John B. Stephenson Center for Appalachia

The John B. Stephenson Center for Appalachia furthers understanding of Appalachia. Our main purpose is to encourage students, faculty and community members to experience and study the rich culture and history of our mountains. 


The mission of the Stephenson Center for Appalachia is to promote understanding and appreciation of the Southern Appalachian region through education, outreach, scholarship, and artistic activities.


  • To provide community programming focusing on the preservation and promotion of Appalachian culture
  • To provide academic opportunities to LMC students and community members
  • To serve the local community as a visible and vital resource for the study of Appalachia
  • To collaborate with the greater Appalachian Community to further respect and appreciation of the region and its history and culture

Annual Programs and Events

The Stephenson Center engages the College and local community with a variety of courses on Appalachia during the academic year and during summer sessions with such offerings as Appalachian History, Appalachian Literature, Appalachian Ecology, Appalachian Documentary Production and Appalachian Photography. The Center also offers scholarly lectures, musical programs, cultural events and readings throughout the year. Each spring the Center presents Appalachian Heritage Week with activities and programs each day.

Many of the courses and programs take students into the great Appalachian Forest and to important historical and environmental sites in the mountains.

About John B. Stephenson

John B. Stephenson began his academic teaching career at Lees-McRae College in 1961. In the small town of Banner Elk he honed his teaching skills and found the two great loves of his life, Jane Ellen Baucom, who became his wife, and the mountains, which became his life. In a letter he wrote:

"I love the mountains and their people. I have felt a completeness, a sense of fulfillment here that I haven't known in other places. . . . There is a sense of doing something that needs doing. It needs doing worse here than in the flatlands. And it needs to be done by people who want to change things without changing them, if you know what I mean. Part of a way of life needs to be preserved and not sacrificed on the altar of progress."

John left the college in 1964 to pursue his doctoral degree at UNC Chapel Hill. Then with his PhD in medical sociology in hand, John moved to Kentucky in 1966 to work at the University of Kentucky. He spent the rest of his too-short life in the Bluegrass State, rising from scholar-teacher, to Appalachian Center director, dean, and eventually president of Berea College.

Scholar, teacher, humanist, administrator and caretaker of Southern Appalachia, John B. Stephenson left an enduring legacy of devoted stewardship of the mountains. 

Contact Us

Dr. Michael Joslin
Director, Stephenson Center for Appalachia