A Message from the President

President Lyle Roelofs passes the mace to incoming President Cheryl L. Nixon, Berea's 10 President.
President Lyle Roelofs passes the mace to incoming President Cheryl L. Nixon, Berea’s 10 President.

In July, just before the Class of 2027 arrived, I joined this community as the newest Berean. In a resplendent Boone Tavern Event Center ceremony, President Lyle Roelofs passed the baton—or rather, a large, wooden mace—to me. The mace, and the responsibility it represents, is old, heavy and beautifully crafted. With its substantial weight, the mace seems to also represent our serious history and our enduring mission.
I am so very, very excited by the honor to carry that mission forward, in partnership with my fellow

Bereans. While I feel the weight of this College’s legacy, I also feel the inspirational possibility of it, the hope and care and optimism of an entire community that not only appreciates a seemingly mythical past but is motivated to create a future that rivals it. John Fee planted the seeds of impartial love into a hostile Kentucky landscape in 1855, and 168 years later, we still tend to its growth, to its full realization. Much has happened over that expanse of time, and much has changed, on campus and off, but the mission remains, and is as important as it ever was. As long as there are smart, big-hearted students in need of affordable education, the mission of Berea College will endure and thrive.

In this year’s Impact Report, you will read about Berea’s enduring legacy, about its past and its present, about its heart for producing real and lasting change in a troubled world. You’ll learn how that troubled world thought Dr. Peter Whitis ’57 was just a young idealist when he and his wife led campus boycotts of local businesses practicing racial segregation. You’ll learn also of a teen mother earning her Ph.D. and how a survivor of the war in Kosovo built software for NASA, a home for his parents and a school for underprivileged Kosovar children. The heart of Berea’s past and present is in all these stories, and the future will hold more of the same.

Group of Campus Christian Center chaplains making joined heart symbols with their hands.
Group of Campus Christian Center chaplains making joined heart symbols with their hands. Photo by Brooklynn Kenney

I am thrilled at the thought of the stories to come from this little college in Kentucky and thrilled that I will be a part of these futures. I will be thinking about Berea five, 10 and 20 years from now as I complete my listening tour this year, and we explore together the matters pressing on the hearts of students, alumni, faculty and staff. We will build on the strengths that have led Berea College to earn the No. 1 spot in New York Times Magazine’s College Access Index, to be named among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges by Washington Monthly year after year, and to stand among Harvard, Yale and Stanford on Money Magazine’s very short list of 5-star rated schools.

In addition to building on our strengths, we will also identify the thorny issues of the present and future, issues that will require Berea College to continue a legacy of fearlessness in the face of injustice. I imagine that we, like young Dr. Whitis, will be called too idealistic, but that should not and will not stop us from creating a better world anyway. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, Berea College will be a beacon of hope, progress and opportunity. Our commitment to interracial education and gender equality remains unwavering, and we will meet the challenges of our time with courage and resilience.

In conclusion, I want to express my deepest gratitude for the warm welcome I have received at Berea College. I am honored to serve as your president, and I am genuinely excited about the journey that lies ahead. Together, we will continue to uphold the values and ideals that have defined this institution since its founding in 1855.

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