Photo by Lifetouch Photography

Growing up in Greenville, S.C., Dr. Delphina (Del) Hopkins-Gillispie ’73 was encouraged by family, clergymen and teachers to attend college. While she applied to several historically black colleges, her high school guidance counselor spoke with her about Berea College. The idea of attending a college that was diverse, open to minorities and required no tuition was impressive to Hopkins-Gillispie.

The opportunity to attend a college that embraced diversity was a privilege and great opportunity.

“The first day my parents drove me to campus, I said, ‘Wow, what a beautiful place,’” Hopkins-Gillispie recalled. “The love, the friendliness on campus—the Berea family welcomed me with open arms.”

A strong commitment to Berea’s mission came to fruition when she began life after college and reflected on all she had received at Berea.

“The education, life experiences, wonderful professors and cultural experiences were phenomenal,” Hopkins-Gillispie said.

As a first-generation, African American female majoring in biology, Hopkins-Gillispie says she defines her success as a genuine love for learning. She knows that she did not get to this place by herself. There were others who mentored her and provided the gift of the no-tuition promise.

Hopkins-Gillispie and her husband, Charley Gillispie MBA, CPA, are strong supporters of Berea’s mission and Great Commitments.

“I know that affordability of college through funding such as an endowment for equitable access to higher education is a motivating factor in academic attainment for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Hopkins-Gillispie said.

She truly believes in all aspects of Berea’s mission and says, “The mission statement is like a puzzle; each piece joins another to make a strong institutional commitment with a solid foundation based on principles that date back to the 1800s and reflect the quality of today’s generation of students who graduate from Berea.”

While her husband did not attend Berea College, he has known about the College for years. His father, who was a farmer and construction worker, helped to build several of the buildings on campus.

“I feel that Berea is preparing students to become leaders in church and society who understand what it is to treat others as we want to be treated,” Charley Gillispie said. “Del and I believe our support of Berea will make this a better world for future generations.”

These values led the couple to establish the Delphina Hopkins-Gillispie, Ph.D. Endowment Fund, and a deferred charitable gift annuity, which will ensure support of Berea’s students in perpetuity.

A former chief financial officer of a higher learning institution, Gillispie said, “The fact that students can obtain their degree from Berea without incurring a large amount of debt makes it possible for many more students to be contributing members of society in the future.”

Hopkins-Gillispie notes that Berea laid the foundation—academically; spiritually; and by way of instilling self-discipline, leadership and service. She says that being able to recognize the importance of education, forward thinking and obtaining an education, like the one she obtained at Berea, can change the direction of a person’s life, his or her family and even the community.

“Just think, if everyone paid it forward what a better world it would be,” Hopkins-Gillispie said.

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