Molly Berry

Her spiritual life activities at Bluffton, including four years on the Shining Through music ministry team, "changed my life," says Molly (Pawsey '05) Berry.

So, too, did a random roommate, Abby (Bower) Wiechart, who became a four-year roommate and best friend with whom Berry still talks often. That experience helped steer her toward a higher-education career that began in residence life and continues as director of inclusion and student engagement at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.

And she wouldn't have come to Bluffton in the first place, Berry says, if not for the financial aid she received. "It just could not have happened" without that support, she adds.

She feels, in short, that she owes a lot to the university, "so it's always been a big deal to give back," Berry says. She does that now through Bluffton's Simple Gifts plan, which enables givers to authorize automatic deduction of a specified amount from their bank account, credit card or debit card on the same day every month. Contributions can be as little as $10 per month.

"My day is full of all things Millikin," admits Berry, and Simple Gifts gives her one less thing to remember. Financially supporting her alma mater is "something I can forget about," she says, but still do without having to write a check.

The Clyde, Ohio, native learned about Bluffton from a high school friend who had visited campus and told her "it has your name written all over it." She was a first-generation college student who was admittedly "clueless" about the application process, but when she visited Bluffton with her parents, she was sold on it by the people they met, particularly Dan Parent, an admissions counselor at the time. "He made us feel very comfortable," she says.

On a campus tour with Parent, she and her parents ran into an older Clyde High School graduate they didn't know was a Bluffton student. At that point, to her parents, "Bluffton became a non-scary place to leave their daughter," Berry recalls.

A communication major, she did well in what she calls a "supportive environment"—which included a roommate relationship that led her to consider another possible field. She thought, she says, that "if I could go into residence life and teach people what it is to be good roommates, I could make a living from that."

Duly convinced, Berry went on to a master's degree program in college student personnel at Bowling Green State University. She served an assistantship as a hall director at Heidelberg College in Tiffin en route to earning her degree in 2007.

In her subsequent job search, she wasn't finding the "right fit" until a friend who worked at Millikin asked if she knew about the 2,100-student university. Looking into it, Berry says she "found what she had found at Bluffton years before"—good people and values that aligned with hers.

She spent six years in various residence life positions at Millikin before starting her current job, as inclusion and student engagement director, in fall 2013 (when she also married her husband, Alex). Now in charge of supporting diversity and cultural programs on campus, she has also taught a freshman seminar on inclusion and diversity for six years.

"It's exactly what I want to be doing," she says about her job, noting that one of her favorite things is "teaching people how to understand people better."

And her own college experience, she says, has made it all possible. "I attribute everything good in my life back to Bluffton."