Give to Berea

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Steven and Jennifer

Names: Steven, ’03 and Jennifer ‘03

Current State: Tennessee
Majors: Business

Tell us about yourself.

Steven:  I am 33 years old, happily married to Jennifer (class of ’03) for nearly 10 years, a proud father of William ‘Grady’ (2 years old), and a commercial real estate appraiser by trade.  I am a proud Berea College and University of Florida alum, and I am lucky to live in the great state of Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains. I enjoy the challenges of my career, a wonderful work family, and many good friends.

Jennifer: I am nearly 30 years old and have a loving family that I am very thankful for.  Wife to Steven (class of ’03) for 10 years on May 19, 2011, and first time mother to Grady, born July 13, 2008.  I am one of three siblings (the middle child) from a small town in rural Mississippi.  I value my family most of all, and I have put my career on the backburner for the time being.  I was a business major at Berea College, and I intend to work after my child or children attend school.  East Tennessee is the place I call home and I am proud to live in the Appalachian region.

What’s your favorite memory of Berea?

Steven:  My favorite memory isn’t of one single instance, but of my overall experience.  Berea is a magical place.  And don’t take that comment lightly. I don’t often use the word “magical.”
I should add that memories of many of my professors remain strong in my mind, especially those in the Business Administration Department.  I wish to specifically thank Dr. Robert Wayne Tolliver for always being so kind and Dr. Phil Spears for imparting the wisdom of the world we “greenhorns” desperately needed.

Jennifer:  My favorite memory was graduating seconds before my husband since our names were called out alphabetically.  I get bragging rights until death do us part.

Why do you give to the College?

Steven:  I support Berea because it makes our nation better.

Berea provides an exceptional education which allows students of promise, with limited means, to make something of themselves.  Berea provides the tools, the students provide the effort, and our society is the winner.  This blessed place is a beacon of light and hope.  I am proud to be a part of this institution and will continue to support it for the rest of my life.

What was the greatest challenge you faced as a student? How did you overcome it?

Steven:  My greatest challenge as a student was finding balance.  I suspect I could have done more socially with my fellow students.  My drive kept me at my desk perhaps a bit more than necessary.

Jennifer:  As a student I believe my greatest challenge was my confidence.  I did not believe I belonged at Berea and I felt like my peers were smarter than me.  It took me a little while to grow out of that and accept that I am intelligent and can be successful in whatever I put my mind to.

How has your view of the College and your time here changed over the years?

Steven:  I remain beholden to the College for its contribution to my life.  As I’ve been a part of the institution now for some time (through volunteer efforts, etc.), I have come to understand and be very pleased with the strength and flexibility we have collectively.  The recent macroeconomic downturn put Berea to quite a test.  I think our leadership, faculty, staff, and students rose to the occasion.  These efforts are required to keep our institution alive and well for generations to come.

Jennifer:  Berea College remains a noted institution, and the education a student obtains here is well received in the marketplace.  A student can still obtain a quality education for much less than other colleges or universities.  As I have attended homecomings and volunteered on various occasions, my connection to the college has grown stronger.  I think it starts with the education and continues to develop from old relationships and new friendships among college personnel and other alums.

What message would you like to share with today’s students?

Steven:  At Berea, anything is possible.  Challenge yourself and demand excellence.  Do whatever you can to keep Berea here for the folks coming after you.

Jennifer:  Work hard and have fun.  College is a time to be young and live life to the fullest.   Don’t focus so much on the prize and forget to enjoy the journey.  Travel the world through as many study abroad programs as possible and do not settle for just a degree.  Find out what makes you happy and embrace it.  Know that you are here because of those that came before you and respect that.  Give back what you can so others can take advantage of the same life-changing experiences.

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