Mark and Trish Campbell Estepp, both 1977 graduates, came to Berea as students from West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, respectively. After graduating, their pursuit of advanced degrees and careers took them far away, but their love for Berea frequently called them back.
“Our story is Berea’s story,” Mark said. And those acquainted with Mark and Trish know it is a love story.
[pullquote type=”right”]“Berea has probably had the biggest influence in our lives than just about anything. Anything!”[/pullquote]
Trish graduated in an eighth grade class of three and a high school class of 30. “Dad was proud I went on to high school, and I was a first-generation high school student on my mom’s side of the family,” Trish recalled. “But you know college, we just didn’t do that in my family. I didn’t even have college on my radar.”
“One reason I came to Berea was my brother graduated from Berea in 1966,” Mark said. “Ron helped me write the paper that got me accepted.”
Mark noted his first milestone in becoming a Berean was at Blue Ridge, his first-year residence hall.
“I loved Blue Ridge,” he said. “I was on a floor with kids from different ethnic backgrounds. I learned there is a world bigger than West Virginia—how about that! And we got along with each other, civilly, even when we didn’t agree on everything.”
After furthering their education, receiving master’s and doctoral degrees respectively, Trish and Mark first returned to campus during homecoming, in 1984.
“We came back because of Ruth Sacks,” Trish said. “She was an elderly lady living in an apartment at Woods-Penniman Gym. She and I really connected. She loved this school, and she gave me a deep appreciation for Berea. She was like a grandmother to me, so we wanted her to meet our daughters, Addie and Marcie. We’ve come back every year since then for homecoming. I think that’s when we started donating financially, too.”
Early on, Mark and Trish said they sent a few dollars to the College every month. As their love for Berea grew, they began adding personal involvement to their financial support. They regularly attended events like regional alumni chapter meetings and summer reunions, volunteered at Commencement and hosted student groups in their home. Both were active members of the Alumni Executive Council, each serving as president at different points. As their financial support grew, they became members of the Second Century Club and Great Commitments Society.
Now retired, Mark spent more than 35 years in faculty and administration positions in higher education, including serving as dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at Appalachian State University and 10 years as the president of Southwest Virginia Community College. Trish is a retired special education teacher. Mark and Trish agree Berea’s commitments forever change the trajectory of the lives of students like them.
“Berea did what nobody else could have done for me,” Trish said. “That has helped me to better my life. I feel the desire to give back for what they invested in us. Paying it forward is probably the most compelling part.” “Besides our relationship with the Lord,” Mark agreed, “Berea has probably had the biggest influence in our lives than just about anything. Anything!”