After giving their blood, sweat and tears for their undergraduate degree, countless numbers of Berry alumni decide to contribute even more. This comes in many different forms. Some decide to build their careers here as a faculty or staff member, and others donate to crowd-funding campaigns or the LifeReady campaign. Many alumni also choose to return to campus for Mountain Day weekend or Alumni Work Week. Regardless of how alumni choose to give back to Berry, we should appreciate them for all that they have done and will do in the future.
Alumni work to maintain the beauty of Berry through their donations to the LifeReady campaign. That campaign has already completed many projects, including the Bell Recital Hall, the Christopher Browning Pavilion at Oak Hill and the animal science laboratory at Rollins. These are only a few examples of the great resources and facilities to come out of this campaign alone. According to the Berry LifeReady website, alumni contribute around 40 percent of all contributions made to the campaign. For some perspective, the campaign has raised approximately $134 million dollars, and 40 percent of that sum is $53.6 million dollars.
Understandably, current students are unhappy about the construction around campus. Losing parking spots in different parking lots every year is not ideal. However, when we take the time to look at the turnout of these small and limited inconveniences, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. At the moment, the McAllister parking lot has been significantly reduced due to the construction of the new animal science building. The smaller parking lot creates numerous obstacles, but in the end, the largest major on campus will have a $15.7 million home with technology, resources and space that are not currently seen in Westcott.
Alumni contribute in other ways as well. Look around at the faculty and staff, because in nearly every department, Berry graduates are there. They are giving even more of their time and lives to the college that has allowed them to flourish and prosper. By working for Berry, alumni are investing in the college that invested four years of time, resources and effort into them. These particular alumni saw something in Berry that drew them back to the campus after they crossed the stage at graduation. Their dedication to our college is obvious.
Other alumni do not choose to work at Berry, but they still return each summer for the Alumni Work Week. They dedicate part of their time to improving campus through smaller projects, many of which may go unnoticed. Other alumni consistently plan their year to account for Mountain Day weekend. Younger alumni return to attend Marthapalooza with friends, and each year several classes of graduates hold their reunions. This year, due to COVID-19, Mountain Day was virtual, but alumni still showed up to Zoom meetings and participated in the festivities through social media.
The Class of 2020 should hold a special place in everyone’s heart. They completed their senior year of college and graduated during a pandemic. In December, an official ceremony will be held, but many graduates may be unable to return due to travelling limitations or jobs. As their ceremony approaches, be sure to congratulate them again on all of their hard work. Let them know that their contribution has not been forgotten, and we are just as excited as they are for an official ceremony and their chance to walk across the stage.
Across campus, the efforts of alumni can be seen. Whether they are at Berry or not, the impact that they have brought is undeniable. Look at the Sisters Theatre, ask the alumni office about alumni involvement or even better, ask an alumnus about how they stay connected. Without them, Berry would look very different. The community that everyone boasts on campus has been created and passed down each year through the alumni. The alumni create the reputation of Berry, and we would be wise to acknowledge that. So, thank an alumnus and ask them their story; you might be surprised at what you hear.