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Five Retirees Honored for 140 Years of Combined Service

The college community gathered recently to bid farewell to retirees Christopher Pierce, Alfred Perkins, David Nelson, Becky Nelson, and Marilyn Feldkamp.

BC retirees

President Shinn also congratulated the retirees and presented each with a traditional Berea College clock made by the woodcraft industry.

Patrick Springs, Virginia, native Rebecca “Becky” Nelson, ’65, has spent most of her adult life at Berea College, first as a student, then as a head resident at Talcott Residence hall (24 years), and finally as a development writer (16 years). After brief stints as Duke and Villanova Universities with her husband, David Nelson, and the birth of two sons, Becky returned to Berea, where she and David have remained until this year.

Becky is known for her “institutional memory” that has helped her personalize thousands of letters to donors in voices of presidents, vice presidents, and others. Her appreciation and knowledge of Berea have shown through in writing assignments from magazine articles to letters, speeches, and plaques. She approached every assignment as if she were writing to a good friend.

“When I first went to work in Development, I went home every night thinking everyone in the world was generous—I saw so many examples. It is hard to believe that for 150 years people from California to New York have supported Berea. One of the better stories would be of our donors—if one could write it. I didn’t plan for a career, but I ended up working with two of the most enjoyable groups you can work with: students and donors,” Becky said in March 2005.

Becky is the 2005 recipient of the Rodney C Bussey Award of Special Merit and will be remembered not only for her professionalism and high standards, but also for her wm heart and devotion to services

Paul David Nelson came from Patrick County, Virginia to attend Berea College, graduating in 1965. He went on to Duke University for a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. After a brief stint at Villanova University, he returned to Berea to teach in 1970, becoming Julian-Van Dusen professor in 1993. From 1992 to 2003 he served as chair of the History Department.

Famed for an ironic wit and difficult exams, Dave has put generations of history majors through their paces in US history and historiography, as well as teaching Religious and Historical Perspectives and its successor Western Traditions, for General Studies. He won the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1996. Youthful leftist leanings were replaced by a deeply rooted conservatism, which is reflected in Dave’s intense commitment to the liberal arts and the core values of Christianity and Western culture, even as those elements of the curriculum have lost favor with administrators and curriculum designers.

One of Berea’s most prolific scholars, Dave has published eight biographies of Revolutionary War era military leaders, both British and American, and numerous articles. He has been a sought after contributor to biographical reference works (notably Oxford’s new Dictionary of National Biography). Apart from his legendary “dead generals”, he has written on Berea’s own history, and has served for years as Berea’s representative on the editorial board of the University Press of Kentucky.

Christopher Pierce came to Berea College in 1967 and has served the greater Berea community as a creative arts instructor in his 38 years of service. Chris became the art educator for the Berea Community School when the College’s Foundation School closed, teaching at BCC for most of his College career.

Chris is an artist, an art exhibitor, a workshop presenter, an arts educator and he is also the founder (1978) of the Creative Arts Program for Children here in Berea. A specialist in metal sculpture, lost wax casting and jewelry-making, he is a member of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, the Berea Arts Council- a founding member, the American Craftsmen’s Council and the Kentucky and National Art Education Associations.

An artist who has focused his creative channels into the teaching of art, Chris summarized his career in a newspaper article written in the early 1990’s . “Art is my world”. Chris Pierce is responsible for bringing art into the world of many young people over the course of his 38 years of dedicated educational service and now has the chance to focus on his own creative directions.

Marilyn contributed sixteen years of service to Berea College, first as Office Manager for the Recreation Extension, and then as Office Manager for the Office of Special Programs.

Marilyn’s position might be better described as an Ambassador for Berea College. She was often the first contact visitors had with Berea College. Her professionalism and friendliness were cornerstones of her excellent customer service attitude and, as a result, she was appreciated far beyond the boundaries of our campus.

Marilyn’s attention to detail and understanding of the “big picture” served the College well. During her years at Berea Marilyn coordinated a variety of college events and programs including Christmas Country Dance School, Elderhostel, Administrative Professionals Day, and the Non Profit Networking Luncheon Series. She provided administrative support to these programs as well as to Project Lift and Project LEAP.

Through her incredible organization and efficiency, Marilyn made difficult tasks seem easy. She approached her work with a great and contagious attitude, making it clear that she enjoyed her work as well as her co-workers. And, Marilyn led by example. She had high expectations for herself which were realized through her strong work ethic, punctuality, and professionalism; she had the same high expectations for the students that she supervised. She took them under her wing, showed them through example the expectations of an office environment, and held them accountable.

Marilyn left quite a legacy at Berea College as we continue to implement programs that were begun by and with procedures designed by Marilyn. We are grateful for Marilyn. She touched us all.

Al Perkins came to Berea in 1986 as Academic Vice-President and Dean of the College after holding similar positions at Maryville College in Tennessee and Upsala College in New Jersey. During his last several years at Berea he taught full time in the History Department and General Studies. He is a graduate of Mercer University and received his MA and PhD in History from Harvard. He wears those distinctions lightly. Instead, he speaks of his intellectual journey in terms of personal relationships that nourished his mind and spirit, of teachers and classmates and colleagues who captured a truth succinctly or otherwise helped him deepen his own understanding.

What Coleridge said of Edmund Burke might, if transposed to the present tense, he said of Al: “he possessed and had sedulously sharpened that eye, which sees all things, actions and events, in relation to the laws that determine their existence and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually to principles. He was a scientific statesman; and therefore a seer.” Al, both as administrator and as teacher, kept his colleagues and students honest. Persistently and often with wry humor, he urged us to be consistent, to examine our assumptions, to make connections, and to exercise our imaginations.

Al believes education can transform teachers and learners, and that individuals thus transformed may contribute to the development of a saner, more humane world. Al made just such a contribution to Berea College during his 18 years here.

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