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Berea College names 10th president

Cheryl L. Nixon

BEREA, Ky. — The Berea College Board of Trustees has named Dr. Cheryl L. Nixon as the 10th president of Berea College.

Dr. Nixon, who received unanimous support from the Board of Trustees, will be the first woman to serve as Berea College president in the institution’s 167-year history. She will begin her tenure on July 1, 2023, following the retirement of President Lyle D. Roelofs.

Dr. Nixon currently serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She previously served as associate provost, English department chair and graduate program director at the University of Massachusetts Boston. At both institutions, her service has been marked by a consistent commitment to access to educational excellence and a belief in the transformative power of the liberal arts.

“I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the next president of Berea College,” Dr. Nixon said. “Berea is an inspirational model of what higher education can and should be. I share Berea’s focus on inclusive excellence, having dedicated my career to serving underserved students. I have worked in both rural and urban settings to provide opportunities to students who often do not see themselves within higher education. We can transform lives and communities by creating new ways to welcome these talented students into college. We must help students with wide-ranging interests and abilities feel inspired and empowered by the world of ideas. We must also help our communities—from Boston to the Navajo Nation to Appalachia—see and feel the benefits of higher education.”

The Berea College Board of Trustees began a presidential search process earlier this year after President Roelofs announced his upcoming retirement. A search committee comprised of a diverse mix of students, faculty, staff and trustees worked diligently to evaluate submissions from a field of 125 applicants.

Dr. Nixon earned her B.A. in English and Political Science (summa cum laude) from Tufts University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Harvard University. Her research focuses on the invention of the novel in the 18th century, and her books and articles compare the early novel’s representation of the family to manuscript legal cases.

At Fort Lewis College, Dr. Nixon has overseen the creation of a new Academic Hub focused on student success. The Hub offers academic support such as tutoring and academic inspiration through undergraduate research, career design and place-based learning. She also spearheaded the launching a nursing program that features community-centered approaches to rural nursing and Indigenous approaches to health. With grants from the Department of Education; the state of Colorado; and the Mellon, Teagle and El Pomar Foundations, she has worked to build new pathways into environmental education, expand the Native American and Indigenous Studies department and design summer programs that feature learning cohorts.

Dr. Nixon has given many presentations and written numerous articles and two books. Her first book, “The Orphan in Eighteenth-Century Law and Literature: Estate, Blood and Body,” connects the 18th-century fictional and factual orphan, emphasizing legal concepts. Dr. Nixon’s second book, “Novel Definitions: An Anthology of Commentary on the Novel, 1688-1815,” focuses on the debate surrounding the invention of the English novel.

Dr. Nixon is married to Tim Monroe, who serves as the North American executive director of El Hogar Ministries, an organization providing homes and educational opportunities for up to 250 students in Honduras living in extremely impoverished and vulnerable circumstances. The couple has an adult son.

Since its founding in 1855 by Kentuckian John G. Fee, an abolitionist, preacher and educator, Berea has been guided by the welcoming and inclusive words of the Apostle Paul, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26). These words, which serve as the College’s motto, have guided Berea in building a strong liberal arts program of national reputation while maintaining the college’s eight Great Commitments.