Music Icon Janis Ian Chose Berea College for Her Archives Due to Their Shared Values


Music Icon Janis Ian Chose Berea College

For Her Archives Due to Their Shared Values


Fans, Scholars, and Music Professionals

Donate Generously

To the Janis Ian Archive Fund


Archives Will Be Open to the Public in 2024

BEREA, Ky. — A music icon like Janis Ian, winner of two GRAMMY Awards and a 2023 Folk Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, could have given her massive personal and musical archives to nearly any college. However, not every college shares the same core values she’s lived by, and written of, all her life – but Berea College in Kentucky does. Their shared beliefs center on inclusivity, “learning without borders,” and, of course, creativity.
One of Berea College’s claims to fame is being the first integrated, co-educational college in the South — and it hasn’t charged tuition since 1892. The college has also long been LGBTQ+ friendly and has an impressive history of social justice. The free tuition is partly due to generation donations from supporters such as Ian and her wife, who havepreviously raised and donated more than $625,000 for scholarship funds through their Pearl Foundation. Now, fans can give back to Ian in a new way by donating to the in-progress Janis Ian Archives at Berea College via the Janis Ian Archives Fund.
“I’ve been floored by the response to this effort! We created the Archives Fund because I wanted to make sure no one felt we were taking funds away from what’s needed to support the students and scholarships,” says Ian.
She became aware of Berea College shortly after forming the Pearl Foundation in 2000. (They closed the Foundation after 21 years, having endowed more than $1,250,000.00 in scholarships along the way.) Ian was speaking with her friend, legendary songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler, who graduated from Berea in 1955. “Billy Edd said ‘If you’re going to be giving out scholarship money, Janis, you ought to give some to Berea!’” Ian’s wife Pat was also aware of the school and when asked, “just raved about how great it was.”
“I can’t think of a better place to house my life’s work,” says Ian. The artist, who is the subject of a forthcoming documentary about her life and career, also likes that the college already has a significant archive department, including the collections of author and activist bell hooks and Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie, “who I knew and admired admire greatly,” Ian said.
PBS NewsHour – How this Kentucky college offers education without financial burden
Berea College was recently featured on PBS NewsHour in a segment titled “How this Kentucky College Offers Education Without Financial Burden” as part of the public television network’s “Rethinking College” series. The special explains how the college was founded by an abolitionist minister in 1855 to give all people in the Appalachian area educational opportunities.
“We are very lucky that we have a very I would call it a courageous, brave history behind us. Pre-Civil War, when Kentucky was still a slave-owning state, that emerged and was successful and said we need to serve students in the region,” Berea College President Cheryl Nixon told PBS. Today, Berea not only offers free tuition but also provides students with free laptops as well as medical and dental care on campus. After seeing the PBS segment, Ian said, “THIS is why I’ve donated my archives to Berea College!”
Pieces collected by Janis Ian
for her archives at Berea College.
Top: “At Seventeen” notes for an appearance on the “Tonight Show”
Bottom: Janis’ songbooks
Ian’s archives will open to the public in Fall, 2024, and will serve as a unique resource for music history research. Among the thousands of items in the collection are contracts of all types (i.e., recording, publishing, touring, etc.) beginning in 1964 with Ian’s first contract when she was just 13 years old, paperwork about the House Un-American Archives Committee and copies of her family’s FBI files (including one kept on Ian, then age 15!), song notebooks, personal diaries, works in progress, and correspondence with fellow artists, famous friends, and collaborators including Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Willie Nelson, Mel Torme, and Chick Corea,.
Adds Ian, “I thought that if you really want to educate people about a career in the music industry, or in the arts, let them see what’s behind the scenes, too – show them contracts for records, albums, movies, licenses, all 60 years’ worth of negotiations!”
Unlike other artists who’ve recently made headlines by selling their archives to the highest bidder, Ian’s archives are “completely donated – and not even a tax deduction,” she assures us. Her only condition? That they be open to the public, and not just to academics.
To donate to the Janis Ian Archives, visit:
For more information on Janis Ian, visit