the Elmeses created a plan to benefit young geography researchers for years to come.
Elmes has recognized the value of research and other professional experiences for undergraduates throughout his career.
“The opportunity for students to define their own interests and to follow their own paths is important. It is the idea of identifying a problem, collecting the data that will help to resolve it, determining the procedures and methods that are necessary to analyze the data and produce a result, and coming to a conclusion,” Elmes said. “Students who go through that process are already prepared for a graduate program or to enter the world of work.”
He observed this importance first hand as the department’s internship coordinator.
“I tried to place students in internship opportunities that would give them work experience,” Elmes said. “Our students were often lauded for their logical approaches to work which came from having a good foundation and exposure to research. That’s part of what motivated me to give in this way.”
Retiring from WVU in 2015, Elmes continues to actively research geographic information systems, a discipline he helped to grow during his more than three decades on campus, even helping to establish the West Virginia GIS Technical Center on WVU’s campus. He was honored with the West Virginia Association of Geospatial Professionals’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 for his dedication to the study and promotion of GIS.
Since earning a PhD in geography from Pennsylvania State University and arriving at WVU in 1979, Elmes has seen geography program grow from just five faculty to 17.
“I wanted to give back because I’ve had so many opportunities at WVU that otherwise would have probably been much more difficult elsewhere,” Elmes said. “It has been great to see what was a very small department grow in stature and to become recognized nationally and internationally.”