On any given Tuesday or Thursday during the academic year, flashes of yellow and green may peek through the early morning fog along Main Street, mixing in with school buses dropping students off at Berea Community School and people driving to work. As those flecks of color make their way along the Artisan Trail, a closer look reveals T-shirt-clad students, faculty and staff who start their day twice a week with the Berea College President’s Run/Walk Club.

President Lyle Roelofs and a faculty member run with the president's dog
Photo by Crystal Wylie ’05

An avid runner, President Lyle Roelofs established the club in 2012 as he began his tenure as the College’s ninth president. He invited all members of the campus community and Berea-based alumni to join him, First Lady Laurie Roelofs and the presidential dog at the circular driveway at Seabury Center. Fueled by bananas and granola bars, the group sets out in the direction of the Kentucky Artisan Center at 7 a.m. Laurie Roelofs and the walkers reach Middletown School and head back to campus for their nearly two-mile walk. Lyle—accompanied by First Dog, Molly, early in the club’s history, and now by Nellie—and the runners go about four miles, jogging past the Berea College Farm to the Kentucky Artisan Center before returning to campus.

“Lyle and I really enjoy the Run/Walk Club,” said Laurie Roelofs. “It’s been a great way for us to stay in shape and build relationships.”

That’s how Calvin Gross ’86, director of library services at Berea, got to know the Roelofs. One of the most active participants in the Run/Walk Club, he began walking with Laurie in the club’s second year. Along the way, he lost 30 pounds and no longer needs the blood pressure medication he’d been taking for eight years.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Gross said of the club. “I guess it sort of started off as a health initiative, but it’s also become a social thing for me. There’s a group of people that’s almost always there.”

members of the run/walk club stop for water
Photo by Crystal Wylie ’05

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the connections and comradery formed among members of the club. After a few months apart, they were itching to get back to their morning walks and runs. Gross recalls meeting Laurie for walks around campus, wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance to comply with the College’s social distancing guidelines. President Roelofs also found time to get out and run, and found a running partner in Caleb ’23, a health and human performance major and philosophy minor from Anderson County, Ky.

“During the COVID semesters, when we were not meeting to run as a club, the president and I went on many runs together,” said Caleb, who ran cross country in high school and joined the Run/Walk Club in 2018. “These (runs) were always fun and I enjoyed the time spent getting to know the president while—at the same time—getting in better shape.” He said the added benefits included free running shoes and snacks, a good community of runners and walkers and learning about astronomy. During the fall months, the stars were still out at the start of each run/walk.

As the Roelofs prepare to retire from Berea College at the end of June, many runners and walkers shared their hopes of the President’s Run/Walk Club continuing as part of their impactful legacy in support of a healthy campus community.

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