Giving as Service to Berea: Janice Blythe

Abbie Darst '036 Comments

Janice Blythe

Before Janice Blythe ever stepped foot on Berea’s campus as a professor and chair of Berea’s Child and Family Studies Department in 1986, her life, teaching style and belief system were shaped by numerous Berea College alumnae. These educated, forward-thinking women added to the depth of history and appreciation Janice had developed for Berea from childhood when growing up one county to the west in Lancaster, Kentucky.

Janice’s great grandmother graduated from the Berea Academy in 1883. Her aunt and several cousins later graduated from Berea College.

“Even though I didn’t get to come to Berea, I have always appreciated what it stood for,” Janice said.

Instead, Janice attended Eastern Kentucky University where she encountered Professor Effie Creamer ’54 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics. As one of only five African-American students in a department of 500 students, Janice found a mentor, confidant and lifelong friend in Effie.

“Effie taught very differently and, after being at Berea for three decades, I understand now why she was so different.”

Effie and her husband’s Berean way of bringing students into their home and helping them grow as people stuck out to Janice.

“They treated their students like their kids—and they had four children of their own,” Janice said. “We ate, did dishes, visited and worked on school projects all together in their home.”

Alongside Effie’s mentorship, Janice eventually encountered other Berea alumnae, such as Dr. Betty Powers ’53, Dr. Shirley Gibbs ’57, Peggy Kidd ’59, and Jessie Zander ’54, who impacted her life and career in monumental ways.

“They were my mentors and they demonstrated the things Berea stood for then, and I see the things we still stand for and that I want to promote as an employee,” Janice said.

Janice hopes she has had this same impact on the thousands of students she has taught, advised and mentored in her 31 years at Berea. Coupled with the historical impact of her family’s involvement with the College, this desire has motivated Janice to give back to Berea for more than two decades.

“It’s the right way to live, and it’s the right thing to do—to give what I can toward the continuation of what this school has done for 162 years,” Janice said. “There are many resources we possess that are not just in dollars. But whether it’s with money or mentoring, I encourage people to think about how they were invested in and use that to reinvest in others. I see what I do at Berea as a great investment, and our students are incredible.

“I wish I could have been a Berea graduate—that’s my one great envy—but I’m doing the next best thing, and that is contributing,” Janice continued. “That is my service.”

6 Comments on “Giving as Service to Berea: Janice Blythe”

  1. Dr. Blythe was a tough professor but that’s because she believed in every single one of her students! She was caring, compassionate, and an amazing mentor. She loved to see her students succeed and was always in good spirits. Her passing has hit me hard but she will forever be in my thoughts. Thank you dr. Blythe for amazing life lessons, lectures, and recognition! May you Rest In Peace.

  2. I had the great honor & pleasure of having Dr. Blythe as one of my professors for both the nutrition course which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll never forget her genuine caring personality & I remember her trying to win me over to major in diuretics as I was a Child & Family Studies major! I’ll also never forget how welcoming & her parents were when she invited us to her home for a very delicious fried chicken meal! I remember feeling very special being invited! She will be greatly missed but thank goodness for the great memories & having had her in my life as she definitely contributed to me pursuing an MSW to be able to follow my passion of serving the most vulnerable amongst us.

  3. I love Dr. Blythe! I first met her as the choir director the Evergreen Baptist Church in Lexington where I still sing every Sunday. So, when I came to campus she was an important part of my comfort. I admit I took her nutrition class when she was out and we laughed about the trouble I was in for doing that, but she loved me anyway. I love you Dr. Blythe forever and always. You are an inspiration and God given blessing.
    Kesha Cowan ’95

  4. Ironically, I visited this site a day or two ago. I wanted to leave a reply but fell asleep. Little did I know I’d be back soon. I’ve just been shocked learning of Dr. J.B Blythe’s death. So sudden and unexpected. I’m so glad we fellowshipped in October 2018. I hadn’t seen you in 7 years but you were the first one I visited when I arrived on campus. I remember our last chat in October and I will never forget your unique voice. It’s always been comforting and refreshing to talk with you about my career moves. When I shifted into a different area of my calling attending seminary, you were just as supportive as you were when I was a student under your tutelage. You’re truly an accomplished womyn and your life’s work definitely speaks for you. You were one of the most unselfish persons I know. While proud and having a sense of accomplishment, you could have been arrogant about your education and accolades instead you were humble and it showed up in the outcomes of your duties. You were beyond committed but “faithful even unto death.” Traveling back to Berea will NEVER be the same and I’m not ready for the reality of today’s news. The works you have done speak for you beyond education but as a humanitarian and daughter of Christ. Thank you for helping me to grow up in my 5 years at Berea College. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be who I am professionally today had I not crossed paths with you. You were the best and most challenging professor I ever had including graduate school. While we’re saddened to release you, I know your mother is happy to receive you today. Heaven has truly gained another angel. You left your legacy. Take your rest!

    LT

  5. Dr. Blythe is an empowering mentor. She saw the strength in me, which pushed me to achieve my bachelor’s degree. Now, I am in a college setting myself, and I find myself quoting her to my students. Thank you Dr. Blythe for believing in me when I did not possess the ability to believe in myself.

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