Welcome to Bluefield at 100! Bluefield College is celebrating 100 years and has undergone a name change! Each week, in honor of this milestone, The Confusing Middle will shine the spotlight on an individual who spent time at Bluefield University, giving them a chance to fill us all in on where they are and how they’ve been doing since the college years. I hope you’ll join us back here every week as we get reacquainted with some old friends!
This week we’re hearing from Andy Berry!
- What have you been up to since your time in Bluefield?
A little of this, a little of that. About a year or so after I graduated, I moved to Charlotte, NC to work on staff at Forest Hill Church. After four years and an unexpected divorce, I moved back home to Richmond, VA where I began attending Hope Church. I volunteered for a bit before joining the staff as the Director of Children’s Ministry and spent the next 8 years in that role. Somewhere in there, I completed a Master’s from Bethel Seminary and became an ordained minister. I got married in 2013. I became a father to two sons, Noah and Carter. I left Hope Church in 2020 and am now on staff at Crestwood Church in Midlothian, VA ministering to kids and their families. I put on a little weight…but I still have all my hair. I cannot believe I graduated over 16 years ago. That’s a lot of living.
- Where are you living now? For how long?
I’m in Richmond, VA. Except those four years in Charlotte, Richmond has always been home.
- Did you pursue any education after college? If so, what degrees have you obtained?
Yes. Master’s degree from Bethel Seminary.
- Where did you earn your first “grown-up” paycheck?
SunTrust Mortgage while I interned at a church. I was a cross-sell specialist, selling banking products to new mortgage customers. It was as exciting as it sounds. I began this role right when The Office debuted. I was working 8-5 in a cubicle, bored to tears. I tried to be the “Jim” of our office. It wasn’t received well. We had a lot of “Angelas” and “Creeds” on our team, no “Michaels” or “Pams.” The only positive of the job was that I got to talk to Brandon Caldwell a few times a week as I sent new customers his way at the Hardy Road Kroger in-store SunTrust branch.
- Who is your current employer and what is your job title?
This question sounds a little like, “Who is my daddy and what does he do?” Kindergarten Cop… it’s not a tumor!
I serve on staff at Crestwood Church in Midlothian, VA as the Senior Director of Family Ministry.
- What are your hobbies? What do you end up doing in your spare time?
LEGO. My kids and I are obsessed…especially with Star Wars and Avengers LEGO sets. Hey, it’s cheaper than golf and I get to do it with my kids. I also work on graphic design projects for friends and family. In the years since I left Bluefield, Mark Hipes, Brandon Caldwell, Aaron Peck and I have made a habit of traveling to college football stadiums all over the country. Notre Dame, University of Florida, Auburn, the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. Next time you see them, ask Brandon and Aaron why we didn’t stop at the Louisville Slugger factory on the way home from Indy…
- Have you done much traveling? Where have you visited?
I spent the summer after I graduated as a missionary in Ružomberok, Slovakia. With that as a base, I traveled to Prague, parts of Germany, Poland, and Austria. My wife, Sarah, and I honeymooned in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As mentioned above, I have still never been to the Louisville Slugger factory…
- Are you married? If so, who is your spouse?
Yes. Sarah Cafazza Berry. She’s a Richmond native, middle school chorus teacher, and avid fan of the TV show, Younger. In the words of Ben Rector, “She is whatever she wants to be, she is a little of everything. Mixed up so tough in a beautiful way, she’s got the world at her fingertips. She makes beauty look effortless. And I want everything she is.”
- How did you and your spouse meet?
The guy who grew up in the house behind mine was the worship leader at a church here in Richmond. He invited me to be a guest preacher at his church and I met Sarah there. I have absolutely no recollection of this and she vaguely remembers “some guy preaching that night.” A year later, I was asked to preach at the church again, and I met Sarah for the second, first time. Fellow Bluefield graduate, Jennifer Mitchell, was a high-school friend of Sarah’s and was thankfully at the worship service that night. Thanks to Jmitch, we all ended up at dinner together after church. After a horrible first date, there was thankfully a second date, and a third… and we’re still counting.
- Do you have children? What are their names/ages?
Yes, two boys. Noah Adams is 6 years old and Carter Andrew is 3 years old.
- Tell us a funny story about your kids…
This week, my three-year-old took off his pajamas to change into clothes and then peed all over the family room carpet. When I asked him why he didn’t go to the bathroom, he responded, “Because I really had to go pee-pee and I was already in here.” My 6-year-old likes to talk in a Russian accent…like, all of the time.
- What was your favorite class at Bluefield?
Really enjoyed any History class with John Tresch or Wendy Beavers, but my all-time favorite class was Personal Fitness taught by my older brother Billy who was on staff as the Head Baseball Coach at the time. Whenever I would skip class, he would totally narc on me and call our dad. I would then get a lecture about wasting tuition money. Cool bro, real cool.
- Which teachers influenced your life and made a lasting impression? Why?
Again, John Tresch. Dr. Tresch helped me become a better storyteller. During his lectures, he would come around in front of the podium, prop his right leg up on the table, adjust his left pant leg, then tell a great story. It was incredible. “And do you know who that man was?” he would say.
Mimi Merritt taught me that not everything belongs above the fold. We were talking about stories for the Rampage, but I have applied this truth in so many other ways. Not everything is worth your stress, your worry, your opinion. Prioritize. Do one or two things well instead of a bunch of things at a mediocre level. I learned all of that picking stories for the newspaper…
Also, he wasn’t a professor, but Dean Dan. I didn’t know it then, but he taught me so much about being a husband and a father. He let us into his life so I got to see him in those roles. He crushed it. He loved his girls. He cherished Staci.
- What was your major and/or minor?
- What did you want to be when you “grew up?”
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a sportscaster on ESPN. I made a whole project about it in 2nd grade. My mom kept it. “And boom goes the dynamite…”
- What was your funniest moment in college?
So many. I mean come on, one funniest moment!? Alright, I dated Bridgett Moxley the end of my junior year and into the beginning of my senior year. That last year, I lived off campus and didn’t have a meal plan. While we were dating, I would routinely eat lunch and dinner using Bridgett’s flex dollars. A day or two after we broke up, I walked into the dining hall, and caught her eye. She looked me dead in the face and loudly exclaimed, “NOPE!” Just the absolute most perfect reaction for the moment. I still laugh about that today.
- What was your most embarrassing moment?
You know, I probably should have been embarrassed by this, but I wasn’t. During Welcome Week as a freshman, there was a karaoke night and I sang “Fancy” by Reba McEntire. It’s a song about a young girl from a trailer park who turns to a life of prostitution at the urging of her mother. “Just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy, they’ll be nice to you…” You know, the perfect song for an 18-year-old guy to sing during the first week at his conservative Christian college…
- What was the dumbest thing you did in college? Was it worth it?
At the start of my junior year, I started drinking. I had just turned 21, had broken up with my long-time high school girlfriend, and began trying all sorts of things. Beer, Jägermeister, more beer… The drinking wasn’t necessarily the dumb thing, plenty of people could do that responsibly. I just didn’t. So most of the dumb things that I did were when I was drinking. My junior and senior years were a departure from my first two years at Bluefield when it came to my decision making, my character, and my witness. Friends called me on it. But I didn’t listen. I knew that I was going into ministry after college. Looking back, I think that I viewed those last years at Bluefield as my only chance to rebel, to experiment, to break the rules. Today, at 39, as a pastor, I still have a beer every now and then with dinner and love a good bourbon and ginger. But I’ve grown up. I know how to do that responsibly now.
- What is your most vivid memory from Bluefield College?
I split the tree once. You don’t soon forget something as haunting as that… I’m still looking over my shoulder for the curse to catch up with me…
Do y’all remember that morning that New Hall flooded…1?
- Was there ever something you wanted to do during your college days but never did?
I really wanted to take late-night rides in a blue 90’s Pontiac Grand-Prix listening to Rascal Flatt’s “I’m Moving On.” Wait… nope… I did that. So many times. Thanks, Mark Hipes!
- What was your go-to during Late Night in the Shott Hall dining room?
Forget late night dining… I was all about those biscuits at the Short Stop. That’s not what it was called by the time I got to Bluefield, but you know the gas station I’m talking about. You couldn’t get in and out without smelling like you smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds.
- Did you play any sports?
Varsity Cheerleading my junior and senior year. It’s a sport… What?… It is!
- How about intramurals?
Flag Football for the legendary Gerties.
- Did you pledge with a fraternity or sorority?
No. But I can still hear, “Unity, unity, unity, shaboom! Alpha Delta!” in my head to this day…
- Were you involved in any other extracurriculars (theater, yearbook, clubs, etc.)?
The Rampage, Baptist Student Union, whatever the student activities leadership was called. The mysterious Secret Seven sprung up again while I was at Bluefield. Though I was often accused, I was not a part of that group but always wanted to be.
- What on-campus events did you enjoy participating in or attending?
Honestly, just hanging out in the dorms, playing Halo with Dereck Harris, sledding down the big hill. Then of course, Mud Pig Day.
- Did you jump into the mud pit on Mud Pig Day?
- Did you have a work-study job on campus?
For like 5 minutes in the bookstore, stuffing mail in people’s mailboxes. I didn’t last.
- Did you have a job off campus?
I did not. I worked during the summer and lived off that sweet cheddar all school year.
- Which dorm did you live in? Or did you commute?
I lived in Rish Hall my freshman year, then New Hall my sophomore and junior years, then apartment B4 up the hill from Little Caesar’s my senior year.
- Tell us your craziest roommate story…
My freshman year roommate left after just one year, but what a year it was. On the last night before he was headed back home, he had a friend in town so I offered to go sleep in someone else’s room who had a couch. The next morning, I returned to my room, showered, and grabbed my backpack only to find two empty 40’s stuffed inside which apparently had been drunk the night before. Instead of trying to sneak them to the dumpster, I took them straight to my RA, Justin Blunt, told him what happened, and he took care of it, like a boss.
- Which classmate influenced you the most?
A few great ones. First, the above-mentioned Justin Blunt. As my freshman year RA, he had my back. He cleaned up a mess or two, invited me into his world, gave me rides back and forth to Richmond, and best of all, drafted me onto the Gerties flag football team. Go Chefs!
Next was Mark Hipes. We roomed together my sophomore year in New Hall. Mark is still influencing me today as my closest friend. Mark is old school. He challenged me, and still challenges me, to do things with integrity and to continue to build character. His heart for God has deepened my own. He also knows every gas station at every interstate exit between Richmond and Bluefield.
Lastly, Jennifer Mitchell. Even though we only had one year together in Bluefield, we became fast friends and remain incredibly close friends today. While at Bluefield, and since we have left, Jmitch has written the book on friendship. She has taught me how to be more loyal, how to go big for the people you love, and how to make memories like her boy, Timmy Riggins…
- What personal experiences since college would you like to share?
I saw Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) at the airport a few years ago. The Mother wasn’t with him and now we all know why…I’m not crying you’re crying…
I mentioned this above in a throw-away sentence, but about a year after graduation, I married fellow alum, Chrissy Shifflett. We were married about two years before divorcing. Divorce has this shameful tone, especially when it happens so young, so quick. It was hard. Really hard. But I’m writing this so that if you’re reading it, and you have divorce as a part of your story, that you’ll know that it’s not shameful or taboo. It’s ok to talk about. It was a real thing that happened. And I can’t possibly talk about my time at Bluefield or after graduation without mentioning it. In the world of social media, most people are aware of how our story ended, but every now and then, I’ll run into someone who I haven’t seen in years, and they get really confused when they see me with my wife and kids. So, for the loyal readers of Aaron’s blog, if you haven’t heard, that’s what happened.
- What plans do you have for the next 10 years?
I turn 40 this year, so the next 10 years will take me to 50. Wow. 50. I plan on continuing to build forts with my kids as long as they are willing. I’m going to build lots more LEGO… then build shelves to store said LEGO… Sarah is going to love that. In the next ten years, Noah and Carter will be old enough to watch The Goonies, Rocky IV, Tommy Boy, and all of the Marvel movies. Really looking forward to doing that together.
I’ve been working on a side project, a little company called We The Wonder. We partner with churches and organizations to design better experiences for kids and families for sustained growth. I’d like to spend more time on the company and grow it. Bucket list items would include watching the launch of a Space-X rocket live in person, actually publishing the children’s book I’ve been tinkering with, and kissing my wife, Sarah, under the Northern Lights.
- Give us a quote to live by…
I’m going to give you like 5…ok 6, no 7.
“Nothing good happens after 2:00 am… when 2:00 am rolls around, just go home and go to sleep.” – Ted Mosby
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” – Coach Taylor
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – Albus Dumbledore
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
“There’s two buttons I never like to hit…and that’s ‘panic’ and ‘snooze.’” – Ted Lasso
“Goonies never say die.” – Mikey Walsh
“Real men cry with their mothers, laugh with the others, when all the jokes are on them…” – Some song by The Elms that Mark Hipes swears exists…
I want to thank Andy for taking time to answer all these questions and for sharing with us this week! Come back next week when another Bluefield survivor takes the hot seat!
And if you spent time at Bluefield College and want to participate, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the full list of questions! Until next time, GO RAMS!