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Three Grads Honored at Summer Reunion

Three 1965 graduates of Berea College – infectious diseases expert Dr. Douglas M. Watts; Brad Crain, Ph.D., an English scholar and veteran higher education administrator, and retiring College Relations staffer Rebecca Nelson – were honored during “Swing Back in Time,” Berea’s alumni Summer Reunion, sponsored by the College’s Alumni Relations Office Friday, June 10 – Sunday, June 12.

Watts and Crain each received Distinguished Alumnus Awards and Nelson received the Rod C. Bussey Award of Special Merit. All three received their awards at the Alumni Banquet.

Other special events during the weekend included an exhibit and sale of artwork by songwriter and author Billy Edd Wheeler, ’55, and a book-signing for “Kudzu Covers Manhattan,” a thriller co-authored by Wheeler and the late Ewel Cornett, founder Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.

Crain, a Florida native who holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, served as president of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C. from 1985-1993 and was vice president and academic dean and professor of English at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). He recently retired as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at LMU. Early in his career, Crain taught English at Berea, and more recently, served in a fundraising capacity at Berea as assistant to the president from 1994-95 and as director of Major Gifts from 2000-2002. Most recently, Crain served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities at the College of the Ozarks.

Watts, who is currently professor of virology in the Department of Pathology and associate director for scientific administration for the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, has held numerous high-level positions world-wide and written extensively in the fields of virology and biodefense. At UTMB he is part of a biodefense research team involved with establishing a major biodefense research facility and a National Biocontainment Laboratory. His publications include 150 authored or co-authored scientific articles and a book on the diagnosis of HIV infection. In addition to a B.A. from Berea, Watts earned masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Nelson, a native of Patrick Springs, Va., earned a B.A. in Spanish from Berea and a M.A. in Spanish from Eastern Kentucky University. Her service to Berea College spans nearly 35 years. From 1972-1996, Nelson served as Head Resident of Talcott Hall and since then has served in stewardship and as a writer in Berea’s College Relations division before retiring last month. Nelson and her husband, retired history professor Dr. David Nelson, ’65, will shortly be relocating from Berea to Lexington.

Wheeler, a Whitesville, W. Va. native, who now lives in Swannanoa, N.C., is a man of many talents. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Laughter In Appalachia, and Real Country Humor--Jokes From Country Music. His first novel, “Star of Appalachia,” was published in 2004. He also has written 16 plays which include the long-running outdoor historical dramas Hatfields & McCoys and Young Abe Lincoln, and Johnny Appleseed, which had its premier last June. He has received 13 ASCAP awards for his songs, recorded by Judy Collins, Neil Young, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and more than 150 other artists here and abroad, selling over sixty million units. He recently was inducted into the Nashville Association of Songwriters International Hall of Fame. After graduating from Berea College, Wheeler served in the Navy's Air Force and later studies playwriting at Yale University’s School of Drama. In 1970, Wheeler received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Berea College. This past December, Wheeler was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Berea and was the speaker for the Recognition Ceremony for Mid-Year graduates.

Summer Reunion activities began Friday afternoon with a “Share Your Oral History” session and a picnic with live music from the 40s – 70s at Indian Fort Theatre. On Saturday morning, President Larry Shinn and Nancy Shinn hosted a reunion breakfast for the Class of ’55 that included induction of members into the Charles T. Morgan Society in honor of their 50th anniversary. A new event this year was the Service of Remembrance and Recognition to recognize Berea staff and faculty who have made an impact on the lives of Berea alumni. On Saturday afternoon, there was a “Mini-Mountain Day” at Brushy Fork Park to revive old memories of this Berea tradition and show off the new trails recently constructed there. A Sunday morning worship service at Union Church was led by Rev. Delmas Hare, ’55.

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