News & Stories
December 16, 2020

Coming home to Berry

Alumni among first residents of The Spires

By Rick Woodall


When Sam (76C, 78G) and Nancy Duval (77C) Ratcliffe exchanged wedding vows in the Berry College Chapel on June 14, 1980, they never imagined that one day the campus where they met again would be home.

Forty years and one day later, however, they became the first residents to move into one of 26 stand-alone cottages gracing The Spires at Berry College, a new continuing care retirement community located on 50 acres of leased Berry property not far from the main campus. They are among several alumni now living at the site, where construction began in October 2018 after several years of planning.

“I do not recommend moving in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s been worth it,” said Sam, a former SGA president who went on to a long career with Eckerd Drug and McKesson pharmaceuticals. “It has exceeded my expectations, and I expected a lot.”

Perched on the rim of Eagle Lake, site of a former quarry, the new community includes both the stand-alone cottages and 144 apartment-style residences, as well as options for assisted living and secure memory care. Residents have access to a full slate of housekeeping, maintenance and leisure services, as well as on-site dining, fitness and health care, among other amenities.


“These guys, they take very good care of you,” Sam said. “It’s nice knowing you have someone else who is keeping an eye out for you.”

— Sam Ratcliffe

It was that sense of long-term security that helped draw Sam and Nancy to The Spires, which operates as a financially independent and self-sustaining nonprofit separate from Berry College, with its own board of directors.

“One of my sayings is, ‘We met here, we got married here, and we’re probably going to die here.' Not anytime soon, but it’s kind of full circle,” expressed Nancy, a longtime teacher who is now Northwest Georgia member services representative for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, in addition to serving on the Berry Alumni Council.

One highlight so far has been interacting with Berry students of various majors who work at The Spires. Already, the Ratcliffes are witnessing the development of the type of intergenerational learning and mentoring opportunities for students long envisioned for the project.

“Most of these residents here would fight you over these students,” Sam joked, with Nancy adding, “We’ve always had teenagers and young people in our home, working with them and mentoring them, and this is just a great opportunity to do that.”

They also enjoy sharing the history of their alma mater with non-alumni neighbors, going so far as to loan out their copy of the 1956 Martha Berry biography, Miracle in the Mountains.

“They have been so impressed with the work ethic and the attitude of the students who work here,” Nancy said. “We tell them there is a Berry difference, and they’re beginning to believe it.”

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