Issues by Date: February 2012

The Berry Alumni Association welcomed a new crop of members at December’s fall commencement ceremony, and Board of Trustees Chair Karen Holley Horrell (74C) was among those on hand to help send Berry’s newest graduates out into the world.

In her remarks, Karen spoke of the gifts – both expected and unexpected – that a college experience can provide. As an example, she cited the late Steve Jobs, who never finished college but spoke passionately about the appreciation a calligraphy course inspired for the grace and beauty of fonts and how that experience contributed to the design of the many Apple devices that now populate our society.

A total of 120 graduates received bachelor’s, master’s or educational specialist degrees during the ceremony, among them Sarah Bridenbaugh (11C), an animal science major who recently interned at the Georgia Aquarium and is now in the Bahamas conducting research as part of a shark lab. Click here to read her story. More commencement coverage.

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Storm Damage near the Original CabinOn April 27, alumni were stunned to see television images of downed trees and damaged buildings after a freak storm struck the Berry campus. Eight months later, on Dec. 22, Mother Nature struck again, this time downing more than 100 trees on the grounds of Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum. The storm, which included a tornado, also caused damage to the museum roof, Original Cabin and gift shop as it cut a swath across Rome and neighboring counties. Thankfully, no one on the grounds was hurt during the storm, and Martha Berry’s historic home and its adjacent outbuildings escaped damage. Coverage.

In the aftermath of the April storm, a Tree Replacement Fund was established to help renew the natural beauty of Berry’s campus. To date, more than $65,000 has been donated, 75 percent of which has come from alumni. Nearly 90 percent of the 559 donors are alumni. We offer heartfelt thanks to all who have given for making this effort your own!

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The Southern Athletic Association won’t officially begin play until this fall, but its ranks have already grown by two thanks to the addition of the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis as affiliate members for football. These two institutions join Berry and seven other highly regarded, academically focused liberal arts colleges in the new NCAA Division III athletic conference, which formed last June.

Both the University of Chicago and Washington University have impressive academic credentials, ranking among the top 15 national universities, according to U.S. News and World Report. They also have a long history on the gridiron, dating back to the 1890s. Their affiliate membership begins in 2015, two years after football is scheduled to debut at Berry.

“This is exactly the kind of opportunity we hoped for when we made the decision to add football at Berry,” said President Steve Briggs. “We look forward to hosting the University of Chicago and Washington University on campus here in Rome.” Read more.

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Harry MusselwhiteFor decades, Harry Musselwhite has provided inspiration for students in Berry’s choral program, so it’s only fitting that a performance by the Berry Singers ignited the creative spark that grew into his award-winning short film, Der Greis. Based on a choral work by Franz Joseph Haydn, Harry’s cinematic creation earned a special merit award for outstanding musical score at the 2012 Winter Shorts Film Festival in Kentucky. The production stars Dr. John Countryman as a man transitioning from life to death. Lyndsay Ricketson (09C) is also featured.

Harry recently debuted his second film, Next of Kin, at a screening in Atlanta. It will be a featured work at the Macon (Ga.) Film Festival, Feb. 16-19. More coverage.

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This photo, mailed by Sean Durity's grandfather in 1944, arrived 67 years later, just in time to provide comfort to his ailing grandmother in the final weeks of her life.

Sean Durity (93C) may not be a full-time writer, but that doesn’t diminish the power of his prose. Last year, a story he wrote about the eternal bond shared by his late grandparents touched hearts around the globe after being published by Yahoo! and shared via social media. His account was so moving that it was selected from thousands of nominees as one of five winners in the Yahoo! Contributor Network’s 2011 Content of the Year contest.

“Sometimes a story is so unusual that it travels around the world seemingly in a split second,” wrote Y! Jelena, the community coordinator for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. “That was the case when Sean told the story of a package [see accompanying photo], delivered 67 years late, that came just in time to comfort his grandmother in her last weeks of life.”

Sean marvels at the more than 700,000 page views generated by his story, which was featured on the Yahoo! front page the same day as the royal wedding. The husband and father of three took up freelance writing as a hobby/experiment in 2011, first detailing his daughter’s struggles with mitochondrial disease. He has since published approximately 60 articles on various Yahoo! pages. When he’s not writing, Sean works as a lead database administrator for The Home Depot. He and his family live in Mableton, Ga. More coverage.

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M. Gordon Keown (far left), Henry Ford and Martha Berry participate in a worship service in the Berry College Chapel during the mid 1930s.

Mount Berry Church will commemorate 100 years of worship, prayer, Bible study and fellowship during a special service Sunday, Feb. 19. If you are one of the countless alumni whose lives have been enriched through participation in Berry’s on-campus congregation, we hope you will make plans to join us for the 7 p.m. service in the Berry College Chapel. The celebration will feature remarks by Dr. Will Willimon, as well as a historical display and time for fellowship. For more details, contact Jonathan Huggins, interim chaplain and pastor, at or 706-378-2878.

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After three stellar seasons as the head women’s golf coach at Tulane University, former Berry All-American John Thomas Horton (99C) has accepted a new challenge as head coach of the first women’s golf team at Clemson University. J.T. (pictured) twice won Conference USA Coach of the Year honors at Tulane, where he resurrected a program that was halted after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. During his tenure with the Green Wave, J.T. led his team to two conference championships, three NCAA regionals and two national tournaments. In each of his three seasons, he coached the Conference USA Player of the Year.

J.T. is one of a growing fraternity of Berry alumni who have found success as college golf coaches. Others include Brian Farrer (02C, 04G), head men’s and women’s coach at Berry; Todd Lawton (92C), head men’s and women’s coach at the University of South Carolina Upstate; Larry Mays (97C), head men’s coach at Georgia Southern University; Jim Owen (81C), director of men’s and women’s golf at Oglethorpe University; John Maupin (07C), head men’s and women’s coach at Lee University; Blake Smart (04C, 06G), assistant men’s coach at the University of Oklahoma; Jason DeJiacomo (07C), assistant men’s and women’s coach at Berry; Jayne Curtis-Maupin (10C), assistant women’s coach at Lee University; Nicole Wildes (06C), assistant women’s coach at the College of Coastal Georgia; and Damon Stancil (99C), volunteer assistant women’s coach at North Georgia College and State University.

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School spirit, friendly competition and gratitude toward alumni were all components of Berry’s third-annual celebration of student philanthropy, Firsthand4You Week. Planned and executed by student leaders in Berry’s Firsthand4You program, the weeklong event is meant to help students better understand the critical need for alumni support and how that support supplements the cost of their Berry education. Highlights included the “Silver Wars” competition won by the junior class, a “Philanthropy 101” course taught by Randy Tibbals (79C) and John Zellars, a basketball tailgate, a Koffee House concert and – capping the week – the annual Founder’s Dinner for students and alumni. Watch the video to learn more.

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A pioneering group of alumnae will return home Feb. 11 for a special ceremony honoring the incredible achievements of the 1976 women’s basketball team, the first in Berry history to win a national championship. Until the Clayton State University Lady Lakers won last year’s NCAA Division II national tournament, these women stood alone as the only women’s basketball team from a four-year institution in Georgia to claim a national crown. Team members will be honored at a morning brunch attended by current Lady Vikings and again at halftime of Saturday afternoon’s home game with LaGrange College.

Alumni can attend the 2 p.m. game free of charge by contacting the Office of Alumni Relations at 706-236-2256 or by Feb. 10. Those who do not RSVP will be admitted to the game for a small fee.

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Senior animal science major Jenny Smolek traveled to San Francisco in early December as one of 12 finalists in Project Green Challenge, a nationwide sustainability contest. Approximately 2,600 college and high school students took part in the competition, which offered participants the opportunity to earn points by completing a “green” challenge each day during the month of October. Jenny joined finalists from Johns Hopkins University, Indiana University and other colleges and secondary schools at the two-day eco-summit that climaxed the competition.

“It was amazing!” Jenny said. “We heard informative and inspirational speeches from various eco-heroes. We were also able to collaborate with them to develop programs that we can implement on our campuses and [at] other schools nationwide.”

This academic year, Jenny is one of 14 Berry students taking part in a unique experiment in green living – the Berry Environmental Living and Learning (BELL) House. The pilot program provides students with the opportunity to live together in an environmentally responsible manner while also promoting sustainability through outreach efforts across campus. More coverage.

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The votes are in! No, not for the presidential race – for the new Alumni Accent redesign! Thanks to our new template, we are now able to feature a poll question in the footer of each issue. In December, we solicited your thoughts on the Accent’s new look, and we are happy to report that 64 percent of all those who responded rated the publication Excellent or Good. The remaining 36 percent chose Okay, but I preferred the old design. Though no one chose Poor or Needs Improvement, we will continue to tweak the publication in an attempt to better serve Berry alumni. In this issue, for example, we’ve added the ability to “share” stories across various social media platforms.

Thanks to all those who participated in the December poll. To offer your opinion on this month’s question – How do you prefer to learn about Berry news, upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and other college initiatives? – simply scroll to the bottom of this page and pick the answer of your choice. We’ll share the results in the next issue!

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