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Berea's Appalachian Commitment Timeline

William J. Hutchins: President 1920 - 1939


- William J. Hutchins becomes President.

- An introduction to the Catalog states that Berea is "equipped to meet the varied needs of young people of the Southern Mountains." In 1921, this statement became a regular part of the catalog.

1921 - Under President William J. Hutchins, the College begins consolidation of the several departments, partially out of choice and convenience, partially in keeping with state and federal requirements. While former President Frost decried this as a retreat from educating the people 'in the holler', William Hutchins sharply retorted, "Our mountain students have as good a right to a higher education as anyone else, and they are fully as likely to make a worthy use of it. For the great mass of our College students it is Berea or nothing . . . . Furthermore, if our mountain students should leave the mountains for their college course, the mountains would almost certainly lose their life service." Hutchins also wrote, "In this (College) department we hope to train 'the leaders of the leaders' of the mountains."

1924 - The Vocational Department is abolished. Vocational courses are still offered in all other departments.


- Berea establishes the "Opportunity Schools" for adults who could attend school for only a few weeks a year. Sessions are held both on campus and in communities requesting the service. The Opportunity School program lasts until 1950.

- The first magazine devoted to Southern Appalachia—Mountain Life & Work—begins publication at Berea. The College publishes the magazine for many years; eventually its publication is taken over by the Conference of Southern Mountain Workers, which later becomes the Council of the Southern Mountains. The College has a close association with the Council of the Southern Mountains for many years.

1927 - Extension Committee advises that new employees spend 2 weeks and up to a month living in the mountains. This was the first incarnation of the “Appalachian Tour.”

1930 - Certification Law of this year requires teachers to have four years of collegiate training, effectively dismantling the Normal Department which had already been altered in keeping with other state and federal requirements.

1935 - The Mountain Folk Festival begins. Organized by Frank Smith and Marguerite Butler Bidstrup, the Festival attracts dancers and musicians from the Appalachian region and other areas of the country as well.

1936 - The Contrast House project begins. After purchasing a "typical" mountain cabin, the College built another house of materials usually available in the mountains as a contrasting demonstration of what a modern home would resemble.


- The Berea College Country Dancers are organized by Frank Smith in order to learn and preserve Appalachian, English, and Danish folk-dance traditions. Representing the College at the Mountain Folk Festival, The Mountain Laurel Festival, and even internationally, the Country Dancers are officially recognized by the College in 1940.

- The Christmas Dance School is started. It draws dancers from all parts of the United States and from foreign countries.

- Reorganization of this year abolishes the Academy by adding the ninth and tenth grades to the Foundation School, thus creating Lower Division (Grades 11-12, College Freshman and Sophomore years) and Upper Division. (College Junior and Senior years). An evaluation in 1942 begins a five-year process that ultimately creates in 1947 two separate departments, Foundation School (9-12) and College. Public schools and Knapp Hall training school handle elementary and junior-high course loads.