The Berea College Board of Trustees has named Lyle D. Roelofs as the ninth president of the college. Dr. Roelofs currently serves as provost and dean of the faculty (on leave), and professor of physics at Colgate University. He will succeed current Berea president, Larry D. Shinn, who will retire on June 30, 2012.
“I am very honored to have been elected as Berea College’s ninth president,” Dr. Roelofs stated. “I have great admiration for Berea’s historic and continuing identity as an interracial, coeducational institution; for its enduring focus on the Appalachian region; and for educating talented students who have economic need. Berea is a strong academic institution, whose foundational Great Commitments provide a compelling vision for all who aspire to become part of its community. Berea’s distinctive heritage and institutional identity deserve wider attention and emulation.”
“We are extremely pleased and fortunate to find a candidate with such a wide range of demonstrated and effective leadership skills as reflected in Dr. Roelofs’ career,” stated Dr. David Shelton, chair of the Berea College Board of Trustees. “Dr. Roelofs’ background and experience have prepared him well for this vital role at Berea College.”
Roelofs is a graduate of Calvin College with a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in physics and mathematics. He earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in physics, at the University of Maryland and has more than 35 years experience in teaching and research at the University of Maryland, Calvin College, Brown University, Haverford College and Colgate University. He is also an experienced administrator, having served as associate provost at Haverford College, as provost and dean of faculty, and as interim president at Colgate University. A number of U.S. and international institutions have tapped Roelofs for visiting appointments and fellowships, such as the Sandia National Laboratory; the Fritz-Haber Institut in Berlin; University of Munich; Technical University Clausthal-Zellerfeld; and Universität Ulm.
Dr. Roelofs’ academic and scholarly research has resulted in substantial grants from such organizations as the Research Corporation, Pew Mid-Atlantic Cluster, and the National Science Foundation. Other honors include the Humboldt Research Fellowship and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Teaching Fellowship. He held an endowed faculty chair at Haverford College as distinguished professor of computational science.
Dr. Roelofs has many accomplishments in research and pedagogy, numerous publications in refereed professional journals, as well as invited papers and presentations at national and international seminars and colloquia. Beyond his academic interests, Dr. Roelofs enjoys reading, running (for exercise and the occasional distance race), cooking, and various outdoor activities including bird watching, camping and hiking. He and his wife Laurie have two sons, both of whom are in graduate school.
“During our visits to the campus, my wife Laurie and I have been impressed by the warmth of the Berea community, the energy and quality evident in all of the college’s undertakings, and the beauty of its campus and natural setting,” Dr. Roelofs stated. “We very much look forward to becoming more acquainted with the campus community, the City of Berea, and to investing ourselves fully in Berea’s special relationship with southern Appalachia.”
The college’s trustees began the presidential search process earlier this year when current Berea College president, Dr. Larry D. Shinn, announced his pending retirement effective June 30, 2012. Shinn became Berea’s eighth president in 1994. A search committee, comprised of a diverse mix of college students, staff, faculty and trustees, worked since the spring reviewing applications from a wide field of more than 120 candidates and nominees, many of whom were former or current college presidents and administrative officers.
“We were gratified by the strong interest to the Berea presidential opportunity, the diverse range of nominators and potential candidates, and the many ways in which these responses affirm Berea College and our mission,” stated Elizabeth (Libby) Culbreth, Co-chair of the search committee, former chair, current trustee, and a Berea alumna. Nancy Blair, co-chair of the search committee and trustee added, “We had an abundance of superbly-qualified candidates applying for the Berea presidency which is a testament to the college’s unique place in American higher education.”
During its 156-year history, Berea College has had only eight presidents. Since its founding by Kentuckian John G. Fee, an abolitionist, preacher, and educator, Berea has been guided by the welcoming and inclusive words of the Apostle Paul, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26). These words, which serve as the college’s motto, have guided Berea in building a strong liberal arts program of national reputation, while maintaining its commitment to the Appalachian region, to interracial education and to the equality of all women and men from all nations.
“Dr. Shinn’s upcoming retirement culminates a recent period of intensive planning designed to deal, in part, with the new economic realities facing all of higher education,” stated Chair Shelton. “Dr. Roelofs will be asked to strategically and creatively lead a program of ‘Engaged and Transformative Learning’ in a significantly restructured academic model. Berea will continue to stay true to its inspiring mission and vision while encouraging exploration of energetic new initiatives that are consistent with its Great Commitments.”