We asked Berea College alumni on Facebook to tell us how faculty and staff impacted their lives. Here’s what they said:

Robin Mason
(Child Development)

“She said something in passing one day but it has stuck with me for 32 years: ‘Every stage of parenting has wonderful moments. Don’t miss them.’ I kept this in mind throughout the parenting of my two girls, and I have shared it with countless other parents when they’re struggling. It’s SO true!”
– Sarah Teegarden Higgins ’91

Barbara Power

“Barbara Power was the most influential person that mentored me at Berea College. She was my supervisor during my freshman year at Berea. She quickly became a mentor. If anyone needed a mentor, it was myself. I was a hot mess at times. I learned so much about life and how to handle myself from Mrs. Power. She encouraged me during my years at Berea and was always there for me. She believed in me when others did not. She taught me to be an effective member of college society. Her office door was always open. She taught me what fights were needed and ones from which I needed to walk away. I am the person I am today because Mrs. Power saw my potential and saw to it that I flourished at Berea. Her impact on my life is immeasurable.”
– Nelson Alexander ’00

Dr. Peggy Rivage-Seul
(Education and Women’s and Gender Studies)

“Dr. Peggy Rivage-Seul opened my eyes to what teaching is to be. Dr. Rivage-Seul broke every pre-conceived notion I had for my role as a teacher. I now find myself 31 years as an educator and still using the lessons I learned from that EDU 101 class.” 
– Steve Thompson Jr. ’92

Dr. Robert Foster
(Asian Studies)

“Dr. Foster changed the trajectory of my life, a change that I remain incredibly thankful for to this day. I entered Berea as a Biology major with a particular interest in environmental studies/science. In my first semester I enrolled in Dr. Foster’s Introduction to China course due to an interest in world history/politics. The class was challenging, eye opening and fascinating. Dr. Foster was an exceptional and engaging professor. By the end of the semester, I was trying to figure out how to study abroad in East Asia ASAP. Soon thereafter I was blessed to be accepted to a one-year program at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. To prep for that, I enrolled in Dr. Foster’s Introduction to Japan class in the spring semester. The class was outstanding. My year in Japan was one of the best of my life; a year I’d happily relive a thousand times. I returned to Berea for a semester and then studied in Japan for short term and spent the spring semester in South Korea. In my senior year, Dr. Foster taught my independent Asian Studies capstone course, and I was blessed to serve as his TA. Two years after graduating from Berea, I returned to Kyushu University to earn my M.A. in East Asian Comparative Political Science. Finally, returning to East Asia was a key factor that led to my current career path, and while my job has unfortunately not got me back to Japan, my time there and future visits are on my mind daily. I know that I am just one of dozens of students that had their lives changed for the better by the care, mentoring and education that Dr. Foster provided. I am forever grateful.”
– Paul Clawson ’03

Coach Roland Wierwille
(Men’s Basketball)

“Presently, I’m a retired teacher and starting work with The Bridge Church’s (Alexandria, Ky.) outreach program. We had our first leadership training yesterday and were discussing problems.

I shared with them a mindset Coach Roland Wierwille imparted to me 37 years ago, and I have tried to live by through 28 years of teaching/coaching/athletic and recreation directing.

I told our minister yesterday those words Coach shared with me: ‘Keith, we don’t have problems, we have opportunities.’

Rather than just lament on problems in my adult life, I have tried to focus on what opportunity is presenting itself through this problem. [It’s the] same mindset I will take into outreach through The Bridge—what an opportunity to reach out to people and let them know what Jesus did for them through his sacrifice and love.

Thirty-seven years later, and Coach is still impacting my life.”
– E. Keith Smith ’88

Dr. Michael Panciera (Agriculture) and
Dr. José Pimienta-Bey (African and African American Studies)

“Oh my goodness, where to start? I have so many, but the most impactful were definitely Dr. Michael Panciera and Dr. Jose Pimienta-Bey. Dr. Panciera told me my second year of being an Agriculture major that anyone had what it takes to be an Ag major—they just had to believe in themselves and their passion for the greater good of those precious natural resources I so dearly love to really stand and make a difference. (I do wish I’d stayed in the Ag major now looking back, Dr. P). Dr. Pimienta-Bey was always so vibrant and full of life in his classes. There was never a day (even in the short-term class that was several hours long) when I didn’t look forward to going to his classes because I knew they were about much more than what was written in textbooks.” 
– Mary Johnson ’09

Marc Rowley

“I have literally a novel’s worth of people who influenced me during my time at Berea, but the one who sticks out the most was one of my biology professors, who eventually became my advisor and labor supervisor when I was a TA, Marc Rowley. Not only was he a great professor (I absolutely LOVED his classes!), but he was the kind of advisor that made time for his students, and as someone who has worked in higher education for several years now, that’s not always a priority. He genuinely cared for and believed in his students, he loved teaching, and he was good at it! I had a blast TA’ing for his Human Physiology and BIO 110 classes—it didn’t feel like a job! I learned a lot of valuable lessons from him, not just academically, but about life, and empathy and how to relate to people. When I pondered career goals a few years after graduating from Berea, I kept going back to the experiences I had, and it was because of him—that was one of the reasons that made me want to become an advisor myself.” 
– Holly Korb Rabanott ’12

Virgil Burnside
(Student Life)

Virgil Burnside was the advisor for the Non-Traditional Student Association when we brought it back in 2010. We asked him for a room to meet in. He gave us a cottage. I’ll never forget that.”  
– Melissa Benson ’11

Dr. Gene Startzman

“Thank you for giving so much of yourself to so many of us. You helped many of us break cycles of poverty and then some while also learning self-confidence and adventures in a way that only the ‘S professors’ could deliver upon. Your impact is immeasurable.”
– Gina Fugate ’02

Mary Ann Shupe
(costume head for the Theatre department)

“I started college as a crafty kid who’d only used a sewing machine once or twice and was interested in all kinds of arts and crafts but was focused on performance. I lucked out and got a labor position in the costume (department) my freshman year, and almost immediately realized ‘Why have I never thought about this as a career?!’ I ended up working there all four years and focused on costuming as well as performance for my degree. Now my work has taken me all over. I’ve created outfits for hundreds of characters and made countless costumes, puppets and animatronics for shows performed all over the United States and on at least three continents, as well as at sea. I couldn’t have done any of it without the training I got from Mary Shupe, the strong foundation she gave me in the art of costumes and the wonderful friendship we’ve shared. She is near-endlessly patient, kind, intelligent, a great teacher and leader, an incredible creative mind—the list could go on. After graduating, I would still call her up and we’d talk for hours, relating what we were working on and brainstorming ideas, or just chatting about our lives, and it was always a balm to the soul.” 
 – Laura E. Haskell ’05


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