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Outside the administration: A president’s hobbies

University Business, February 2018

Knitting: Lyle Roelofs, the son of a Protestant preacher, knits sweaters with a pattern of cascading hearts he believes is unique. It’s a passion his mother taught him. Though he also makes scarves, mittens and socks for friends, family and their pets, it’s a solitary hobby—he doesn’t post on any of the online bulletin boards that draw large numbers of knitters.

Reading: An avid reader, Roelofs credits his pursuit of a degree in physics with an interest in science fiction during his childhood, a large part of which he spent in Southern California and the western U.S.

Eventually shifting from sci-fi to fantasy—in part, because he discovered “the writing is generally better”—he has read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien dozens of times.


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“It’s beautiful writing and if you’ve read it that often, an apt phrase comes to mind for any challenge, whether it’s orcs or just the need to keep putting on foot in front of the other,” Roelofs says. And he has read every book in the Game of Thrones series (multiple times) but—along with his oldest son—steadfastly refuses to watch the TV show.

Singing: Roelofs sings in and directs church choirs and has aspirations of joining Berea’s black music ensemble. He also contributes his sense of humor to the campus music scene.

“If there’s a concert here and there’s a need for a banjo joke, I get to tell it,” he says.

An example: “Banjo players spend half their time tuning their instrument, and the other half playing an instrument that’s out of tune.”

How about another: “Q: What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a banjo player?” “A: A tattoo”

Directing: The highlight of Roelofs’ musical career occurred during Berea’s Christmas concert a few years ago when the band played one of his and his wife Laurie’s favorite songs—“Sleigh Ride” by the Boston Pops.

“The band director got Laurie up to direct it and I got to do the horse whip, which you do with this clapper thing that’s two pieces of wood,” he says. “You do it three times toward the end of the song—and I missed one of them.”


Matt Zalaznick is senior associate editor of UB.