One of SCC’s original faculty members, Hal Berry, is just as passionate today about bringing education to life for his students as he was when he started at SCC in 1987.
A professor of both history and theater, Berry will tell you he considers himself a teacher first. “Beyond all the creative things I have done on campus, my basic job is to try to educate Americans to the best of my ability,” Berry said.
“I was inspired by my parents,” he said. “My father regularly organized community events, and my mother had a love of history and a passion for telling stories about history.”
Berry’s own higher education began at a community college, while he also was serving in the U.S. Navy. After attaining a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a couple of years of high school teaching experience, he took his first community college job at West Shore Community College in Scottville, Mich.
He was teaching social sciences there, but soon found himself also directing cultural arts events, something he enjoyed as well. To attain more knowledge about the entertainment industry, he worked a short stint in Las Vegas as an intern with the assistant entertainment director for the Hilton Hotels and observed the creation of a major stage production starring television personality and actress Suzanne Somers. When he returned to West Shore Community College, he was named the first managing director of its cultural arts series.
With this combined experience, Hal has been putting his talents to use teaching social sciences and producing/directing arts events and theater at community colleges ever since.
Well-liked by students both in and out of the classroom, Hal has produced and managed cultural events at three different community colleges and managed a professional company, Mid-American Theatre Company. He also has written the scripts for a half dozen musical reviews, such as “Sinatra, A Man and His Music,” “The Music of Glenn Miller” and “Hats Off to Hollywood,” which he produced and directed for the opening of SCC’s Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building.
“I’m always looking for creative ways to bring a message about humanity or history to students,” he said.
When Hal’s father passed away in 1984, he moved closer to home. And after working a couple years at East Central College, he became one of the first faculty members at SCC when the college began holding classes in 1987.
In 2011, with the help of faculty, staff and community veterans, Hal hosted SCC’s first weeklong, multi-event campus and community Veterans Day celebration to pay tribute to the men and women in the military.
As part of SCC’s Veterans Week, he wrote his first full-length play, “United We Stand: Call to Victory,” recreating the patriotic radio shows of World War II. The events drew a number of community and veterans groups to campus and included a flagpole ceremony with a 21-Gun Salute, a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” and a bugler performance of “Taps.”
“Events like these give students and others on campus an opportunity to be a part of something important,” he said. “We become better people.”
Over the years, he’s directed several Center Stage Theatre productions, including, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Diary of Ann Frank,” “Black Elk Speaks” and “A Piece of my Heart.” He also has spearheaded some community-wide theater events, including the History Expo and History Theatre Festival, which turned biography into live drama, highlighting events, issues and historical figures of the past.
Berry is celebrating more than 40 years as a teacher. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, he holds three master’s degrees in history, film and theater.
“Community Colleges are the ultimate in democracy. If you truly believe that all Americans should have a chance to fulfill their dreams, then a community college is a perfect fit,” Berry said.