In May 2017, President Lyle Roelofs received a thank you note from a Guinevere Beirne, a English major who was graduating the following week. In her letter the West Virginia native speaks to the difference her Berea education made in her life and how it influenced her future goals. To this day, Roelofs cites this letter and success stories like Beirne’s as one of the most rewarding parts of his presidential tenure.
My name is Guinevere Beirne, and I will be graduating in less than a week with a major in English Literature and Writing with a minor in Business Administration. I am from a very economically challenge—as all Bereans are—background in the state of WV. Berea has provided me with an education I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. In the future, I hope to be a published author and to own a business that both feeds and employs people that re homeless, and it is thanks this institution that I will accomplish this. Thank you for all you have done to help make it this far. I hope that our institution will continue to strive to help those who have no other means to an education, even during this time of pollical strife because the person who could change the future of this country for the better just may be undocumented, Appalachian or currently homeless. Berea is the home of the exceptional. Thank you for everything.
Roelofs quoted part of Beirne’s note in his commencement address to the class of 2017, and he also used her words and experience to influence a group of senators, one being Joe Manchin from West Virginia, to understand higher education’s role in the federal government’s involvement with Appalachia.