Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Living with the Dean

After graduating from Kentucky College of Business, I went to Berea College. If you drive south from Lexington through the rolling hills and pastureland of Kentucky, you will come to Berea, a small town that is home to Berea College which was voted the #1 college in America by Newsweek magazine in the late '80s. Wikipedia has more to say about Berea College:

Berea College is distinctive among post-secondary institutions for providing low-cost education to students from low-income families and for having been the first college in the Southern United States to be coeducational and racially integrated. Berea College charges no tuition; every admitted student is provided the equivalent of a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. Berea offers undergraduate academic programs in 28 different fields. Berea College has a full-participation work-study program where students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in over 130 departments. Berea's primary service region is Southern Appalachia, but students come from all states in the United States and more than 60 other countries. Approximately one in three students represents an ethnic minority.

Now that I am older I better appreciate what a unique and wonderful place Berea was. It was founded by an abolitionist in 1855 and was "notorious" for admitting black and female students even before the Civil War. This proud tradition was interrupted by Jim Crow laws, but the college established the Lincoln Institute to educate black students when in 1904 the state denied them permission to educate black and white students in the same classrooms. Black students were not allowed to attend Berea College again until the laws were changed in 1950.

My work-study "assignment" was to serve as a financial records clerk for the college. During the school year I lived in an all-girl dormitory. My roommate was named Tutu. You may have heard of her father, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. I got to meet him once when he visited our campus and it was one of the greatest honors of my life.

In the summers when the other students went home and the dorms were closed I lived in the home of the Dean of Labor and Student Life. While this was not all that long ago, as recently as the '80s many Americans knew little about foreign food other than "French" fries, pizza and bratwurst. I introduced the Dean's family to fried rice. They introduced me to grits, telling me that Jimmy Carter ate them every day and so should I. They never got me to love grits but despite this we got along well. Because I lived with the Dean I got to visit the College President's home often and he too became a fan of my fried rice.

I graduated from Berea with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. In a later post I will tell you more about what I did with my BSBA.