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Bereans Depart on 1,855 Mile ''Great Commitments'' Relay

On Friday March 31, Berea College began the Great Commitments Relay from the Alumni Circle. As part of the college's 150th anniversary this year, participants are traveling nearly 2,000 miles on a goodwill tour through southern Appalachia.

BC Kicks-off 1,855 Mile "Great Commitments" Relay

For six weeks, Berea students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends will be walking, riding, rolling and running while transporting a commemorative copy of the Great Commitments, BC's mission statement.

The kick-off events started with a light breakfast and introduction by the Director of the Berea Fund, William Jones. President Larry Shinn then gave brief remarks about Berea College's legacy with quotes from Robert Frost's "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening." His speech was followed by an invocation from the director of the Campus Christian Center, Jeff Pool.

"Why just focus on the Great Commitments?" asked President Shinn. "It is that document...which guides Berea College, now and in the future."

Nearly a dozen cyclists lined up at the starting line and after the ribbon-cutting they set off on the first leg of the trek. They will first travel to Richmond, where they will meet with EKU President Joanne Glasser and visit White Hall, the home of Cassius Clay. Clay is an important figure in Berea's history and donated the original acreage of land for the town and the college. The relay cyclists will then roll to Lexington where they will visit the office of U.S. Representative Ben Chandler and meet with Lexington's Mayor Teresa Isaac.

The relay participants will continue their travels through big cities and small communities in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The route will wind through states in the region the college has been committed to serving since its founding. The length of the relay corresponds to the year of Berea's founding, 1855. (See below link for the trip's itinerary.)

Other scheduled stops will include governors' offices in three states, the birthplace of John G. Fee in Bracken county, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and many more sites.

A number of special events are planned as well. In some communities, "Berea College: An Illustrated History," a hardbound book authored by College Archivist Shannon Wilson, will be presented to local libraries or organizations. For continuous updates and for more information, visit On May 12, the relay will end in Berea, where a major celebration is planned.

Berea's Great Commitments first found expression as a statement of the historic aims and purposes of the college by former dean Louis Smith in 1962 as part of a Ford Foundation grant. By action of Berea's faculty and Board of Trustees, a revised version of the Great Commitments was formally adopted as its mission statement in 1969. In 1992, a preamble and an eighth commitment specifically addressing Berea's commitment to coeducation and gender equality was added.

For complete details, including a daily blog kept by Mae Suramek, director of the office of alumni relations, visit the Great Commitments Relay Web site.

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