MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Graduation signals the beginning of possibility, which some have already begun to experience.
Mathias Solliday will graduate from West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design with a job, a wife, a small business and a plan.
Before any of that manifested, Solliday realized his love for plants early in high school, which led him to all the things he has now.
Seeing that West Virginia University offered a horticulture major through the Davis College, he knew instantly that it was what and where he would study.
“I find plants fascinating,” he said. “How they work, how they grow, how they flourish staying in one spot and all the biochemical processes inside a plant are really fascinating. I also like growing plants and harvesting crops--knowing I grew this and now it’s on my plate.”
Because of his horticulture major, his math class was at the Davis College, where he met the woman he would marry and who would transform his creative ideas into a career. Maxine Boehne, now Maxine Solliday, was majoring in animal and nutritional sciences with minors in horticulture and equine therapy at the Davis College when she asked him to go on a walk.
“Prior to meeting Maxine, I wasn’t doing as well in college as I would have liked,” Mathias said. “After we began dating, I started doing better. I think the driving force we give to each other really helped us succeed overall.”
Dating for them included study dates, working on projects and papers together--as well as dinners, movies and the like. Their budding relationship turned long-distance as the pandemic closed the University. Mathias went to his hometown in Greenbank, and Maxine stayed with her grandparents in Ohio.
“We dated for four months and then were separated under a stay-at-home order for five months,” Maxine said. “We were in a long-distance relationship more than we dated in-person, which was so hard. The first year of dating is when you really learn about each other, and we had to do it over the phone. We couldn’t even video call because of Mathias’s limited Wi-Fi access."
During this time, Maxine suggested they try selling plants they propagated. Soon after, Mathias told her about some of his business ideas. He had made air plant treehouses but had never done anything with them--until then. This led Mathias and Maxine to start Mackey’s Tree House, a small business they’re focused on growing. The two make and sell wood products like air plant holders, pens and pots, as well as propagated plants.
Persevering through the long-distance period of their relationship also led to Mathias proposing to Maxine on a beach in Delaware in April 2021. They were married in front of family and close friends in March 2022.
“Once we got married, a lot of problems were solved,” Maxine said. “When you’re in college, you’re busy with classes and part-time jobs. You’re always gone. You’re always moving. But, after we were married, we knew we’d be home together.”
The two have decided their home will be as close to Greenbank, West Virginia, as possible. For now, that means Mathias’ next job is in Snowshoe, West Virginia, designing and constructing a landscape for campgrounds and helping start a production greenhouse.
“My horticulture degree is very helpful for the opportunities in and around the southern part of the state,” he said. “Thank goodness for my degree, because we’ll be able to get back to that part of the state.”
Although Mathias wanted to get away from Greenbank four years ago, he now realizes his love for West Virginia and misses all that he had growing up.
"I want to raise my kids there and provide them with the childhood that I had," Mathias said. “I look back on it and think, ‘Man, I had it good.’ Sometimes you have to get away from something to realize what you had. So, we’re going to go back and make our home there.”
For Mathias, Maxine was a catalyst in his life and career--changing his mindset about school, encouraging him to try selling his impressive crafts, helping expand their collection of rare plants and loving his hometown and family’s small farm.
His advice for students considering marriage is to know if you’re committed and act on that. His advice for students starting a business is to make school the priority and enjoy owning a side business.
“If it doesn’t work, use it as a learning experience,” he added. “I've had ideas that did not sell. I've had other ideas that I thought were ridiculous, but they did great. You never really know unless you try.”
His advice to students trying to make it through school is to persevere.
“College can be tough,” he said. “I don’t want to downplay that. You have a lot to juggle: classwork, due dates, social activities and living your life. Have the perseverance to push through, and, eventually, you’ll look back on it and say that it was worth it in the end.”
The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit davis.wvu.edu. Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by following @WVUDavis.
CONTACT: Leah Smith
Public Relations Specialist
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.