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BC Celebrates Past and Future Living Legacies

"How many are there here that want to make the world a better place?" asked Dr. Bennett Ross Taylor, a recipient of the John G. Fee award, at the annual Founders Day convocation, October 4. Following a roar of cheers and clapping from the crowd, Taylor revealed, "That's what Berea is all about."

President Shinn sits with Fee Award recipients before convocation.

Taylor himself could be seen as a reflection of what the Berea College legacy is all about. With a doctorate degree in mathematics education, he has advocated working against mathematic deficiencies and towards finding solutions for the future education of children. Taylor created PUMP, a project aimed at uplifting mathematics proficiency in children. Taylor believes that the answer may not be in the classroom, and revealed, "The number one way to solve that problem is to get the kids to believe in themselves." Before leaving the stage, Taylor empowered the audience as he announced, "I'm convinced that the world is going to be a better place. It's going to be a better place because of the legacy of John and Elizabeth Rogers, it's going to be a better place because of the families that we have here and throughout the country, it's going to be a better place because of Larry Shinn and his magnificent faculty, it's going to be a better place because of the Berea alumni, but most of all it's going to be a better place because of you."

The level of academic, service, and personal caliber of the Berea College community has been apparent since the days when Elizabeth Rogers would visit the campus as President Shinn illustrated by saying, "Elizabeth always welcomed and encouraged those who sought to make this a better place, this Berea College."

Just as Berea College stands today as a symbol of faith and perseverance, the 27 extended family members of J.R. Rogers and Elizabeth Rogers took to their feet as they were welcomed on the same ground that their ancestors once planted a dream that blossomed into Berea College.

President Shinn also presented the John G. Fee award to the great-grandson of the Rogers’, Mr. Bryant Rogers of Leesburg, VA. Rogers is a leader in his own community, but did not discover the history of leadership within his own genealogy until doing some research in the Hutchins Library at the age of 60. Sharing the discoveries of what he found in the archives allowed the audience to travel with Rogers to a remarkable past that is still prevalent on Berea's campus. Rogers said, "I think if the Rogers and the Fee's could see how this college has grown from a one school house to the accredited college it is today, they would be extremely proud of the phenomenal progress that has taken place."

President Shinn concluded his portion of the convocation by attributing Berea College with the ability to create an environment that promotes empowerment through education and continuing legacies of leadership with acknowledgement of diversity, freedom, equality, as well as tolerance. This representation can be viewed at the statue in central park in Berea that was constructed over the summer to commemorate the ideals of the founders of Berea College. John G. Fee’s statue holds a bible and Elizabeth Rogers is seizing the Declaration of Independence. Also immortalized are three students, diverse in race and sex that represent what Berea College has accomplished as an institution. Shinn elaborated, "Now the struggles and the trials of J.A.R. and Elizabeth Rogers are the struggles and triumphs of Berea College. Their legacy stands as inspiration to all of us who receive them today."

The Black Music Ensemble closed the convocation with an uplifting piece that communicated passion from the voices of students, faculty, and staff alike who will carry on the legacy of Berea College that has lasted 152 years.

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