Photo from Berea.edu
By Lily Barnette & Ülvi Gitaliyev
On June 30th, Dr. Lyle Roelofs annouced that he had concluded his decade-long tenure as President of Berea College. On July 1st, Dr. Cheryl Nixon offically became the 10th President of Berea College but who is Dr. Nixon and what will her work in Berea College consist of?
First, we should look back on the presidency of Dr. Roelofs. He became the 9th President of Berea College in 2012, coming off in the heels of former president Dr. Larry Shinn, whose own tumultuous presidency ended unexpectedly after complaints from faculty which you can read about at Inside Higher Ed and the Lexington Herald Leader. During his 11 year tenure, Dr. Roelofs oversaw the opening of many new and renovated buildings in Berea College, such as Deep Green and the MAC Building. He also oversaw the college’s reaction to the COVID-19, where Berea College adopted strict quarantine policies that kept most students COVID-19 free. Recently, Dr. Roelofs appeared on KET’s Connections where he discussed his time at Berea, what he learned, the impact he made, and the fact that Berea College will be included in his and his wife’s wills. He will continue to serve Berea College as President Emeritus for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Nixon receieved her BA in English Language and Literature/Letters from Tufts University, a private research univeristy in Massachutsets, and got her PhD on the same topic in Harvard University. Before she came to Berea College, Dr. Nixon served as provost of Fort Lewis College, a public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado. The college had an emphasis on serving Native American students and is considered a Native American-serving, non-tribal college by the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, Dr. Nixon worked as a professor of English and associate provost for the University of Massachusetts Boston, a large public research university.
In her latest statement, Dr. Nixon said that “As Berea’s next president, I pledge to the uphold our Great Commitments, the College’s Christian Identity Statement, our service to Appalachia and, in this critical time, our commitment to interracial education. We will do this together through the collective efforts of our students, staff, faculty, trustees, alumni and friends both here in Berea and across the country.”
On his final email to campus, Dr. Roelofs spoke about plans for a Student Center in the Woods-Penn building. This project will likely continue under Dr. Nixon and will be one of the achievements of her administration if completed successfully. Furthermore, she will have to combat issues facing Berea College post-pandemic, such as burnout among students, staff, and faculty. We here at The Berea Torch wish her luck as she navigates and settles into her new role and the responsibilities that come with it.