In 2006, when trying to land my dream job at Berea College, I met a person who had once worked there. I was trying to learn as much as I could about the College, and I’ll never forget what she told me.
“Well, it’s important for you to know the impact of Berea’s founder,” she said. “The ghost of John G. Fee wafts in and around the mighty oaks on the campus. His is a presence that is still felt on a daily basis.”
I remember thinking that I’d never been part of an organization where the ghost of a founder continued to exert a guiding influence. But she was absolutely right, and I often explain to friends and donors how hard we work each day to bring us closer to attaining the founders’ vision. The enduring mission of John and Matilda Fee and other early Bereans, manifested in the Great Commitments, makes Berea a college unlike any other.
We work so untiringly that were the Fees able to return to campus today, they would be very proud of what they would see. Those oaks have only grown more majestic, along with the campus. And while they would see Acts 17:26 in action, they might wonder what Zoom, email and masks are all about.
Perhaps most important, I’m sure their hearts would be gladdened by our students today—all peoples of the earth, really—and how in recent years our student diversity more closely resembles the mix of students in the 19th century.
I would hope the Fees would take approving notice of the myriad ways Bereans connect the present and future to the past to make the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice possible. Our effort is continuous, and the work of Berea’s founders is just as relevant 165 years later on the same little ridge in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
And wouldn’t it be thrilling to take the Fees into the archives to show them lists of all those alumni and friends who contributed to Berea since Rev. Fee’s death in 1901? Or for a stroll past the Legacy Wall to read the names of those who left the College a bequest from their estate? Each name from the past, and every one of the names today emblazoned in this inspiring report, would likely fill the hearts of the Fees beyond capacity.
All Bereans are also working to make you—a person who has invested in lives of great promise—proud. If you haven’t been to campus in a while, or if you have never been to campus, we invite you to visit as soon as the pandemic recedes. Just as the Fees would be, I venture that you’ll be just as inspired by seeing a place where mission and values are put in action every day.