Issues by Date: August 2019

The Spires at Berry College

WHAT A SIGHT! The Spires at Berry College continuing care retirement community rises on 50 acres of Berry-leased property adjacent to Eagle Lake.

Ford Auditorium Renovation Work

Workers on scaffolding high above the Ford Auditorium floor are installing a new tongue-and-groove oak ceiling that will significantly enhance acoustics.

Workers tasked with restoring two of Berry’s most beloved campus icons – Ford Auditorium and Barnwell Chapel – have made notable strides this summer. Barnwell is expected to be completed by year’s end, while Ford should be ready in time for spring semester. Work is also progressing on The Spires at Berry College, the new continuing care retirement community rising steadily on the shores of Eagle Lake, not far from main campus.

A “wall-breaking” ceremony during Alumni Weekend served as the kickoff for the $6.3 million Ford Auditorium renovation, which will transform Berry’s signature venue for music performance into a first-class recital hall serving the college and Northwest Georgia communities. Funded by the generosity of more than 400 alumni and friends, the renovation will result in greatly enhanced acoustics, an enlarged stage and a new seating configuration, among many other improvements. Already, workers have completed renovation of adjacent music department spaces. The project, as well as Ford’s unique history, was featured in the July issue of Private University Products and News.

Like Ford, Barnwell has also benefited from the generosity of the Berry community, with 196 donors committing more than $138,000 toward the $600,000 renovation (click here if you’d like to contribute).

Barnwell Window Restoration

Alumni Work Week participants contribute “sweat equity” to the Barnwell Chapel renovation.

The comprehensive project began in March using lumber culled from Berry’s own slow-growth pines and includes replacement of exterior logs, installation of a new roof, foundation repairs, updated electrical wiring and a new handicapped-accessible entrance. In May, Al Christopher (61c) led an Alumni Work Week crew of 13 tasked with the job of restoring the chapel’s windows.

The Spires, meanwhile, continues to be on track for a 2020 opening, with drivers on Redmond Circle enjoying a commanding view of the rapidly developing community. Excitement continues to build around the project, which will operate as a financially independent, self-sustaining nonprofit separate from Berry College. Reservations for the 170 cottage and apartment-style homes now exceed 80 percent, and some residents are already relocating to Rome. The new community is expected to generate significant work and learning opportunities for Berry students.

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In the summer issue of Berry magazine, President Steve Briggs highlighted efforts to tell Berry’s story authentically and creatively through production of a new “anthem” video conveying the spirit of what makes the college special. Recently, that video debuted to rave reviews on social media, with alumni of all ages singing its praises. The title of the video, Carry on the Work, is drawn from one of Martha Berry’s final letters. Check it out above.

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Students Form Berry "B"

Berry’s newest students show their school spirit by forming a giant “B” on the Ford quad.

Fresh recognition for the quality of Berry’s education and – of course – the beauty of its campus greeted the more than 600 first-year students and transfers who reported for the beginning of the new academic year.

Once again, The Princeton Review has tapped Berry for inclusion in its annual guidebook, The Best 385 Colleges, which features less than 13 percent of America’s 3,000 four-year colleges. Praised editor-in-chief and lead author Robert Franek: “We salute Berry College for its outstanding academics, and we are truly pleased to recommend it to prospective applicants searching for their personal ‘best-fit’ college.”

Berry made numerous “best of” lists in the book, including “Most Beautiful Campus” (No. 6) and “Most Engaged in Community Service” (No. 14).

Other recent distinctions include a “best for the money” designation by College Factual – an honor made possible by the generous scholarship donations of alumni and friends – and recognition for campus beauty by the likes of Travel Channel, MSN and Trip Trivia.

We are also proud of the economics faculty’s top-30 national ranking for research productivity among liberal arts colleges. Like their colleagues in other departments across campus, these talented researchers are also dedicated teachers and mentors, often involving students in their work. Great job!

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Parker Roberts

HIGH-FLYING ASPIRATIONS: Parker Roberts assisted in the development of a powerful thruster rocket as a Goldwater Scholar working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His goal after Berry is to pursue a Ph.D. in plasma physics.

In a summer highlighted by commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – and the contributions Berry graduates made to that herculean achievement – it’s fitting that current Berry students have added their own unique contributions to the college’s NASA legacy.

Ann Fite WhitakerSenior physics and math major Parker Roberts spent his summer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on a powerful thruster rocket as Berry’s second Goldwater Scholar in as many years. Roberts was one of fewer than 500 students nationally to earn the nation’s preeminent undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

At the same time, environmental science major Amanda Tomlinson was participating in the NASA DEVELOP National Program, working with a team of individuals at Marshall Space Flight Center to monitor drought in Kenya using NASA Earth Observations. As part of the paid internship opportunity, the Berry senior was chosen to present her team’s work at the annual Earth Science Application Showcase at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Both students follow in the footsteps of such notable alumni as Ann Fite Whitaker (61C), a past Berry magazine cover subject (right) and 1978 recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award whose groundbreaking role in the space program was recounted this summer in commemorative stories by the Rome News-Tribune and Read more about the impressive group of alumni – many of them students of legendary Berry faculty member Dr. Lawrence E. McAllister – who helped propel astronauts to the moon in this Berry magazine retrospective originally published in 2010.

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Dylan Beasley Pitches for Nationals Affiliate
Elijah HirshIt’s not uncommon for college athletes to dream of a career in the professional ranks, but few ever get the opportunity to pursue that path. Count Dylan Beasley and Elijah Hirsh (19C) among that select group.

Just weeks after the completion of his junior season at Berry, Beasley (above) became the first Viking in the NCAA era selected in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. Taken in the 32nd round by the Washington Nationals, the son of longtime Berry baseball coach David Beasley got his first taste of professional baseball with the Nationals’ rookie affiliate in the Gulf Coast League but quickly earned promotion to the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League. Notably, he was the only junior in all of Division III taken in the draft. Read more.

Hirsh (right) has signed a two-year professional basketball contract with Elitzur Kiryat Ata. The club competes in Liga Leumit, one of the top Israeli basketball leagues and a member of FIBA Europe, a zone within the International Basketball Federation. Earlier this year, Hirsh capped his history-making Berry career as the 2019 Southern Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds in leading the Vikings to a 19-7 record, an NCAA program best.

While Beasley and Hirsh pursue professional success, their fellow Vikings are gearing up for another exciting year of Berry athletics. Fall semester is already off to a strong start, with preseason national rankings in volleyball, football and men’s golf. Visit for complete coverage.

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Coyote and Opposom

INTO THE WILD: Cameras installed by Dr. Chris Mowry to help document urban biodiversity spy a late-night encounter between a coyote and an opossum (above) and a red fox (below).

If you keep an eye out for Berry in the news, you may have seen Dr. Chris Mowry’s name quite a bit recently.

Mowry, an associate professor of biology, has been involved for the past year with the Urban Wildlife Information Network, a Chicago-based organization seeking to gain a greater understanding of urban biodiversity in North America. As part of this work, he has installed 40 cameras along a 50-kilometer transect from downtown Atlanta to north Fulton County.

Red FoxThese remote cameras allow researchers to see both the variety of species that live in the area and the interaction among those species. They have been gathering data since January, gaining significant insight into the species that call Georgia home.

“The project allows us to appreciate and understand urban green space and how it is important as a refuge for this urban biodiversity,” Mowry explained. “We hope that our project will influence public policy in that regard.”

Mowry’s involvement came about through his work as a founder of the Atlanta Coyote Project, an ongoing collaboration between scientists from Berry and Emory University dedicated to researching coyotes and helping the public better understand them. Learn more about Mowry’s work with UWIN in this story by WABE in Atlanta.

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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Wendy Williams teaching at the SRELC

MAKING CONNECTIONS: Wendy Grace Williams (84C, 90G) is a 2019 recipient of Kindermusik’s “Outreach” award. She is seen here giving a “high-five” to a student at the South Rome Early Learning Center.

Kathryn Nobles teaches Kindermusik

Kathryn Dugger Nobles (82C), right, has been sharing the gift of music with local children and Berry students for 30 years.

Ever wonder about the young children you see walking to and from the Ford Buildings with their parents? No, they aren’t prodigies pursuing Berry degrees – at least not yet – but they are tuning up for success with help from Kathryn Dugger Nobles (82C), Wendy Grace Williams (84C, 90G) and Kindermusik.

This fall marks 30 years since Nobles brought Kindermusik to Berry. What started as a pilot program with nine students from the Berry College Child Development Center has blossomed into multiple classes serving more than 200 children annually at four locations in Rome. Distinguished both by its size and quality of instruction, Berry ranks among the top 25 Kindermusik programs worldwide. In addition, Williams recently received Kindermusik’s “Outreach” award for her work with students at the South Rome Early Learning Center.

On Sept. 14, alumni and friends of the program will join current students and teachers for a special 30th anniversary celebration in Ford Dining Hall. The fun gets underway at 10 a.m. with an “instrument petting zoo” staged by Berry music students and continues through 1 p.m., with activities for the children and a Noon performance by the Viking Drumline. Register online.

Efforts are also underway to name the Kindermusik room in Berry’s newly renovated music department for Nobles, with gifts supporting the ongoing Ford Auditorium renovation and restoration. Visit and select “Kathryn Nobles Kindermusik Room Naming” if you wish to contribute.

Originating in Germany in the 1970s, Kindermusik combines a variety of music education methods with the goal of helping children learn. Studying musical concepts helps children gain skills that transfer to other aspects of life. For example, developing steady beat can translate to improved reading fluency, cutting with scissors or even dribbling a basketball.

“Music is such a great avenue for teaching,” Nobles expressed. “It’s universal. You can make music anywhere you go, and there’s not an age limit to it.”

Nobles, who also serves as an adjunct piano instructor for Berry students, has kept up with many of her Kindermusik graduates, proudly noting that some have gone on to careers in music, while others have become organic farmers, doctors or lawyers. Quite a few have returned as parents of children within the program, and some have attended college at Berry.

The program remains a touchstone for many, with families of college-aged children still attending concerts together after meeting through Kindermusik years earlier. And toddlers now in the program continue to wake up and excitedly ask the same question as those who came before them: “Is today a Kindermusik day?”

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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John Hills Student IDJake Hills never imagined that a summer dog-sitting job would lead to one of the biggest coincidences of his life. The senior Gate of Opportunity Scholar was walking dogs on campus when a friend suddenly spotted something on the ground outside the Laughlin Building. It turned out to be a Berry student ID card from the 1980s. The name and picture on the card? John Hills (87C), none other than Jake’s father.

When the friend said, “This is your dad,” Jake refused to believe him – until he saw it for himself.

“I was kind of boggled,” he recalled. “The odds were so low; I’ve never had anything like that happen to me.”

He told his dad over the phone and also showed his parents when he went home that weekend. His father, who now works in home security, was similarly amazed.

“They thought it was insane,” Jake said.

The takeaway: You never know what you might find when you take time to explore the world’s largest college campus!

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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