Faces of LifeReady

Every artist needs inspiration. Leif Atchley found his in Associate Professor of Music Adam Hayes. 

Leif Atchley and Adam Hayes

The two talented trumpeters first met when Leif was a high school freshman attending a Berry jazz clinic. Soon, Leif was making weekly treks from Chattanooga to Rome to study under his new mentor, and when it came time to pick a college, of course he chose Berry. Finding inspiration in Hayes’ unique sound and encouragement in his outspoken teaching style, the protégé has achieved new heights as a musician, twice reaching the semifinals of the National Trumpet Competition. Today he dreams of following in Hayes’ footsteps as a professor of trumpet at a college or conservatory. “Dr. Hayes will never fully know how much he has inspired me,” Leif praised. “It was his sound that encouraged me to keep playing, his advice that keeps me practicing, and his example that I continue to mold myself after.”

Isabella Kukor finds an education worth waking up for in Berry’s animal science program.

Isabella Kukor

Hours before most people pour their first cup of coffee, freshman Isabella Kukor slips on her boots for the early-morning shift at Berry’s Rollins Dairy. By the time she heads to class at 8 a.m., she has milked cows, fed newborn calves and performed many other duties in and around the facility. Next on her to-do list – after class, of course – is researching new techniques for preserving animal tissue with Professor Jay Daniel in Berry’s new animal science laboratory. Overwhelming? Not for Isabella! The unique combination of quality academic preparation and meaningful work experience available through Berry’s highly regarded animal science program is exactly what she had in mind when she chose to travel nine hours from her Maryland home to prepare for a career in agricultural business management.


Mark Morton

Help from an attentive faculty member and a bit of jazz helped Mark Morton (16C) find his dream! Mark initially entered Berry as a midfielder for the lacrosse team, but an injury led him to leave the sports life in pursuit of another calling. A performance by Berry’s jazz ensemble inspired him to pick up his guitar and find his purpose in music. A faculty mentor guided him to join the jazz program and pursue a music degree. Now Mark plays professionally in Chapel Hill with a solo album releasing later this year.


Malcholm Graham

He scored the GEICO Play of the Year in NCAA Division III football with an amazing interception, but it was his work managing Berry’s Viking Furniture student enterprise that put him over the goal line in his job search months before graduation. His real-life, entrepreneurial experience first won him a corporate accounting internship and then two great job offers. “My work as general manager of a Berry enterprise really stood out on my resumé,” he said. “And the skills I gained made a big difference to my level of experience and other qualifications.”


Lindsey Purvis

Four years of theatre-based student work and a New York internship later, she’s earning a master’s degree in scenic design at Cincinnati’s prestigious College-Conservatory of Music and is certain her work at Berry set her up for success. “Not everyone has the opportunity to build and paint entire sets, weld, hang lights, or run shows,” she said. “Having actual practical experience put me ahead of the curve.”


Vedant Mehta

He has his sights set on space propulsion! Vedant worked as an advanced research assistant in physics and as a tutor. Now he’s gone on to his next frontier: pursuing master’s degrees in nuclear engineering and aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech on a full scholarship from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “My student work experiences with professors in astrophysics and sensor development helped me become self-dependent and able to work with confidence on advanced research projects,” he said. “There is no doubt that the research skills I developed – and the communication skills I built as a tutor – are very important for grad school.”

Paul Ulrich didn’t come to Berry to play football. Now he can’t imagine his college experience without it.

Paul Ulrich

Berry’s first football graduate was drawn to the college by a strong pre-med program. In addition to a stellar 3.9 GPA, the 2015 alumnus from Sylva, N.C., gained valuable experience working in the sports medicine department and made beautiful music with the college trumpet ensemble. But it was as a spirited walk-on member of the inaugural football team that he found his Berry “family,” developed extraordinary time-management skills and earned recognition as a “tireless worker.” Although he played in only two games, Paul won the prestigious “Be Berry” Award for his work in the classroom, on the field and in the community. His take? “I don’t think I’d be where I am right now without the football program.” Paul is part of the first class of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine on the Auburn University campus. And his football coach will always be able to brag that 100% of his inaugural graduating class was admitted to medical school!

A love of music runs in David Warren’s family. Now he’s the leader of the band.

David Warren

A trombonist, music-education major and world-class drum corps conductor, David hails from a musical family and grew up watching his older brother rehearse with the high school marching band. When his time came, the Carrollton, Ga., native took performance to the next level, joining the Illinois-based Phantom Regiment drum and bugle corps, eventually earning the honor of conducting the regiment’s 2014 and 2015 marching seasons. Drum Corps International, marching music’s “major league,” has recognized David with its Jim Jones Leadership Award. At Berry, David is assistant to the director of the wind ensemble. He’s also served as student manager of Ford Auditorium.

Leah Bolden wants to earn her future. Berry donors gave her the chance.

Leah Bolden now helps a professor with research, but not long ago she was doing her own, looking for a way to go to college without burdening her family. After all, two brothers were already in college when her turn came, with a third close behind. That’s why the future doctor with a strong desire to make her own way – and to attend Berry – literally leaped with excitement right in the Atlanta airport when accepted into the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship Program. Her enthusiasm for working her way through college with the chance to graduate debt free has never waned, and Leah has made the most of the opportunity, also working as a presidential ambassador, tutor and student philanthropy representative. Leah thrives on challenge and works extra hard to honor her donor. Thanks to early campaign supporters, 130 Gate of Opportunity Scholarships are being endowed for generations of students like Leah.

Leah Bolden - White Coat CeremonyUpdate: After graduating from Berry, Leah finished a premedical graduate-certificate program in Virginia and then worked in research with a professor of genetics and genomics on ethics in science before applying to medical school. Were her applications successful? Yes! She was accepted by two programs and is attending Chicago Medical School. One of her campus mentors (left), Milton Chambers (78A, 82C), and her Gate of Opportunity donors, Al (61c) and Becky (61C) Christopher, attended her White Coat Ceremony!

Adventure is not just a passion but a profession for Alice Morgan.

Alice Morgan

Working as outdoor leadership coordinator at Virginia’s Shenandoah University, the 2012 Berry graduate has the opportunity to kindle in others the same thrill of discovery she once felt as a student taking Berry’s Freshman Adventure Challenge course. That life-changing weekend revealed Alice’s true strength; afterward, she knew she had to have more. That “more” turned out to be three and a half years of valuable student work experience within the Berry Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD) program and an interdisciplinary major in outdoor leadership. During that time, she participated in a 30-day outdoor leadership program in Alaska and a 50-day Outward Bound excursion in North Carolina. Later, she completed the master’s degree program in outdoor education at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, one of the longest-standing outdoor education programs in the world.

Theatre is Stephen Stamps’ passion. At Berry, he’s working to make it his future as well.

Stephen Stamps

Stephen attended four years of high school at the Savannah Arts Academy, but it wasn’t until a junior-year role in West Side Story that theatre became his passion. Now he’s working hard to make it his future. Stephen’s had lead roles in Servant of Two Masters and Colored Museum with the Berry College Theatre Company as well as an ensemble appearance in Grand Night for Singing. He’s also a dancer and choreographer for the Berry College Dance Troupe, appearing as the Nutcracker in a Berry/Rome Little Theatre production of Nutcracker Ballet. And on his first attempt, he was selected for coveted auditions at the Southeastern Theatre Conference. The multi-talented performer – who also serves in the leadership role of head resident of Berry’s Morton and Lemley halls – is one class act.

Dakota Burke came to Berry to study business. He graduated owning one.

One thing Dakota could count on when he visited the beach: The skim board he bought to use in the surf would break before he left for home. Irritated, he set to work hand-crafting a more durable design. But then what? The double business/finance major took Professor Paula Englis’ Introduction to Entrepreneurship class with its $100 seed money. In short order a business was born, with alumni mentors helping Dakota arrange for manufacturing and even loaning a car for a sales trip to Florida. By the time he graduated, Diamond Boards LLC was worth more than $80,000 with 45 retailers in five states selling its products. Dakota had an idea and was willing to work hard. As a business major, he also had access to opportunity. Soon, enterprising students of all majors will too – whether they want to build a better mouse trap or develop new ways of “doing good.”

Ree Palmer has the heart of A leader. At Berry, she got the experience to back it up.

Ree Palmer

Former Student Government Association President Ree Palmer was a leader in every sense of the word. Naturally shy, she found her voice in student government as a freshman when a friend convinced her to run for office. Before graduation, she had learned, practiced and shared leadership skills as a Leadership Fellow and was one of the first participants in the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership's Carper mentoring program, meeting regularly with former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher. She noted: "Berry ensures that its student leaders know how to handle leadership roles with professionalism and dedication by handing them responsibility from day one." What's next in her journey? Palmer and a classmate were two of only 35 accepted in 2016 for Indiana University's highly selective master's program in higher education and student affairs.

Emily Barton doesn’t just dream about becoming a large-animal vet. She works hard at it.

Emily knows what it takes to get into vet school: grades, experience, interests, determination. Her GPA? Near perfection! It’s an impressive 3.95 out of 4. Her level of experience? Exceptional! A hands-on leadership position with the Berry College Dairy and two summers working with veterinarians, as well as caring for a horse and raising a guide-dog-in-training. Her interests? Broad. She’s also a ballerina, choreographer and Dance Troupe manager. Emily is determined to do everything she can to build her future. What does she deserve? The best learning facilities possible. We’re committed to creating them.

UPDATE! Emily applied to two veterinary medicine programs and was accepted to both. She recently completed her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia and has now joined the staff of Foothills Large Animal Hospital, a mobile practice serving nine counties in and around Marion, N.C. She was offered the position nine months before graduation from vet school after shadowing the owner for three summers.

When one door closed for Whitney Webster, a musical one opened.

Whitney Webster

For Whitney Webster of Trussville, Ala., when one door closed, a musical one opened. The music-business major was a competitive level 10 gymnast in high school before a severe ankle injury derailed her athletic dreams. While recovering from surgery, she found music soothing to her soul and soon picked up where she had left off years earlier playing the piano. Next, came voice lessons. Now a talented vocalist, she’s eyeing a future move to Nashville to join the country music scene, either as a performer or through work in copyright law. Whitney also would like the opportunity to use her music to spread the gospel internationally.

You can tell some leaders by the “hats” they wear. With Harrison Daniels, it’s t-shirts.

The sure sign of any student-leader is the t-shirt, that revered and respected article of clothing proclaiming the activity or event in which the wearer has a stake. At last count, Harrison had about 80 of them. His titles were just as numerous – Berry Leadership Fellow, leadership coordinator, Presidential Ambassador, head SOAR leader and teaching assistant, to name just a few. The double physics/math major – now in graduate school at Georgia Tech – also became the go-to student expert on 3-D printing, micro-controllers and other new technologies in the Physical Computing Lab and spent a year-in-service helping others through “Random Acts of Hope” with his six Hope Cottage roommates. Scholarships made it possible for Harrison to go to Berry; work program wages helped him stay here. Annual giving supports both.

UPDATE! Harrison completed his graduate degree in human-computer interaction at Georgia Tech, married Berry sweetheart and budding novelist Casey Cox Daniels and now works as a user experience and systems engineer with Otis Elevator Co. in Farmington, Conn., a position that allows him to integrate human experience with computer science and engineering to find opportunities for improvement. He credits his Berry education – particularly hands-on experiences in the creative technologies lab (HackBerry) and as a student leader – with helping him develop the confidence needed to move “onward and upward,” always with an eye to serving others. “My wife and I both left Berry very confident about our futures, and that confidence has enabled us to move onward and upward, unafraid of new challenges.”

As a theatre major seeking the freedom to explore her creative talents, Mercedes Meyers has found her fit.

Mercedes Meyers

Mercedes is keeping her options open on how she’ll reach for the stars. The Portland, Maine, native first dipped a toe into drama as a freshman in high school and found an immediate “fit.” At Berry, she’s tried her hand at nearly every aspect of theatre production, from acting to set painting, enjoying the freedom to discover her talents and develop her potential. And potential she has. Mercedes was tapped for a scenic artist apprenticeship at the renowned Hanger Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y., after just her sophomore year. But Mercedes also is a physics minor contemplating advanced study in astrophysics. No wonder she is excited to watch her own star-studded story unfold!

Bernard Granville Jr. came to Berry seeking role models. Now he’s becoming one.

Bernard Granville Jr.

The Columbus, Ga., native arrived at Berry seeking the type of personal influences that would help “mold me as a man.” He’s found that and more, growing in maturity and accountability as a member of the college’s varsity football team. Thriving under coaches who emphasize character as well as playing ability, he has become a key building block for the young program and looks forward to winning in the new stadium the grateful team already calls “home.” But Berry is about more than football for Bernard, who is passionate about becoming a role model himself as a middle school teacher, especially for at-risk young men. “My choice to come to Berry is probably the best decision I’ve ever made, especially academically,” he said. “I know I’m doing a great job in that aspect right now. It’s put me in the right position for the rest of my life.”

UPDATE: Bernard ended his Berry playing career as a four-year starter and a conference champion. Now he’s setting an example for others as a coach at Campbell High School in suburban Atlanta. The 2017 graduate was hired by Kyle Adkins, his former high-school coach. Speaking about Bernard in an article published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Adkins praised, “You will not find a finer young man on the planet … I am so proud of Bernard and the man that he has become. He will truly be an asset for Campbell High School and a great role model for our students.”