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Four professors receive tenure

Four Berea professors received tenure recently. BC-Now! staff spoke with each and found among them a martial arts expert and a kite boarding aficionado. Read on for more interesting details.

Drs. Cahill, Bey, Gratton and Starnes.

Dr. Jose Pimienta-Bey
Monica Leslie

Dr. Jose Pimienta-Bey came to Berea College in 2004 to teach History and General Studies courses. He has also served as Director of the Black Studies program, which he established as a major and renamed African and African American Studies.

Dr. Bey’s interest in History and African American studies was stimulated early in life by his Uncle Johnny, who educated him about the legacy of the African past, particularly that of the Moors who helped start the Scientific Renaissance of the 13th century.

“Because the Moors were Africans and because the Moors were Muslims, they essentially have become obfuscated or altered in Western historical memory.”

Dr. Bey wanted to correct those misconceptions. As a precocious teenager he read history books and watched Sunday afternoon shows such as “Like It Is,” whose host Gil Noble had guests from academia, entertainment and activist circles who further inspired him.

Dr. Bey cites “From Superman to Man,” a book by journalist and amateur historian J. A. Rogers, as the first book with the “single greatest impact” on him.

“I increasingly saw the need for historical information about the African and African American experience. Because I saw that the lack of it was directly responsible for producing a very strong sense of inferiority and an identity crisis, which resulted in destructive behavior within the community.”

He earned a bachelor’s in History from Gettysburg College and then a master’s also in History from Shippensburg University. He later received his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University.

At Berea, when Dr. Bey is not teaching or studying history, he nurtures his other passions – music and martial arts.

Dr. Bey grew up in a family that he calls “a veritable smorgasbord of musical expression.” His father and uncle – skilled in blues, folk and Afro-Cuban music – played at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. In his own right, Dr. Bey played guitar and was the lead vocalist in a Celtic band called Sang Run.

His undergraduate years coincided with a generation he calls “Bruce Lee crazy.” Dr. Bey's martial arts journey started from a Tae kwon do club: “I joined the club, got my black belt and then changed styles.”

He has studied tai chi chuan, jujitsu, Chinese Kenpo, Brazilian Capoeira and Wing Chun, in which he received the rank of Sifu, or teacher.

Dr. Larry Gratton
Harper Howell

Dr. Larry Gratton is Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. He has taught at Berea since 2004.

Dr. Gratton is originally from Ohio, but he grew up and went to high school in Florida. After high school he wanted to study architecture, but when he attended Western Carolina University in North Carolina and discovered it didn't have an architecture program, he decided to pursue mathematics and physics. Dr. Gratton graduated with a double major and a newfound love for the Appalachian region.

He also obtained his master’s degree in applied math from Western Carolina. Dr. Gratton traveled to the West Coast to attend Oregon State University to get his Ph.D. in mathematics. His dissertation is in imaging science, the mathematics dealing with the reconstruction and manipulation of digital images. In his work he focused on medical images such as CT scans. After graduating from Oregon State he wanted to return and work in the Appalachian region. He found Berea College and, as he describes it, fell in love with the area.

At Berea Dr. Gratton conducts summer research through the Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects Program, mainly in imaging science. Some of his summer projects have involved fingerprint imaging research and closed circuit digital TV cameras and security images.

In addition to research he also works with college students in understanding how they learn mathematics and how he can better support them in their learning.

Outside his teaching and summer research, Dr. Gratton likes to spend time and travel with his wife and sons, aged five and 12. He enjoys hiking and has recently started gardening. Dr. Gratton has also participated in projects with Sustainable Berea.

Dr. Bobby Ann Starnes
Maggie Hess

Dr. Bobby Starnes is Professor of Education Studies and chairperson of the department.

She was born in a log cabin on a subsistence farm that had a single mule. When Dr. Starnes was a young girl, her family moved from Knott County, Kentucky to Dayton, Ohio.

Starnes first became familiar with Berea College on a road trip with her family when she was a child. According to Dr. Starnes, her father stopped the car in Berea to point it out to his children.

“Children,” said her father pointing towards the school, “that is Berea College. They help people there.”

He was referring to Berea's historic mission to provide a quality education to students of limited means but great promise. That moment planted in Dr. Starnes an inspiration to help people through education.

Eventually Dr. Starnes would get her Ph.D. in education from Harvard. But her own Appalachian upbringing would teach her the importance of educating groups that are not a part of the mainstream.

“All children learn better if what they are learning is related to their culture.”

Dr. Starnes used practice-oriented curriculum development to work with native peoples to improve the teaching environment.

Starnes has done research around this topic on Indian reservations and during her seven years as president of Foxfire in Oxford, Ohio, where she founded an ungraded and non-graded school.

Through her work, Dr. Starnes has sought to teach all of the children all of the time, and to create a learning environment where everyone can follow the curriculum.

The inspiration her father inculcated in her during the childhood road trip eventually led her to Berea College.

“Coming here was a wonderful dream for me."

Dr. Richard Cahill
Kate VanEchaute

Dr. Cahill is the Director of International Education and Associate Professor of History. He joined the Berea college community in 2005 when he was first appointed to these positions.

Dr. Cahill was born and raised in California, but went to grade school in Oregon. He earned a B.A. from Westmont College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Dr. Cahill has lived and traveled extensively across the Middle East. He served as the Director of the Middle East Studies Program in Cairo, Egypt, where he lived for seven years. During his studies and his years in Cairo, Dr. Cahill became interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict, a research interest he still maintains.

Dr. Cahill recognizes his tenure as academic freedom for his discourse on the Middle Eastern conflict.

One of Dr. Cahill’s keen interests, kite boarding, blossomed while he was in Egypt. A kite boarder uses a large kite – which looks similar to a parachute – to harness the wind’s power for sustaining eye-popping stunts.

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