Celebrating Our Berea:
Presidential Inaugurations
at Berea College


Celebrating Our Berea: An Inauguration Exhibition seeks to commemorate the history of presidential inaugurations at Berea College, as well as highlight the many traditions shared by our community.

We dedicate this exhibition to all of Berea's alumni, faculty, staff, and many friends. As we rejoice in remembering just a few of the amazing stories in the long journey of Berea College, we are also grateful for and humbled by the incredible lives of service and sacrifice that have made it all possible.

The exhibit will be on display in Hutchins Library from April through summer 2013. This website includes an abbreviated version.

scroll down for more

Edward Henry Fairchild

Inaugurated on Wednesday, July 7, 1869

"Our aim is universal education."

Fairchild's inaugural address serves as both a statement on the condition of the institution, as well as a document to set the tone for the future. Throughout the speech, Fairchild explicitly addresses the core of each of Berea's future Great Commitments, one hundred years before their adoption.

Fairchild recognized the moment for exactly what it was – a beginning.

In 1869, Berea College had the whole of its future laid out before it, just waiting for its students and teachers to grab hold. The small, spread out school grounds appeared more as an amalgamation of wooden frame buildings and guest houses then a college campus. ("Then and Now" Image #1, First Campus Buildings, 1869).

View Fairchild's original Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Fairchild's Inaugural Address text
View the Berea College Catalog from 1869-1870

William B. Stewart

Inaugurated on Sunday, October 12, 1890

"Ever welcomed to the privileges of this place [are] all who could be trained for the service of their fellow-men, without distinction of class or color or creed."

While heartily confirming the primary aims of the institution as set out by his predecessor, the majority of Stewart's inaugural address, entitled "The Work and Aims of the Christian College," focused heavily and specifically on his particular ideas concerning the ideal Christian character of the school, and the manner in which he would lead it.

Although he strongly affirmed Berea's nonsectarian, independent character, as a school that "does not propagate the tenets of any particular sect," he also clearly advocated for the creation of a Bible Department which would meet a need where "not only teachers, but preachers are required." He stated that "on Berea College is now devolved the duty of training ministers and missionaries… [and we have] resolved to take immediate steps for beginning a Bible Department. Who will help to endow it?"

Indeed, this was the question, one that soon became the core vexation of Stewart's short lived administration.

View Stewart's original Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Stewart's Inaugural Address text
"Then and Now" Image #2, c1890 Early Campus View

William G. Frost

Inaugurated on Sunday, June 21, 1893

"God's plan is a co-operative one."

Combined with commencement activities, Frost's inauguration came and went in a fairly unassuming way; and compared to the many speeches and writings of Frost during his almost 30 year tenure as College President, Frost's inaugural address appears generally unremarkable. He speaks on the desirability and necessity of pairing academic knowledge and practical skills in the curriculum, on the need to provide education for the "self-supporting student," and the importance of Berea's interracial mission within the context of the increasingly hostile climate of Jim Crow. He points to the college's Christian character, and how it "has overlapped all boundaries of section and of sect." While alluding to Berea's overall aim of universal education leading to the training of those who may eventually serve as ministers and do Christian work as teacher-leaders in their community, he does not continue his predecessor's calls for Berea to become a seminary or Bible college.

Little had changed at the College since President Stewart's recent inauguration and subsequent resignation controversy. The financial situation of the institution remained tenuous at best and a need for strong fundraising and leadership persisted. Frost had turned down the job in 1890 and only agreed to come to Berea this second time after the Board of Trustees approved a long list of changes to the institution, detailed in Frost's now famous 1892 "Dear Brethren" letter. One of the most notable of these changes included the tuition-free policy, which went into effect for the academic year 1892-1893.

View Frost's original Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Frost's Inaugural Address text
"Then and Now" Image #3, 1901/2013 Ellipse/Chesnut Street Intersection
"Then and Now" Image #4, Fee's Study

William J. Hutchins

Inaugurated on Friday, October 22, 1920

"Discover what you are, what you are good for, learn to think not conceitedly... and then find your way... with your newly discovered self, into some task which relates itself to the world task."

With his inaugural address entitled "Berea's Changeless Task in Times of Change," Hutchins becomes the first President to address environmental issues and exploitation of the Appalachian region, while forwarding an international perspective. Hutchins speaks of the coming affects of Prohibition and Women's Suffrage, coal mines and oil wells, the denuding of forests, railroad and transportation issues, power companies and the damming of valleys in the mountains, tenant farming, as well as new laws for compulsory education, all "prophetic of a new world rounding into form." Clearly, Hutchins saw Berea as part of a global community that must prepare young people for world citizenship and ever-evolving challenges.

The lingering presence of the Great War comes through strongly in his speech. Hutchins marks how the war exposed the need for better educated citizens and improved physical health across the U.S. The Hutchins administration would see the construction of Woods-Penn, the women's gym, and Seabury, the men's gym, and a subsequent invigoration and expansion of the Physical Education & Athletics Program – the genesis of Berea's infamous swimming requirement. Meanwhile, Berea was adapting to internal changes. Kentucky's Day Law striped Berea of its mission for interracial education; while an action of the Board of Trustees c1919 officially established the admission territory as strictly Appalachian, thus barring students from other parts of the country from entrance as well.

View William J. Hutchins' Inaugural Address
View a pdf versionof William J. Hutchins' Inaugural Address text
View the 1920 Inaugural Program Booklet, highlighting Berea's programs.

Francis S. Hutchins

Inaugurated on Saturday, November 25, 1939

"Our curriculum must always be those cultural objects which will enable us to think, and understand the world in which we live."

In 1939, after many years serving as a school administrator in China, Francis Hutchins completed a remarkable journey back to the U.S. through Appalachia to become Berea's fifth President. Recognizing the gathering dangers raging abroad, and with bombing raids still fresh on his mind, Hutchins spoke at his inauguration from an intensely international perspective, focusing on a balance between world citizenship, cross-cultural understand, and local service.

In a fast-paced global economy, with the growing threat of war and American armament, the effects of global communications, and a vivid demonstration during the 1920s boom and 1930s depression that economic prosperity can fail to solve humanity's most fundamental sufferings and problems, Hutchins held that "the very finest academic education" combined with service and outreach, would be the best way to ensure future progress and new solutions to the world's problems.

View Francis S. Hutchins' Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Francis S. Hutchins' Inaugural Address text
Listen to an audio clip of Hutchins remembering arriving in Berea in 1939.

Willis D. Weatherford, Jr.

Inaugurated on Thursday, October 26, 1967

Weatherford's inaugural address conveyed a strong focus on "education for leadership" and regional service, as well as a renewed commitment to serving Appalachian students with limited resources. He discussed the importance and function of the Labor Program and the difficulties in balancing the tradition amid economic change. His speech presents a rather succinct pronouncement; Berea's direction will be "1. To offer an education adapted to the needs of a changing Appalachia; 2. To offer an education for leadership with major emphasis on high academic quality; and, 3. To offer an educational experience conducive to moral and spiritual growth."

Weatherford also reaffirmed Berea's interracial mission; with the repeal of the Day Law in 1950, Berea reintegrated and began the long, arduous process of reestablishing a community which also sought to meet the needs of African American students. Overall, Weatherford's administration would see the establishment of many of the special cultural and regionally-focused centers, research collections, and programs on Berea's campus.

View Weatherford's Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Weatherford's Inaugural Address text
Listen to an audio clip of Weatherford's address.

John B. Stephenson

Inaugurated on Friday, October 26, 1984

"As the global economy becomes a reality... we will probably experience more abrupt fluctuations in the economy. Are we ready for a redefinition of the good life?"

Stephenson's address referenced "the escalating cost of going to college" and many great challenges to face higher education over the coming 20 years – all of which we have seen come to fruition. He highlighted service, outreach, and a faith embodied in moral and spiritual growth as core principles which would see Berea through tough times and decisions, stating "Berea College has a strong sense of its own identity. It knows itself. It knows its commitments."

With a call for Berea to remain a leader in providing a strong liberal arts education, Stephenson quotes liberally from previous inaugural addresses, and pays homage to the ideas and leadership which culminated in the institution's success.

View Stephenson's Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Stephenson's Inaugural Address text
Listen to an audio version of Stephenson's Inaugural Address
Watch to a video of Stephenson's Inaugural Address

Larry D. Shinn

Inaugurated on Friday, April 21, 1995

"Ours is a new day that will require much imagination of us in higher education if we would educate ourselves and our students to live and work in the Information Age."

In 1995, Larry D. Shinn delivered his inaugural address, entitled "The Challenge of Deep Learning," in conjunction with the celebration of Berea's Labor Day. Shinn's quote of Dean Louis Smith's "Berea must both be and become" framed his speech, which sought to explore "toward what must we direct our becoming?"

Shinn discusses the technological, scientific, communication, transportation, and environmental changes facing students in the 21st century, and the needed shift from a mindset of the Industrial Age to one of the Information Age. Shinn calls for a need to move beyond the "self-centered mood in America" to lives of service, inclusiveness, and a rediscovery of the human soul, focused on "a deep-learning that attends to our basic human need for creating meaningful lives in a complex, information age."

Yet, with the future in mind, Shinn's address remains attentive to Berea's past connections and traditions, reaffirming the College's commitments and quoting from the College's founding documents, historic leaders, and faculty.

View Shinn's Inaugural Address
View a pdf version of Shinn's Inaugural Address text
Listen to an audio clip of Shinn's Inaugural Address
Watch a video of Shinn's Inaugural Address

Welcoming President
Lyle D. Roelofs

Inaugurated on Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Our first task in this place is to educate and transform."

Dr. Roelof's inaugural address included the acceptance of the charge inherent in each of Berea's Great Commitments, and a dedication to work for all "Beloved Bereans" both near and far. We are honored to welcome Lyle and Laurie Roelofs into the Berea family.

Watch the Inauguration Ceremony Video (address begins at 1:35:00)
Link to Inauguration website