2008.06.04 Farewell to Berea College

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I guess I’m done with Berea College. This family’s four-year association has ended with Rosanna’s graduation.

I’d never heard of the place until Tom Spiess of Fayette suggested it when Rozee was looking for a school. Tom is the college counselor extraordinaire. He knows surprising details about dozens of colleges.

Tom’s work as a college suggester was incomplete four years ago because he hadn’t yet directed anyone to Berea, Kentucky. I suppose it still isn’t complete—he really wants someone in the area to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design and Warren Wilson College—but at least he has a check mark beside Berea.

When Tom learned Rozee was next headed for graduate work at the University of New Orleans, he approved of the school academically but noted it has no football team—an essential quality for someone who knows every college sports mascot and probably the capacity of every football stadium.

Wait a minute, Rozee said. Berea has no football team either, however, it does have the nation’s longest unbeaten streak. Yes, it spans more than a century. The fine print explains they haven’t played a football game since they won that last one in 1904.

I made the six-hour drive to Berea only about half a dozen times during Rozee’s four years, but I know I’m going to miss the place.

I was a little concerned at first. I went to a very large public university. Probably almost all of Berea’s students could live in the dormitory where I stayed.

When we went into Rosanna’s dorm recently, I spotted the sign that read: “Excessive PDA (Public displays of affection) such as horizontal lounging, straddling, making out and other inappropriate actions should not occur in any public areas.”

What? No straddling? Actually, I don’t remember straddling making the list four years ago, but it’s there now. Maybe straddling started with Rozee’s class.

It doesn’t seem like four years have passed since we crowded into Phelps Stokes for the Ceremony of Dedication. Phelps Stokes is a beautiful old brick structure built by students over a three-year period starting in 1904. Maybe that had something to do with the demise of the football program.

The main part of the building is a large auditorium with a balcony around three sides. Everything is wood inside and I imagine the floors creaking as you walk across them during a quiet moment.

The Ceremony of Dedication marks the start of the school year for freshmen. The new arrivals and their parents find a seat in the auditorium and the faculty march in wearing ceremonial academic robes with colorful patches and cords.

President Larry Shinn told the freshmen to “drink from the diversity.” The truths that you know may not be the same truths for everybody, he said, so be prepared to learn from others.

His words convinced me my daughter was in a good place, and I believe she did sample the diversity of life.

Four years after we dropped her off and drove away, we went back for her departure. Once again we filed into Phelps Stokes, this time for Baccalaureate services.

A different speaker grabbed my attention. Dr. Dan Matthews, rector of Trinity Church in New York City, talked about the “language you have learned at college.”

Dr. Matthews noted one of the leading growth industries in America is the storage unit business.

People fill up their closets, then they fill up their attic, next they fill up the basement and then on to the garage. After that, there’s nothing left to do but rent a storage unit or two.

America seems to speak a language of scarcity, he said. Everyone needs more. We never have enough.

“The language of the dominant culture is not the language of this college,” he said.

He urged those 283 graduates to remember the language of Berea College, a language of abundance and generosity, a place where lounging is done vertically.

Rosanna has left Berea, but Berea is not done with Morenci. Katie Hollstein will take her turn at “the Harvard of the South” where “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth.”

Drink from the diversity, Katie.

  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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