CLIFTON FORGE — Ashby Clements is living proof that a four-year college degree isn’t a requirement in order to a enjoy a career that not only earns him a good living, but also brings him a lot of satisfaction.

The 26-year-old Rockbridge County welder is an entrepreneur who started his own business, Fire Mountain Fabrication, with plans in the very near future to purchase another business where he has been employed the last few years, Rails End Wood and Metal.

“I really enjoy what I do,” said the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College graduate. “I look forward to going to work every day. There’s always something different.”

Clements has been selected as this year’s recipient of the DSLCC Distinguished Alumni Award, presented to a DSLCC alumnus or alumna who has realized exemplary distinction in their profession and honors all those at the college who have assisted them on the path to success, enabling them to enrich their communities.

The award, established in 2017 by the DSLCC Educational Foundation, will be presented to Clements during one of the three commencement exercises scheduled on the DSLCC Clifton Forge campus May 13-15. 

Clements will be the featured speaker at the second ceremony on Friday, May 14.

Previous recipients have included banker Steven Leitch; local  businessman John Stone; Julie Persinger-Gardiner, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and DSLCC Librarian Nova Wright.

Clements, who was homeschooled by his mom with his two siblings, grew up on a farm near Buena Vista. He says he fell into a career in welding by chance.

“I didn’t know anything about welding, but I figured knowing how to weld would be a great skill on a farm, and the Dabney welding program had a good reputation,” he said.

Clements spent three semesters at DSLCC, earning a welding certificate in 2015 under the tutelage of Mike Bryant, who heads up the DSLCC welding program.

“Mike Bryant is a fantastic teacher,” said Clements. “You could ask him anything. He really has an appreciation for what you’re learning in his classes. In fact, every professor I had at Dabney was there to help me learn.”

In his shop, Clements is able to combine his welding skills with a lot of creativity. “Every job is challenging and unique,” he said.

And, he added, his career allows him the flexibility to take off a few weeks every year for the past five years to attend to a ministry his family created, East4West Navajo Ministries. The non-profit serves thousands of people in poverty on the Navajo Indian Reservation, that covers several states.

Clements heads up a Christmas gift program that serves as many as 3,000 Navajo children, and he is also head coach for the ministry’s soccer camp, a tuition-free camp that takes place annually on the Navajo Reservation.

“It’s grown beyond our expectations,” said Clements. “We make sure they have blankets and warm clothes and even little things that we take for granted, like toothbrushes and combs.”

Clements credits his mother, Virginia Clements, with giving him a solid education and a love for service.  He is an active member of the Lexington Baptist Church.

“I brag about Dabney all the time,” he adds. “It was an education I could pay for. It was a great decision I made by accident. Dabney helped me pick whatever career I wanted. Do you really need a four-year degree to get a job? It’s not true. You can make good money and like going to work every day. It’s a fantastic experience.”

For more information about the DSLCC Educational Foundation, contact Executive Director Dr. James Cook at (540) 863-2837 or email

Ashby Clements, a 26-year-old Rockbridge County welder and entrepreneur, has been selected as the recipient of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He will receive his award during the college’s graduation ceremonies which are scheduled for May 13-15. Clements earned a certificate in welding from DSLCC in 2015 and later started his own business, Fire Mountain Fabrication. (DSLCC Photo)