Class Mentors


Rev. Brian Cole

Rev. Brian Cole, a native of southeast Missouri, serves as the coordinator of the Sabbath Project in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The Sabbath Project seeks to build bridges between congregations and parishes in western North Carolina and the environmental movement. Prior to the Sabbath Project, Brian served on the AMERC educational staff from 1992 to 1998. Rev Cole has led immersion courses throughout the Appalachian region and has lectured on 70 seminary campuses in the US on issues concerning rural context and community, ecology and Christian discipleship, and ecological concern and the mission of the Church. He also serves as a consultant with the Environmental Leadership Center at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina.

Brian received a B.A. in Economics from Murray State University (Murray, Kentucky) and his M.Div. From Southern Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). He served as a rural pastor in central Kentucky. Brian is a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. He resides in Black Mountain, North Carolina, with his wife, Susan Weatherford. Brian's son, Jess, is 4 years old.

Brian's articles and essays have appeared in the following publications: Aging and Spirituality, Appalachian Heritage, The Gospel and our Culture, Lutheran Theological Seminary Bulletin, Creation Care, The Green Pulpit Journal, The Iron Mountain Review, and Heartstone.


Dr. Lon Oliver

Dr. Lon Oliver is the Executive Director of AMERC. He has been a mentor for AMERC since 2001.

Lon is also serving the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky as the Kentucky Appalachian Ministry (KAM) Associate Regional Minister. KAM is a cooperative mission of Homeland Ministries and the Christian Church in Kentucky on behalf of the whole church through Kentucky Appalachian congregations. This ministry is focused on meeting the social, economic, educational and spiritual needs of people in the area, as well as serving the wider Church by sharing distinctive gifts and experiences from the people and their congregations. In addition, Lon is also serving as the Small Membership Congregation Consultant for the rural church.

Lon grew up in Casper, Wyoming and attended Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon where he received his undergraduate degree. Lon then received both his Master and Doctor of Divinity degrees from Lexington Theological Seminary in 1997 and 1998 respectively.


Dr. Bennett (Ben) Poage

Dr. Poage is consultant to AMERC for institutional advancement and financial management. he served as Executive Director of AMERC from 2000 to 2004 and as AMERC's Interim Executive Director in 1999. Ben has mentored the Central Appalachian J-term, sponsored by Columbia Theological Seminary, since 1987. In addition, he taught the Family Farm Ministry course and coordinated the experiential learning site placements for the summer term from 1987 to 1999.

Ben is a graduate of the University of Missouri, with a degree in Agricultural Economics. He received the M.Div. degree from Lexington Theological Seminary in 1968, and the D.Min. Degree from LTS in 1992. Dr. Poage's D.Min. project was a manuscript for publication entitled The Tobacco Church: A Manual for Congregational Leaders. From 1986 until his retirement in 1999, Ben served as an Associate Regional Minister of the Christian Church in Kentucky for Kentucky Appalachian Ministry.

Ben has more than 35 years of varied ecumenical and Appalachian community-related experience. He founded the Human/Economic Appalachia Development (HEAD) Corporation in Berea, KY, and now serves as its Board President. He has also served as staff for the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) in Knoxville, TN.

In addition to editing two editions of The Tobacco Church: A Manual for Congregational Leaders, Ben also wrote a chapter on the Church and Family Farm Ministry in Central Appalachia in Christanity in Appalachia and has recently authored The Church in Central Appalachia 1990 - 2000: A Study of Membership and Religous Bodies.


Rev. Pauline Binkley Cheek

Currently Rev. Cheek serves on the Core Leadership of the Advent Spirituality Center and helps lead a Micah 6 Project under the Bonner Scholars Foundation. A native of North Carolina, Pauline earned a BA from Wake Forest University in 1956, a M.A.T. in English from Duke University in 1957, and an M.Div. From Earlham School of religion in 1992. Pauline served on the adjunct faculty at Mars Hill College, directed the Appalachian Room of the library, and worked with the Personal Development Seminar Program. She has also worked extensively with youth through 4-H. This is the fourth year for Pauline to serve on the AMERC faculty.

Pauline's ordination by Mars Hill Baptist Church in 2001 was the fulfillment of a call to ministry which she felt since childhood. She engaged in Appalachian studies, including participation in the Appalachian Studies Association, the Appalachian Consortium, and Berea's Appalachian Summer Seminar. Prompted by a seminar in biography at the National Humanities Foundation and the National Oral History Association, Pauline conducted numerous oral history projects, helping Appalachians tell their stories, and she received four North Caroline Humanities grants and two Appalachian Fellowships from Berea College. She spent one year doing research at J.C. Campbell Folkschool in Brasstown, NC, and another at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky.

Pauline's publications include an article in: NOW & THEN, NORTH CAROLINA LIBRARY JOURNAL, AN APPALACHIAN SCRAPBOOK, a history of the hooked-rug industry in Madison County, NC, and with Brian Cole, "The Call of Place in Denise Giardina's Saints and Villains," THE IRON MOUNTAIN REVIEW, XV (Spring 1999)


Fr. John S. Rausch

Fr. John S. Rausch, a Glenmary priest, writes and teaches from his base in Berea, Kentucky. A frequent consultant with local development groups for more than 25 years, he has organized three worker-owned businesses in Central Appalachia. To serve the business needs of Appalachian cooperatives in the 1970s he organized the Mountain Management Institute. He has conducted numerous tours of Appalachia, and served as teaching staff for AMERC from 1994-1999.

John international experience includes teaching with Coady International Institute, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and conducting workshops in Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti. With a masters in economics, he writes a monthly syndicated column called "Faith and the Marketplace" that appears in 24 Catholic newspapers. John's hobbies include jogging and cooking.


Rev. Frank E. Hare

Frank Hare is a "native-born, life-long Appalachian" who became "native-born" in the 1960s when the Appalachian Regional Commission boundaries were established and "life-long" in the 1990s when Columbiana County, Ohio, where he had served for 13 years, was added to the region. He has worked fifty years with small membership congregations ranging from 8 to 75 members in various parish and cooperative ministry arrangements involving 2, 3 and 4 congregations. Some of this 50 years has been concurrent with fifteen years of service with the Presbyterian/Reformed Coalition for Appalachian Ministry, three summers of administering the AMERC internship program and twelve years as Mayor of Amesville, Ohio. Frank received his B.A. from Muskingum College in 1952, A.BD from Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary in 1955 (replaced with M.Div. in 1965) and an M.Th. from Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary in 1958. Continuing Education includes: Mission Conferences, Appalachian Ministry Seminars, Rural Church Network and Bangor Seminary Small Membership Church Conferences. Frank's family includes his wife, Catherine, 5 children and 11 grandchildren.


Dr. Robert L. Doty

Bob Doty is a life-long Appalachian who was born and grew up within a few miles of the AMERC offices.  After earning a Doctorate at the University of Kentucky, he has participated in post-doctoral programs at the University of London (England) and an archeological study program in Jerusalem.  He taught many years at Campbellsville College in Kentucky, where he retired in 2006 and is now Emeritus Professor.  He has since twice been Director of a London Summer School for a consortium of 39 universities and colleges. Dr. Doty also has served on 16 regional accreditation reaffirmation teams for various colleges and universities and served as chair for five of those teams.  He has also been active in professional public service, having carious leadership roles for the Kentucky Humanities Coucil, Elderhostel, historical societies, and college consortia.  Currently he serves on the editorial board of "The Campbellsville Review," and the Georgetown College (KY) Board of Trustees, and serves as Chaplain at Camp Roy C. Manchester, at Benton, KY, for the Lincoln Heritage Council, BSA.