Berea College Recognizes 260 Students During First In-Person Spring Graduation Ceremony Since 2019

Berea College sign on campus in the spring

Photo: Tyler Rocquemore ’22

During the first in-person spring commencement ceremony in three years due to COVID, Berea College recognized 260 students. This included 45 students who graduated between 2019-2021. The 215 graduates for 2022 represented 18 different countries.

Guest speaker Geoffrey Canada, globally renowned president and creator of the Harlem Children’s Zone and advocate for education reform, spoke during the ceremony on meeting challenges facing our youth. (more…)

Categories: News, People
Tags: alumni, commencement, Dr. Lyle Roelofs, Event, graduation

Berea College Student Nationally Honored as Major of the Year in Health & Human Performance

Jaden Johnson

Jaden Johnson named Major of the Year in Health & Human Performance by Shape America

By Joey Martelli, Shape America

SHAPE America–Society of Health and Physical Educators honored Jaden Johnson of Berea College as a Major of the Year during the organization’s 136th National Convention and Expo, held April 26-30th in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The award celebrates outstanding undergraduate students in the health, physical education, recreation, and dance professions who are nominated by a faculty advisor or professor. Johnson was recognized on Tuesday, April 26th during the Opening General Session.

“The outstanding achievements of future professionals like Jaden is integral to the future of SHAPE America and our profession.” said SHAPE America President Terri Drain, the Founder and Coordinator of the Health and Physical Education Collaborative.


Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: graduation, Health and Human Performance Department, shape america

Two Berea College Students Selected as Watson Fellows

Berea College sign on campus in the spring

Photo: Tyler Rocquemore ’22

Berea College students Maria Alejandra Hernandez Diaz ’22 and Hunter McDavid ’22 have been named Thomas J. Watson Fellows.

The 54th Class of Watson Fellows was selected from just 41 private colleges and university partners across the United States. This year, 42 students were selected from a national pool of finalists in an extremely competitive process.


Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: graduation, Student Life, Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Ezell National Tour Launches in Berea Over Earth Day Weekend

Ezell becomes the Appalachian Eagle during the Clear Creek premier of the full Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man performance (photo by Erica Chambers)

Ezell becomes the Appalachian Eagle during the Clear Creek premier of the full Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man performance (photo by Erica Chambers)

Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man, an award-winning outdoor eco-cultural theater, music and meal experience will be presented at the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center and the Pinnacles over Earth Day weekend, April 21 to 24, 2022.

Ezell is an environmental, cultural and spiritual parable derived from living in the foothills of Appalachia, one man among many seeking to make sense of the time, place and condition in which we live. In the story, Ezell’s choices, traumas, ancestors and more intersect with themes of domination and resilience as he seeks to take advantage of an anticipated fracking boom and the opportunity to reconnect with the people and land of his raising.


Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Forestry Outreach Center, Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, music, Pinnacles

Founding Member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sule Greg Wilson, to Perform at Berea College

Súle Greg Wilson

Súle Greg Wilson

Súle Greg Wilson, founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drops, will perform at Ballad Night at Berea College on Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Gray Auditorium, Presser Hall. The evening is hosted by the Berea College Folk-Roots Ensemble.

Wilson will present a 30-minute set of African American ballads which will be followed by a ballad round robin. The performance is free and open to the public. All audience members must be masked as per college policy due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Categories: News, People, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Concert, music, Music Department

National Book Foundation Authors Present “The Environment of Now” at Berea College

Can readers escape the end of the world? Join National Book Award–honored authors Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth, 2019 Fiction finalist) and Jackie Wang (The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void, 2021 Poetry finalist) for readings and conversation on writing the environment of place and people in the 21st century.

The free event takes place on Tuesday, April 12, at 6 p.m. in the Berea College Alumni Building’s Baird Lounge. Refreshments will be available. Masks are required.

To bring cutting-edge authors to Appalachian Kentucky, the National Book Foundation’s public programming arm, NBF Presents, arranged these authors’ visits in partnership with Berea College and Appalshop (Letcher County).


Categories: News, Places, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Ansel Elkins, Jason Howard, Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, National Book Foundation, Silas House

Berea College Joins New Collegiate Conference of the South Following USA South Separation

Basketball player dunking

Photo: Tyler Rocquemore ’22

Nine member institutions of the USA South Athletic Conference (USAS) have officially formed and have been approved by the NCAA as a new Division III athletic conference, following a planned separation of USAS. This new conference, the “Collegiate Conference of the South” (CCS), will include Agnes Scott College, Belhaven University, Berea College, Covenant College, Huntingdon College, LaGrange College, Maryville College, Piedmont University, and Wesleyan College.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: athletics, NCAA, NCAA Division III

Berea College Woodworking School at Pine Croft Spring Registration Now Open

Kelly Mehler

Kelly Mehler, who ran his own woodworking school on the Pine Croft site, led a previous class at the Woodworking School at Pine Croft.

Berea College’s Woodworking School at Pine Croft will be buzzing with activity beginning in April with a new slate of classes that include guest instructors teaching their trade.

The first full session in October 2019 was attended by students from Kentucky as well as Florida, North Carolina, Michigan and Minnesota. Andy Glenn, head of the Woodworking School at Pine Croft, hopes to see an even greater interest this time around.

“We are just getting started with Pine Croft,” Glenn said. “2020 and 2021 proved challenging, but we’re excited for the future. We have a great slate of instructors scheduled for 2022 and a wide range of classes.”

Three guest instructors will be part of the Spring 2022 class schedule.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Crafts, Pine Croft, Woodcraft, Woodworking School at Pine Croft

Berea College Recognizes 80 Students at Mid-Year Ceremony

December mid-year graduates

Photo: Crystal Wylie ’05

Berea College recognized 80 students last week during its Mid-Year Ceremony. Alumnus and former Berea College Trustee Robert Yahng addressed the seniors, who represented 20 states and five different countries.

Robert Yahng commencement speaker

Berea College recognized 80 students last week during its Mid-Year Ceremony. Alumnus and former Berea College Trustee Robert Yahng addressed the seniors, who represented 20 states and five different countries.
Photo: Gaston Jarju ’23

Yahng, who was introduced by Board of Trustees Chair Stephanie Zeigler, spoke to the graduates of the importance of their achievement during what he called “extraordinary uncertainties.”


Categories: News, People
Tags: commencement, graduation, mid-year commencement, trustee

Statement on the death of bell hooks from Berea College

bell hooks presenting papers to Berea College in 2015

bell hooks speaking during the formal presentation of her papers to Berea College on April 10, 2017.
(Photo: Bethany Posey ’18)

Berea College is deeply saddened about the death of bell hooks, Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country’s foremost feminist scholars. She died at her home in Berea after an extended illness.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Ky., on Sept. 25, 1952, she adopted the pen name “bell hooks” from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.


Categories: News, People
Tags: bell hooks

Andrew and Symerdar Baskin Honored for Dedication, Commitment to Berea College

Baskins accepting alumni awards at Homecoming

Symerdar Baskin was awarded the Honorary Alumna Award and Andrew Baskin received the Rodney C. Bussey Award of Special Merit at Homecoming 2021.
Photo: Crystal Wylie ’05

The Berea College Alumni Association presented Andrew Baskin with the Rodney C. Bussey Award of Special Merit during this year’s Black Student Union Pageant. Baskin’s wife, Symerdar, was presented with an Honorary Alumna Award.

Andrew Baskin was raised in Alcoa, Tenn., and came to Berea as a student in 1968. He majored in history and graduated in 1972 with enough hours for a double major in Black studies. In 1975, he earned a master’s degree in history at Virginia Tech University and went on to teach at Ferrum College in Virginia.


Categories: News, People
Tags: alumni, Alumni Awards, homecoming

New Boone Tavern Executive Chef Looks to Return to Tradition

Chef Paul Runnels

Chef Paul Runnels, the new chef at Berea’s Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant, has big plans for the historic restaurant.
Photo by Osman Bin Aamir ’24 / Berea College

Huntington-native Paul Runnels takes the helm as executive chef

At the young age of 14, Chef Paul Runnels knew he belonged in a kitchen.

He applied for a job at the Huntington Country Club, where he was hired to wash dishes. But he found he just couldn’t do that. He had too many questions. He wanted to know more.

“On my first day, I asked the chef what he was doing, and he said he was carving fruits and vegetables for trays,” Runnels recalled. “I told him I could do that, and he said ‘yeah, right.’ He found out really quick that I could.”

From his first job in his hometown of Huntington, W.Va., Runnells set his sights on becoming a chef, and from there, he hasn’t looked back. His path has taken him from the Culinary Institute of America to several high-profile chef positions and back close to home at Berea’s Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant, where he recently was hired as Executive Chef.


Categories: News, People, Places
Tags: Boone Tavern

Berea College Library Offering ‘Tour’ of 500 Historic, Regional Cookbooks

Extensive collection is part of the library’s Special Collections and Archives

Photograph of a Page from a Vintage Recipe Book for Turkey

If you’re looking for that special recipe for the upcoming holidays—maybe an “Emergency Cake” from the 1922 Chestnut Street Christian Church Cook Book or a “Very Plain Venison Pie” from Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book published in 1857—Berea College’s Special Collections and Archives (SCA) has the cookbook collection to peruse.

Beginning the first Friday in November, patrons of Berea College’s Hutchins Library can “tour” selections from the 500 historic, regional cookbooks housed in the library’s SCA. Participants will receive free blank recipe cards for recording their favorite recipes while learning more about cooking styles from as early as the 1700s.

The weekly tours are part of the library’s “Friday Finds” programs, led by Tim Binkley, an assistant professor of library science who heads SCA.

“We have all seen cookbooks, but not everyone has had the opportunity to see cookbooks as old as some of the ones we have right here in the Hutchins Library,” Binkley said. “It is fascinating to flip through old cookbooks that have been donated to the library, including titles from the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, to find variations of familiar recipes and unusual recipes as well. Some of these publications originated from social clubs, churches and families. The variety of recipes in our collection is vast, and we are looking forward to sharing them with the public and learning more about cooking through the years.”

Binkley will encourage all participants to take home recipes to make and share on social media.

“My hope is that these tours will open the minds of participants not only to different ways of cooking, but also to the vast resources we have in the library’s Special Collections and Archives,” Binkley said. “Our library resources are tremendous, and I encourage students and the community to learn more about historic research materials that are available right here in their back yards.”

“Friday Finds” cookbook tours will be held from 2-3 p.m. on Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 at the Hutchins Library, located at 100 Campus Drive in Berea. To register, visit and look for “Hutchins Library.” Each tour is limited to 12 participants. Attendees must provide proof of COVID vaccination to participate, and masks are required to be worn at all times.

SCA offers Berea College students and the public access to one-of-a-kind materials, including historic campus photographs, oral history recordings, traditional regional music and letters from Berea’s founders, early faculty and students. Special Collections and Archives supports the educational mission of Berea College by building and maintaining an extensive collection of primary-source materials documenting the history of Berea College, the Southern Appalachian region and the Berea community.

The SCA reading room is available by appointment by visiting For more information on SCA, visit

Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives

Berea College Board of Trustees Elects Two Members

The Berea College Board of Trustees has elected Megan Torres of Alexandria, Va., and Cassie Helen Chambers Armstrong of Louisville, Ky., to serve on the Berea College Board of Trustees.

Morgan Torres

Berea College Trustee Morgan Torres

After graduating from Berea College in 2009 with a degree in Business Administration, Torres returned to her home state of Virginia, where she worked at the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While there, she focused on a variety of projects, including contracting system administration, policy, training/certification management and performing market research for micro purchases.


Categories: News, People
Tags: alumni, Board of Trustees, trustee

Berea President Lyle Roelofs announces retirement

Pres. Lyle Roelofs with First Lady Laurie Roelofs and First Dog

Berea College President Lyle Roelofs and First Lady Laurie Roelofs pose for a photo in front of the President’s Home with the First Dog.
Photo by Crystal Wylie ’05 / Berea College

College’s ninth leader will serve through June 2023

President Lyle Roelofs

Photo by Chris Radcliffe

Berea College President Lyle Roelofs has announced his decision to retire, effective June 30, 2023. Roelofs arrived in Berea with his wife, Laurie, in 2012 to serve as the institution’s ninth president. From the very beginning, the Board of Trustees has been consistently impressed and pleased with their adoption of all things Berea and their broad success. The Berea College community is thankful to have worked side by side with Lyle and Laurie for what will be 11 years.

“It has been an honor and so very satisfying to have served Berea College as its ninth president,” President Roelofs said. “Everything about this school, from its transformative mission to the wonderful students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends, have made this such a privilege for Laurie and me.”

“The Board of Trustees and I are truly grateful for Lyle and First Lady Laurie Roelofs’ tremendous service to Berea College, and we are thankful for their longevity of service,” said Board Chair Stephanie Zeigler. “Their timing was remarkably fortuitous, and given their steady and thoughtful leadership throughout the unimaginable challenges brought on by COVID-19, Berea College is in a place of strength. Lyle’s early announcement regarding his retirement allows us ample time and a competitive edge for our search.”

Throughout his tenure, Roelofs has stayed true to the remarkable and unique mission of Berea College, leading in significant ways that have transformed the campus and elevated the college’s national profile.


Categories: News, People
Tags: Board of Trustees, Dr. Lyle Roelofs, President, President Roelofs Retirement, Presidential Search, retirement

Berea Named One of the Best 387 Colleges in the Princeton Review’s 2022 Guide

Berea College has again been named one of the nation’s “best institutions for undergraduates to earn their college degree” in The Princeton Review’s book, The Best 387 Colleges: 2022 Edition.”

Berea is nationally recognized for its high-quality education and its distinctive labor program, which hires every admitted student to help operate the school. Berea is also known for its Tuition Promise Scholarship that covers the annual tuition cost for every student.


Categories: News, Places
Tags: Accolade, Princeton Review, ranking, Tuition-free

Berea College Listed as Top Kentucky College in The Wall Street Journal/THE 2022 Rankings

Berea College sign on campus in the spring

Photo by Tyler Rocquemore ’22 / Berea College

Berea College is ranked No. 148 – the highest-ranked Kentucky college – in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (THE) 2022 College Rankings. Berea also ranked No. 3 on the publication’s list of “Best Value Colleges” in the nation.

“We are thrilled to be the top-ranking Kentucky college in both The Wall Street Journal/THE overall list and their ‘Best Value Colleges’ list for 2022,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “One of our Great Commitments is to extend educational opportunity to all students – regardless of race or economic resources. Our no-tuition policy allows us to provide a high-quality college education to talented students who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Rankings like these put Berea on the map as students look for an affordable and transformative college experience.”


Categories: News, Places
Tags: Accolade, ranking, Times Higher Education, Wall Street Journal

48th Celebration of Traditional Music at Berea College: October 14-17, 2021

Written by Liza DiSavino

The 48th annual Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music (CTM) will take place Oct. 15-17 and will feature, due to COVID, a mixture of both in-person and live-streamed events.

The CTM seeks to represent homemade music passed on from person to person in the Appalachian Region, and the musicians who play it. It is supported by a generous grant by the L. Allen Smith Memorial Fund and is presented by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, the Music Department, the Celebration of Traditional Music Committee, and the members of the Berea College Folk-Roots Ensemble.

A pre-CTM Stephenson Memorial convocation concert performance by John McCutcheon will take place Thursday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at Phelps-Stokes Chapel. This is the only evening concert open to the public. The event is free, and masks and COVID-19 vaccination are required.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Celebration of Traditional Music, Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, Music Department

Berea College First Higher Education Institution to Bring Hydroelectric Power to Region

RAVENNA, Ky. – Berea College is the first higher education institution in the nation to complete construction of a hydroelectric generating plant, located at Lock and Dam 12 on the Kentucky River near Ravenna, Ky. The small-scale demonstration project produces on average about half of the electricity the College uses on an annual basis, further reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

“The hydroelectric generating plant shows that local green initiatives like this one can be financially feasible and create reliable sources of income and acceptable rates of return on investment,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “At the same time, it displays to our students and everyone else both the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability and the viability of state-of-the-art renewable energy technologies.”


Categories: News, Places
Tags: Community, First Lady, Matilda Fee, Matilda Hamilton Fee Hydroelectric Station, sustainability

Berea College, City Officials Dedicate Boone Trace Trail at Brushy Fork

Mayor Fraley, Dr. John fox, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs and First Lady Laurie Roelofs

Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley, Dr. John Fox, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs and First Lady Laurie Roelofs cut a ribbon celebrating the opening of Boone Trace Trail at Berea College’s Brushy Fork Park. The new trail is open to college students and the public, and follows the trail made in 1775 by Daniel Boone. – Photo by Gaston Jarju / Berea College

Visitors to Berea College’s Brushy Fork can now walk along the path blazed through Kentucky by Daniel Boone and his axemen, thanks to a collaboration between Berea College and the city of Berea.

Boone Trace Trail is open to Berea residents, students and visitors, with a rock-paved ¾-mile trail that lines up almost exactly with the path Boone and his team took in 1775 from North Carolina through the Cumberland Gap and on to Boonesborough.


Categories: News, Places, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Bruce Fraley, Brushy Fork, Dr. Lyle Roelofs, Trail

Berea College Again Named No. 1 Best Bang for the Buck in the South in the Washington Monthly 2021 College Guide and Rankings

Washington Monthly has again ranked Berea College the No. 1 Best Bang for the Buck College in the South in their 2021 College Guide and Rankings.

Berea College placed No. 13 in the publication’s 2021 overall ranking of liberal arts colleges.

Washington Monthly rankings are based on “the degree to which they recruit and graduate students of modest means, produce the scholarship and scholars that drive economic growth and human flourishing and encourage students to be active citizens and serve their country.”


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Accolade, best bang for the buck, Washington Monthly

Brushy Fork Leadership Institute to Host 2021 Leadership Summit

By: Jacqueline Corum

Central Appalachian leaders will address the inequities exposed by the pandemic and other social issues

The annual Brushy Fork Leadership Summit, a strategic initiative of Berea College, will be conducted online Sept. 13 to 24. This year’s “Adaptive Leadership in Uncertain Times” summit will bring together nonprofit and grassroots leaders  to explore questions about how to design, fund and deliver programming in uncertain times; develop skills for adaptive leadership; and make connections to strengthen their organizations and their work.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Brushy Fork Leadership Institute, Community, leadership

Donna J. Dean and Charles Crowe Elected as Berea College Trustees

Donna J. Dean, Ph.D. and Charles Crowe were elected to serve on the Berea College Board of Trustees for six-year terms beginning immediately through June 30, 2027. Crowe previously served a six year term as alumni trustee from 2014-2020.

Donna Dean, Berea College Trustee

Donna J. Dean, Ph.D.

Dean’s career has included various positions in scientific research and administration. Most recently, she was an executive consultant to the Association for Women in Science in Washington, D.C. Previously, Dean was senior science advisor for Lewis-Burke Associates LLC and senior scholar in residence for the National Academy of Engineering. She served in various capacities for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Bethesda, Md., including senior advisor for engineering in the office of the director; acting (and founding) director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; senior scientific advisor to the director; and several positions for the Center for Scientific Review/Division of Research Grants, NIH. Dean also was a consumer safety officer for the Division of Food Additives and Veterinary Drugs for the United States Food and Drug Administration, DHHS, Washington, D.C. She also has held laboratory and faculty-based positions as a research chemist for the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolic Diseases and Diabetes NIH and as a visiting research fellow in the department of biology at Princeton University.


Categories: News, People
Tags: Board of Trustees, trustees

Eleven Berea College Students Awarded U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to Study Abroad

Gilman Scholarship LogoBerea College has 11 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipients to study or intern abroad. They are among other American undergraduate students at 467 U.S. colleges from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This cohort of Gilman Scholars will study or intern in 96 countries through the end of 2022.

Berea College’s Gilman scholarship recipients include Bertrina Iransi, junior computer science major from Jefferson County, Ky.; Cora Allison, junior peace and social justice major from Washington County, Tenn.; Hannah Rapien, junior communications and Asian studies major from Blount County, Tenn.; Isabella Ray, junior communications major from Carroll County, Ky.; Kshitiz Dhungyel, sophomore business administration major from Jefferson County, Ky.; Lona Cobb, senior history and anthropological archaeology major from Bell County, Ky.; Maria Martinez, junior biology and child and family studies major from Whitfield County, Ga.; Megan McEahern, junior art history major from Roane County, Tenn.; Victoria Jackson, junior communications major from Pulaski County, Ky.; Yennifer Coca Izquierdo, junior political science major from Jefferson County, Ky.; and Zoe Medeiros, junior English major from Sumner County, Tenn.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Gilman International Scholarship, Study abroad

Nurturing Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, and a Healthier Future

Garden kits in crates

Garden kits packed for distribution to families.

Written by: Elora Overbey, Grow Appalachia

Cigna Foundation Grant Furthers Berea Wellness Hub in Partnership with Berea Kids Eat

Grow Appalachia, a Strategic Initiative of Berea College, has received a $30,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation to work in partnership with school systems and the surrounding communities to supplement existing programming for children to help close nutrition gaps both within and outside of the school environment. The gift is part of the grant program, Healthier Kids For Our Future®, a five-year, $25 million global initiative focused on improving the health and well-being of children made possible by Cigna and the Cigna Foundation.

Grow Appalachia’s Berea Kids Eat Program has worked directly in Berea since 2016 to fight childhood hunger, increase healthy food access and support community food resiliency. To date, the program has served more than 400,000 meals to youth while supporting health and wellness initiatives and food security programming for low-income communities.

Bags of food in crates

Cooking kits prepared for distribution to families.

“We’re really excited that Cigna has helped to fully braid together all the goals of Berea Kids Eat, which is not just about reducing food insecurity but also increasing healthy food access by building food skills at the household level for the future,” said Martina Leforce, coordinator of Berea Kids Eat.


Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Berea Kids Eat, Cigna Foundation, Community, Grow Appalachia, Nutrition, wellness