Berea College Graduates Challenged by Dr. Earl Lewis Before Receiving Degrees


Close Up of Earl Lewis 2018 Commencement Speaker at Berea College

Founder of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan, Dr. Earl Lewis addressed graduates on Sunday, telling them to change the world responsibly.
(Photo: Chris Radcliffe)

Dr. Earl Lewis, founder of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan and former president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, received an honorary degree then addressed the 258 members of the 146th graduating class of Berea College on Sunday, May 6.

Lewis referred to troubling the water from the old spiritual, “Wade in the Water,” to encourage the graduates to use their education to “confront society’s need for morally anchored, value-centered, leadership.” He noted that “Berea’s founding group of men and women, infused with a sense of justice and purpose . . . understood what it meant to trouble the waters for social progress.”

“You, the Class of 2018,” Lewis said, “are their heirs.”

He challenged each graduate to change the world responsibly.

“Fighting for social change is not an event or even series of events,” Lewis said. “Rather, it is an orientation, a belief that all have a role to play in fashioning the common good for the betterment of all.”

During the Commencement ceremony, outstanding students, staff, and faculty were presented the following awards:

  • Sarah D. Nicely ’18 – Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators, and Student Employment Supervisor of the Year for the State of Kentucky.
  • Seth Reasoner ‘18 – T.J. Wood Achievement Award
  • Susan Bonta ’18 – Hilda Welch Wood Achievement Award
  • Yolanda Carter – Elizabeth Perry Miles Award for Community Service
  • Bob Harned – Labor Supervisor of the Year
  • Sandy Williams – Paul C. Hager Award for Excellence in Advising
  • Megan Hoffman – Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching

Degrees were conferred posthumously to Enkhjin EnkhBold and Dzhoana Ivanova, members of the 2018 graduating class who died from a tragic accident during their senior year.

Lewis, a noted social historian, has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan, where he is professor of history and Afroamerican and African Studies.  During his career he has championed the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, exploring the role of digital tools for learning and connecting universities to their communities. In 2013, Lewis became the sixth President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, reaffirming its commitment to the humanities, the arts and higher education by emphasizing the importance of continuity and change.

Demonstrating Berea College’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the senior class participated in a “Zero Waste” commencement by wearing graduation gowns made of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. Each gown requires an average of 23 plastic bottles, so nearly 6,000 plastic bottles were diverted from landfills by this graduating class.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

Check out the Berea College 2018 Commencement highlight video and photo album from our Facebook page. Remember to share and tag yourself or someone you know!

Commencement 2018 Highlights

#ClassOf2018, we love to see you shine. From the bottom of our hearts, congratulations and good luck! #bereagrad

Posted by Berea College on Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Categories: News, People
Tags: commencement, Dr. Earl Lewis, Event, graduation, Students

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College admits only academically promising students with limited financial resources, primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia, although students come from 40 states and 70 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally-recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly, earning money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.