Issues by Date: January 2013

The Rev. Luis León (67A) faced the nation – literally – as the man chosen to deliver the benediction at the Jan. 21 inauguration of President Barack Obama. Addressing a crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands gathered on the National Mall and millions more watching on television, the Cuban-born immigrant echoed the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the prophet Micah as he prayed blessings over President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the American people.

A star runner at Berry Academy who later attended The University of the South and Virginia Theological Seminary, the reverend today serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., known as the “Church of the Presidents.” He has played a role in each of the last four presidential inaugurations, overseeing prayer services in 2001 and 2009 and delivering the invocation at the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.

Click the video player at right to see and hear the benediction (courtesy of PBS).

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Bald Eagles Nesting at BerryOne of the many perks of living or working at Berry is the possibility that on any given day you might see two of our newest residents – a pair of nesting bald eagles – take flight from their home high above the campus. Now, thanks to a web cam streaming live video of the nest, viewers from all over the world are joining in the fun. In just a few short weeks, the site (which also includes information about the eagles) has welcomed more than 33,000 unique visitors, some from as far away as Japan and Europe.

As first reported last March, the eagles have built a substantial nest in the top of a pine tree near the main entrance. After leaving for several months, they reappeared last fall and in November were seen mating. With an incubation period of 33 to 35 days for any eggs that might have been produced, our hope is that we will soon see offspring. View Eagle Cam.

UPDATE (Jan. 30): The eggs have hatched! Check out this story from Fox 5 Atlanta.

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Kitty and Clayton Farnham

Clayton Henson Farnham (right) and wife Kitty display a medal won by Wylie Clayton Henson (1904H), Farnham's grandfather and Berry's first graduate.

Clayton Henson Farnham never attended a class at Berry, but he still sees himself as a beneficiary of its life-changing mission. His fortunes – and those of his family – were forever changed when his grandfather, Wylie Clayton Henson (1904H), made the decision to trust Martha Berry more than a century ago.

A founding partner in his own Atlanta law firm, Farnham recently visited the Berry campus, delighting his hosts with the story of how his grandfather came to be the institution’s first graduate. He also presented the college with a special memento to be shared by the Berry Alumni Center and The Martha Berry Museum – a Demosthenian Society debate medal won by Henson as a student at the University of Georgia.

“The medallion was a tangible, hold-in-your-hand piece of what Martha Berry had kicked into forward motion,” Farnham stated. “There had been no dream of anything like that.”

Henson was a 19-year-old itinerant teacher in the backwoods of Northwest Georgia when Miss Berry happened upon him in the early days of the 20th century. Learning that the young man wished to become a lawyer, the Berry founder suggested that he pursue his dream at her new school. His interest piqued, Henson asked, “How high can you take me?” Her response: “How high do you want to go?”

Farnham’s grandfather earned his high school diploma from Berry in 1904 and later finished second in his college class at Georgia, where he displayed a keen eye for business by supplying coal for heating to his fellow students. The education he received at Berry and UGA provided the foundation for a long and successful career as a lawyer. He maintained a lifelong friendship with the woman who helped make it all possible, serving as the first president of the Berry Alumni Association and on occasion providing pro bono legal advice for her schools.

“She gave him access [to knowledge],” explained Farnham. “She showed him where the door was and put him in places to learn to use it and to do these things for himself. And, of course, there’s a tremendous amount of intellectual satisfaction in that, and he was someone who was intellectually excitable. This was his particular joy.”

Reflecting on how Martha Berry’s vision helped broaden the horizons of an entire family, Farnham noted, “Everything was different … the rest of us got started with this kind of platform behind us of standards and knowledge to be able to do well. You could certainly call it a starting point in a very real sense.”

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John Barge (88C) and Joe Cook (88C)

John Barge (88C), left, and Joe Cook (88C) are among the state's most influential leaders, according to Georgia Trend.

Two members of the Berry College class of 1988 – John Barge and Joe Cook – are included on Georgia Trend magazine’s 2013 list of the 100 most influential Georgians. John is beginning his third year as superintendent of Georgia’s public school system, while Joe is executive director and river keeper for the Coosa River Basin Initiative. Joe previously made the list in 2011; this is John’s first appearance.

According to the article, “The individuals on this 15th edition of Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential Georgians list, many you’ve heard of and a few you may not know by name, are exerting lots of influence in the worlds they inhabit – business, philanthropy, politics. They are impacting how we live, how we vote, how we buy or how we give.”

Joining the two Berry representatives are a host of recognizable names, including congressmen, senators, university presidents and successful business executives such as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. View complete list.

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Jim Owen (81C)Last summer, we were proud to report that Jim Owen (81C) had once again reached the top of his profession by leading Oglethorpe University to its second NCAA Division III men’s golf championship in four years. In December, Jim was honored for his accomplishments as the Division III recipient of the Dave Williams Award, presented annually to America’s top college golf coaches.

Jim, a standout on the basketball court while at Berry, has enjoyed tremendous success as Oglethorpe’s men’s golf coach, winning 12 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards and 10 SCAC championships in a span of 15 years. The Stormy Petrels have been equally successful at the national level, finishing in the top 12 every year since 2000. This spring, Jim’s Petrels – ranked No. 1 nationally at the end of the fall season – will join Berry in the race for golf supremacy in the newly formed Southern Athletic Association.

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Alex SorohanBerry recently received an $8,700 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to help combat issues such as underage drinking and impaired driving through participation in the Georgia Young Adult Program, which promotes education and awareness about highway safety to students on campuses statewide. Key to the grant’s receipt was freshman Alex Sorohan, whose brother died in 2009 while texting and driving. She now works closely with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and speaks regularly at conferences. Funding from the grant will be administered by the campus police department and used to educate Berry students as well as those at area high schools. For her part, Alex will be talking to Rome area students about the dangers of texting while driving. More about Alex.

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Cleanup at Oak Hill Hillside GardenOak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum is partnering with the Mount Berry Garden Club to host a special “Garden Party” luncheon Feb. 9 supporting the historic restoration of the Hillside Garden.

The garden, planted between 1927 and 1933 at the direction of Martha Berry, has become overgrown in recent years, obscuring the view of the surrounding area as well as the true topography of the plateau on which the house is built. Restoration efforts (pictured) began in the fall with help from a $3,000 matching grant presented by the Garden Club of Georgia. Project components include the removal of mahonia, privet, wisteria and other tree-choking vines from the hillside and the reintroduction of dogwoods and azaleas – a nod to the original, low-maintenance design.

The Feb. 9 luncheon is scheduled for noon to 3. It will include refreshments, music from the 1920s and tours of Oak Hill’s garden restoration progress. The cost is $25, and additional donations are encouraged. The goal is to fund the complete removal of overgrowth behind the house and restore the view that existed during Miss Berry’s lifetime.

Email Oak Hill Director Tim Brown with questions or to make reservations.

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When Brian (97C) and Jodi Hawkins (98C) Tuten set out from Arizona in July 2011 to see the country and strengthen their family bond, it was only natural to question whether their self-described “Funhog Family 50 State Challenge” would be a success. After all, they were traveling with five (now six) children, and let’s face it – if visiting all 50 states was easy, everyone would do it. Guess what? THEY DID IT!

After covering 39 states (including a stop at Berry) by September 2011 and nine more in early 2012, the Tutens completed their quest in October with trips to Alaska and Hawaii. Afterward, Brian wrote:

“So, what did we learn from the experience? We found out that we absolutely love hanging out in extremely close proximity, as we live life as a family. We love having countless adventures planned and unplanned on the horizon, being part of nature spending most of our time in God’s creation, watching God move over and over again, and meeting the most incredible people who opened their homes and hearts to us.”

Learn more about their adventures on the Funhog Family blog, where you will also find photos and video from each stop along the way.

Congrats Funhogs! We’ll never doubt you again.

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In the December issue of the Alumni Accent, we decided to have a little fun by asking you to recall your most vivid memories of finals week. Not surprisingly, the most popular response (43 percent of all votes tallied) was late night study sessions (we’re assuming at Waffle House). Next was the feeling of relief at the end of the week (37 percent). Third was relaxing with friends after exams (9 percent), followed by goody packages from home (7 percent) and looking forward to the break (4 percent).

Inspiration for our January question comes from a recently completed week of student activities focusing on what others do for us. In that spirit, please scroll to the bottom of the blog and let us know what you are most thankful for when it comes to your Berry student experience. Choose up to two (or all of the above).

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