After six Hairstons spanned 20 years on Berea’s campus, a second generation soon followed. Sue Hairston Jones ’72 had returned to Williamson and dedicated her career to educating elementary children in her slowly dwindling hometown.
Sue raised her children, Susan, Amy and Wayne, in a loving home, grounded in faith, service and music, and infused with Berea.
When Susan ’02 began college planning, she knew Berea was where her mother hoped she’d attend. Sue’s wish came true, and on move in day, when Susan and her family opened the door to her first dorm room in Elizabeth Rodgers, Sue instantly recognized the room as the one she and Willene shared in the late 1960s. Coincidence? Probably. But Susan felt comfort in that legacy. But legacy isn’t only comfort.
“You realize there is a lot to measure up to when faculty and staff know your family and expect a lot out of you,” Susan said.
Susan welcomed the challenge and thrived. She worked at the Log House Craft Gallery, but soon moved on to working with Dr. Libby Jones at the Center for Effective Communication and as a teaching assistant for Jones and Mr. Andrew Baskin. She sang four years with the Concert Choir and two with the Black Music Ensemble (BME).
With Concert Choir, Susan traveled to Rome and sang for Pope John Paul II. On a Kentucky Institute of International Studies (KIIS) program trip to Austria with Dr. Stephen Bolster, he and Susan met the 100 year old Hungarian composer, Ferenc Farkas, whose music they were studying and performing, in his home.
“These experiences are just invaluable,” Susan said. “The exposure is one of the most meaningful parts of my Berea experience.”
Susan rode to church with Dr. Kathy Bullock every Sunday. “She went out of the boundary of what I consider a professor to be,” Susan said. “I’m really blessed to have professors who don’t just look at you as a student whose relationship stops at graduation, but they continue to be respected and cherished mentors and friends.”
When her brother, Wayne, came to Berea in 2011, one deciding factor was the opportunity for close faculty relationships.
“It was easy to have great relationships with professors,” Wayne said. “Others struggled that first semester, but I hit the ground running.”
Wayne also sang four years with Concert Choir and two with BME. When he traveled abroad with the KIIS program, he had an intense one-on-one summer experience with Bolster as the only student in his Vocal Methods class.
“The opportunity to work with someone of such expertise expanded my appreciation of choral music,” Wayne said. “Dr. Bolster’s personalized instruction developed an excellent student-teacher relationship unique to the Berea experience.” An economics major, Wayne worked in Accounts Payable in the Accounting office for three years. His senior year, he became an RA in Bingham Hall. He served as a peer advisor for the Success program, meeting with incoming freshman to help them acclimate to Berea.
In April, Wayne completed the Rackham Merit Fellow program, earning a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Michigan.
After graduating from Berea with an education degree, Susan earned a second bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in education from Eastern Kentucky University. She taught elementary school in several cities and now works as a technology analyst for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Susan and Wayne both serve on Berea’s Young Alumni Advisory Council. Last summer, Susan married Dennis English in Berea at Union Church, and the two just recently welcomed their first child.
Each member of the Jones family is committed to the success of Berea College. Even the middle sister, Amy, who attended Yale University, sings with the alumni choir and joins her family in financially supporting the College.
The Hairston family hosted the Concert Choir for their spring tour to Charlotte, N.C., in 2017, providing lodging, concert venues and recreational events to the choir during their stay.