A joint message from the President and the Vice President for
Alumni, Communications and Philanthropy
Rev. John G. Fee had a bold mission for Berea College amid the turbulence of the 1850s. With the country fiercely divided and politicized over the institution of slavery vs. freedom for all and headed toward civil war, Berea’s founders were clear and steadfast about which side of that conflict they supported.
Choosing the side of freedom, Fee and early Bereans courageously defined the kind of institution Berea College would be. Berea would be a place welcoming to women and men, formerly enslaved people as well as white students, all invited to live and learn together in a state where it was perfectly legal for one human being to own another. Fee, a deeply religious man from a slave-holding family, based his thought and action on the Christian faith he embraced, even as denominations had become divided over slavery. He chose as the foundation for his thought the Christian notion of impartial love.
The true genius in Fee’s thinking is its profound inclusivity. You did not have to agree with him in all the details of his thought, but you had to accept the principle of impartial love, and its incompatibility with slavery.
Imagine Berea, then, as having a very big “welcome table” with unlimited seats. The only condition for having a seat is supporting Fee’s New Testament notion of impartial love. If all peoples and perspectives of the earth are welcome at this table, then learning across difference will happen. Minds may not be changed, but the very idea of Berea and its full embrace of impartial love calls us to keep trying.
When we—you and us—give to support the education of young people today and in the future, we are modeling love in action through our philanthropy. We do not expect the receiver of such support to pay it back. Instead, we expect the receiver to pay it forward. So many of Berea’s alumni continue to do that. So do Berea’s many friends. That’s what this President’s Impact Report celebrates.
Today, just as in 1855, the world needs more, not less, impartial love. And just as Berea was doing in the 19th century by putting that kind of love in action, it continues to do that today. And along the way, we find promise when we can bring people together even amid different perspectives and beliefs. While we sometimes fail at this, we invite you to remain at Berea’s table sharing our diverse perspectives with one another.