On Saturday, April 6, 2013, Dr. Lyle Roelofs was inaugurated as the ninth president of Berea College, an historical institution widely recognized for providing full tuition for all students, serving the Appalachian region, and requiring all students to work on campus.
Roelofs (pronounced Roo-lahfs) assumed his presidency on July 1, 2012, after the retirement of Dr. Larry Shinn, who served as Berea College’s president for 18 years.
During the ceremony, before a crowd of hundreds of Berea College faculty, staff, students, alumni, retirees and delegates from dozens of colleges and universities across the country, several notable Bereans charged Dr. Roelofs with the Great Commitments, Berea College’s mission statement.
Silas House, best-selling novelist and NEH Chair in Appalachia Studies, challenged Dr. Roelofs to carry out Berea’s first commitment “to provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.” Dr. Roelofs replied, “I will… with God’s help.”
Dr. bell hooks, world-renowned feminist and distinguished professor in residence in Appalachian Studies, challenged the president “to create a democratic community dedicated to education and equality for women and men.” Former President Larry Shinn, who served as Berea’s president until June 30, 2012, charged Dr. Roelofs with Berea’s commitment “to stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.”
The inauguration speaker was Dr. Elaine Tuttle Hansen, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
Roelofs is a graduate of Calvin College with a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in physics and mathematics. He earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, both in physics, at the University of Maryland and has more than 35 years of experience in teaching and research at the University of Maryland, Calvin College, Brown University, Haverford College and Colgate University. He is also an experienced administrator, having served as associate provost at Haverford College, as provost and dean of faculty, and as interim president at Colgate University. A number of U.S. and international institutions have tapped Roelofs for visiting appointments and fellowships, such as the Sandia National Laboratory; the Fritz-Haber Institut in Berlin; University of Munich; Technical University Clausthal-Zellerfeld; and Universität Ulm.
Dr. Roelofs’ academic and scholarly research has resulted in substantial grants from such organizations as the Research Corporation, Pew Mid-Atlantic Cluster, and the National Science Foundation. Other honors include the Humboldt Research Fellowship and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Teaching Fellowship. He held an endowed faculty chair at Haverford College as distinguished professor of computational science.
Dr. Roelofs has many accomplishments in research and pedagogy, numerous publications in refereed professional journals, as well as invited papers and presentations at national and international seminars and colloquia. Beyond his academic interests, Dr. Roelofs enjoys reading, cooking, and various outdoor activities including bird watching, camping and hiking. He is also an avid runner who runs with students twice a week and will run in the upcoming Derby City Mini-marathon in Louisville. He and his wife Lauren have two sons, both of whom are in graduate school.