Meet the Father Behind the Mission: Wes Creel
When asked “who is Wes Creel”, the founder and CEO of Four Distinctions chuckled before answering, he then described himself as a “…husband, father, grandfather, and serial entrepreneur with a passion for higher education”. However, this description, while only scratching the surface of “who is Wes Creel”, embodies Wes precisely. Wes’ life journey, from attending college himself, to becoming a father and grandfather, to creating Four Distinctions from the ground up, epitomizes the drive and motivation behind the company and its mission: measuring the collegiate experience through people and ideas by focusing on the four distinctions (engagement, teaching, community, and outcome) of schools in order to guide students to the college which suits them best.
Colleges of Distinction, as well as Abound, grew from Wes’ experience as a father. Wes raised four wonderful daughters into, as he puts it, “solid citizens”, but his journey through the college experience alongside his children is what sparked his passion to begin Colleges of Distinction, which, in turn, evoked Abound. Fatherhood has played a significant role in Wes’ life, which, without his kids “would be empty”. Each of his four daughters (as well as granddaughters) changed his life “drastically, for the better” and the many memories he has with his family, from holidays to sporting events to family vacation adventures, have convinced Wes that life without kids is, at this point, simply unimaginable. However, if you’re new to fatherhood, Wes stresses patience. He advises, amid sleep deprivation and learning the ropes, to “stay the course because it will get better”. Most importantly though, “is [giving a child] a loving environment to grow up in”, something Wes had in his childhood and values greatly.
Wes also values his college education. As the first generation in his family to attend college, and with support and encouragement from his mother to further his education, Wes learned the importance of the college experience as a whole. Wes began his college career at Virginia Military Institute where he learned life skills, time management, and organization. Two years later, Wes transferred to Syracuse University in New York, where he found a less regimented curriculum and took advantage of the many electives. There, he earned his degree in history while gaining both freedom and knowledge, broadening his education past textbook knowledge.
Wes values his degree because it gives him a sense of confidence. “So much of earning the degree is the four-year experience…learning to grow up…work with other people…being exposed to intellectual pursuits you wouldn’t get otherwise” and a “[degree gives you the] ability to grow your whole life”. Through fatherhood, Wes learned how to let his kids find their way, to “stand on their own two feet”. If you’re a parent sending your kid to college for the first time, Wes advises giving your kids distance during orientation and the first few weeks, because a little independent space could be just what your student needs to gain their footing and begin to see they are capable (and ready) to solve whatever problems may arise. Wes practiced this by learning to balance parental advice with guiding his children to available resources offered by their universities as they met obstacles and challenges along the way.
Fatherhood can be challenging, but it is, without a doubt, rewarding. To institutions learning how to balance the role parents play in their students’ lives, Wes suggests schools “establish a good relationship and [clear] expectations from the get-go [for the parents]”. Wes sees the value in involving parents in a child’s journey but also in independence for the student. As a father of four daughters, Wes also realizes that higher education is expensive, his advice, financially, to parents with many children is to save money sooner than later and divide funds evenly among children in a large family
Wes’ journey as a father has shaped who he has become as a man, how he values education and has shaped his legacy: to be respected by his kids and grandkids and to work hard to do things that matter.