Berea College alumni often attest to the school and community tugging on their heartstrings. Many graduates choose to share their wealth with the College and remain involved on a personal level to provide the same education for future students that they received. However, a large portion of Berea’s support comes from the philanthropy of people who have never attended the College themselves. Like Carol Meyer, M.D., they recognize the College’s unmatched mission and wish to support it.
Meyer grew up knowing Berea was special because of connections over two generations. Her parents, Jesse Irene Hamm ’33 and Harvey Kessler Meyer ’36, graduated from Berea.
“I guess it was kind of unforgettable because the morning after Dad’s graduation, Mom went into labor with me!” Meyer said.
Her parents had come to Berea thanks to their parents. Meyer’s grandmother attended the Normal School, and her grandfather took courses at Berea College. They both studied education and influenced Meyer’s parents.
Although her parents moved around a lot between Kentucky and Florida, their loyalty to the College remained central to their lives. Meyer’s father actually paid homage to Berea in the construction of his home in Gainesville, Fla.
“The gates to the entrance of the house have the lamp of knowledge and the Christian cross,” Meyer said. “Dad designed those to be emblematic of Berea.”
Her parents both went on to become accomplished educators in their field of study after receiving their master’s (Hamm) and doctorate (Meyer) in education. They relocated to Nicaragua temporarily, where her father founded a vocational school in Managua and her mother taught at the American school.
“Mom and Dad really modeled the importance of education for us,” Meyer recalled. “The time they spent in Central America put it on the map for me.”
Meyer’s parents fulfilled one of Berea’s implicit goals: to enable the next generation to be financially ineligible to attend Berea. Thus, Meyer graduated from Duke University in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine and later earned a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia.
Meyer was an intern with the Medical College when she took a job as a pediatric resident in Panama, where she would live on and off for the next 20 years.
“I absolutely loved it there, which is obvious because I just kept going back,” Meyer said. “It was easy to see why my parents thought Central America was special.”
After retiring as an assistant professor from the Medical College of Georgia, Meyer established a memorial scholarship at Berea in her parents’ names. The scholarship is an annual award meant to support the cost of education at Berea, with preference to students from Central America.
“I don’t think my parents could pick just one thing they loved about Berea, although they maintained close relationships with several of the faculty over the years.” Meyer said. “I wanted to give something in their name because we all have a responsibility to contribute back to the agencies that helped us.” •