Imagine being so enamored with a place’s mission and values that you would support it financially for 28 years without ever stepping foot on its grounds. That has been Bill and Peggy Huddleston’s story since 1995 when they sent their first check of support to Berea College. Today, the couple supports through their endowed Be the Change Scholarship, which funds tuition scholarships for Berea students to transform their lives and the world around them.
It didn’t start there. Peggy discovered Berea College through a mail solicitation they received. “Information for all these areas we could give to were coming in the mail,” she recalled. “I would look at it all and try to evaluate each and decide what sings to my heart most.”
Later, she remembers flipping through a Berea College Magazine knowing this was exactly the place they wanted to support.
“I started thumbing through it and started reading the headlines and topics, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Peggy said. “I was floored that there was a tuition-free college in Kentucky doing this for international students and kids in Appalachia who were so deserving and needing financial help if they were going to get through post-high school education. I thought, ‘This is just amazing!’”
But the true beginning of the Huddlestons’ philanthropic hearts began with their parents. Peggy’s mom grew up on a cotton farm in southern Mississippi, picking cotton, and her father was a teacher. As a child, Peggy remembers that their needs were met, but they were not financially well-off. While living in Montana, Peggy’s father would take her to the Native American reservations where they supported the schools. While there, he would ask Peggy to observe the living conditions and the lack of resources available and remind her that she, her sister and her friends didn’t need to worry about basic necessities or wonder where their next meal would come from.
“My parents were great givers,” Peggy said. “We didn’t have a lot of money; I was not a rich girl. Money was tight, but even in tight times, my parents gave money.”
This just became a way of life for Peggy and eventually Bill. “Over time, we realized that we were raised with great work ethic and were taught to live under our means,” Bill said. “We were financially blessed and felt this was something we could do to follow in Ruddy’s (Peggy’s dad) footsteps and help others in the way we had been helped.”
Though the Huddlestons have yet to visit Berea, the stories they read about Berea’s students and alumni continue to resonate with them, increasing the joy they receive from supporting the College.
“It is the idea of Berea being a microcosm for what can be done in the world on a relatively small scale—it is exactly what this world needs,” Peggy said. “When I read Berea stories, the students are not just surviving but truly thriving. It is just a joy to know they are doing that.”
“And to know we are playing a part in their success,” Bill added. “When we leave the face of the planet—people we know won’t see us again, but we’ll have a legacy at Berea that will keep giving in perpetuity. That leaves me with such a great feeling. This is such a great opportunity to do good and to keep giving after I’m gone, and it puts such a big smile on my face.”