Dr. Berkey leaves legacy upon retirement

On Oct. 13, students, faculty, and alumni gathered to celebrate the legacy of one professor whose influence stretches far beyond the walls of Albion College.  This event was held in honor of Dr. Len Berkey, professor of sociology, who is retiring after 35 years of teaching at Albion College.

The retirement reception was organized by Dr. Scott Melzer, sociology professor and department chair. Turnout for the event was high, a testament to Dr. Berkey’s skill as a professor. The reception included a panel of alumni who discussed classes and experiences with Dr. Berkey.

“In many ways, it was made easier because of how committed our current and former students are because he’s been so dedicated to them,” Melzer said.  “It didn’t matter if they were nearby driving distance or if they had to fly in from out of state.”

Dr. Berkey arrived at Albion in the fall of 1978. He specialized in race and ethnicity. However, during his tenure, he taught a wide variety of classes, including social theory, social stratification and programs that offered students the opportunity to study in Europe and Jerusalem.

“My dream was to teach at a liberal arts college, and it worked out,” Berkey said.

Dr. Berkey had a strong desire to inspire students to look beyond the surface of social issues.

“For me, that was my role: to get people to think about society and their relationship in it in new ways to challenge their conventional thinking,” Berkey said.

Rachel Gates, Shelby Township senior, believes that Dr. Berkey has achieved that goal.

“I think the most important thing Len has taught me is to think about the future and how it impacts me on a personal level,” Gates said. “He often asks, ‘Does this scare you,’ or, ‘What are you going to do about this?’” He forces students to think about themselves and society as a whole.”

Maddy Drury, Milford sophomore, described the personal influence Dr. Berkey has had on her.

“I didn’t think that soc. was going to be a good major until I took Len’s class,” Drury said.  “He has pushed me to pursue it because I want to pursue it, not because it’s going to give me a good job or anything like that, but because I’m passionate about it.  I’m going to major in sociology here, I think, and it’s definitely because of his two classes.”

Dr. Berkey continues to play an active role in the lives of those who have already graduated.

“A lot of [the alumni] don’t make a major life decision without getting in touch with Len and his wife, Ramona, as well,” Melzer said.

Dr. Berkey expressed joy at his prospective retirement after a long career.

“The last few years have been very happy and productive,” Berkey said.  “I had great students, and I always wanted to end on a high.”

Photo Courtesy of Maddie Drury

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