Berry receives $2 million gift to fund BCIL directorship


John Edward SimsBerry College has received a $2 million gift to fund the directorship of the growing Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership. 

The gift was made by John Edward Sims, a retired Union Pacific executive and resident of Flower Mound, Texas, in memory of his late parents, Berry alumni Elvin and Fleta Patterson Sims. It honors the character and integrity exhibited by these two lifelong educators and the important role Berry played in their lives. 

“One day it just occurred to me: Why don’t I do something for Berry? Berry played a key role in our family. Everything we are grew out of it,” Sims said.

Sims’ and his older brother, Robert, owe their very existence to Berry, for their parents met as students on the North Georgia campus. Their father grew up as part of a large family on a farm outside rural Villa Rica, Ga., while their mother hailed from a smaller family in coastal Dania, Fla. The couple married after graduating from Berry in 1935 and pursued careers as educators, dedicating their lives to quietly shaping the character of their own children and countless others in Georgia’s Turner and Dooly counties. Elvin served as a school principal and part-time pastor; Fleta was a home economics teacher.

“We are grateful for Ed Sims’ vision and desire to honor his parents in a way that recognizes their life-changing experience at Berry,” President Steve Briggs said. “Because of his generosity, generations of emerging leaders will be asked to think deeply about issues of conviction and character as part of their Berry experience.”

Among many important responsibilities, the new director will work with faculty to infuse coursework related to personal integrity and leadership into every major and develop tools and training for students to practice ethical problem-solving. The college expects to fill the position in 2018.