The Richmond Register

August 31, 2013

Roelofs emphasizes the power of community at opening convocation

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

BEREA — In a speech focused on the yearlong convocation theme of community and commitments, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs welcomed students to the start of the academic school year Thursday afternoon at the Seabury Center.

Roelofs noted that the Berea College community is one of “eager learners” and “energetic doers.” He took time to thank each segment of the college community – faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“Our alumni stay engaged and inspire us with their accomplishments,” Roelofs said.

He focused on Berea College’s sixth “Great Commitment,” from a list of eight statements that outline the school’s mission. The sixth statement says the college commits itself “to create a democratic community dedicated to education and quality for men and women.”

The president said many believe the statement is about upholding co-ed education for all at the south’s first school to educated men and women, as well as blacks and whites, together. However, Roelofs said creating a “democratic community” is one of the foundations of the school.

When John Fee created Berea College more than a century and a half ago, he intentionally formed a community of progressive learners to combat slavery and other social ills of that period, Roelofs said.

“Nearly 160 years later, we’re facing other problems, but progressive education is still the answer,” Roelofs said.

“Community is necessary for learners to grow together,” he added.

Roelofs finished his speech by sharing his enthusiasm for the upcoming year.

“Bereans, I’m looking forward to a great year of commitment and community,” the president said.

Also speaking at the convocation was Student Government Association President David Kretzman, staff representative Katie Basham, faculty representative Sandy Bolster and alumni representative Djuan Trent.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.