Dear friends and alums of Berea College,
We are proud to begin this piece by noting that we were invited to join the ranks of Berea alumni recently and are honorary members of the class of 2022.
The final year of our term as Berea’s presidential couple is certainly bittersweet. There is and was so much
inspiration and reward in being part of the leadership of the most amazing college in the country, and,
as we look forward to our retirement on June 30, 2023, we will certainly miss all of that.
Even more, we will miss all the amazing Bereans who have inspired us with their stories. We have come to realize it is those stories that constitute the true essence and identity of Berea College, and we regarded it with highest honor that so many of you entrusted us with your stories. We are forever in your debt and can only thank you and
assure you that you have profoundly enriched our Berea stories as well. Very few Bereans wait to start their Berea stories until they are in their 50s, so we have packed a lot into the past 11 years.
Our story started in Fall 2011, with a two-day campus interview visit. We had read the Shannon Wilson history of the College, and Lyle had had a couple of meetings with the presidential search committee. So we both approached that trip with a sense of real anticipation. Would the reality of Berea live up to the hype and rhetoric? We spent those two days encountering so much about Berea and meeting so many Bereans. We both remember getting on the airplane back to central New York and saying to one another how unbelievable it had all been, and how we would certainly accept the job offer in a heartbeat if we were so fortunate as to receive it. Well, it did come a week or two later, and we accepted immediately, delighted that our Berea story would not end after a short preface.
Many chapters have followed since that beginning, too many and too rich to write about here. But one of the early ones would be about how in our first two years we were privileged to travel extensively throughout the country to meet Bereans where they lived and worked. You were all so generous in sharing with us in those gatherings, and you were good teachers and storytellers, laying the groundwork for the profound and deep understanding of Berea that its leaders must acquire.
Now we are writing the last few chapters of our Berea story, and it is time to say farewell to so many of you. It will not be possible for us to travel around the country again, as we would like to do. Thanks to the time we lost to COVID-19, there just isn’t time to fit all of that into our last year. Also, you and the College will be looking with excitement (that we share) to the future, to the next chapters of Berea’s overall story beyond the leadership transition.
Thankfully, as we have said so often, and to every incoming class of Bereans, once a Berean, always a Berean! That is as true of a Berea friend as it is of a Berea alumnus. So, you can be assured that we will continue as your fellow alums to be Bereans. And Bereans are always Being and Becoming, so over time, we, like you, look forward
to becoming even better Bereans. Thanks for launching us well on that rewarding and never-ending journey!
Lyle and Laurie Roelofs, Hon. ’22
How could one not be touched by reading these posts? Although I did not know the Roelofs’ personally, I did know them. I have known them remotely for 11 years. They had a story to tell, a mission to give, and they did both. They will be forever a part of Bereas’ history. May God bless them both, and may we who love Berea learn from them, and do our small part to help Bereas’ legacy. “We are of one blood. . .”
Marsha, thank you so much for this sentiment! I will make sure the Roelofs see you comment!