Tag Archives: Al Christopher

Alumni Weekend Brochure

Whit Whitaker

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients include Whit Whitaker (81C), former Berry chief of staff and U.S. Navy officer, now president of King University.

The end of another academic year is fast approaching, meaning Alumni Weekend can’t be far behind. Hundreds of alumni will return home to Berry on May 17-19 for reunions honoring the high school, college and academy classes of 1954, 1959, 1964 and 1969. A dinner for the college class of 1961 will also be held.

The fun gets under way Friday, May 17, with reunion dinners and continues through Sunday. Highlights include the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards and Golden Guard dinner on Saturday night.

Recipients of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards include:

  • Achievement: Alexander “Whit” Whitaker (81C, FFS)
  • Service: Rebekah “Bekah” Fortney Baxter (18C)
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Timothy Brian Lusby (84C)
  • Outstanding Young Alumni: Adam Douglas Newton (07C)

Winners will be honored alongside the academy and college classes of 1969, which will be inducted into the Golden Guard in recognition of the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Berry.

Alumni Weekend concludes with Sunday worship services and a closing reception for the Oak Hill exhibit, From Tree to Treasure: Woodturnings by Al Christopher (61c). The scene then shifts to Alumni Work Week, another grand Berry tradition, which continues through May 24.

Click the links below for online registration.

Alumni Weekend

Alumni Work Week

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Al Christopher’s talents as a woodworker are evident all over the Berry campus – you just have to know where to look. Numerous projects completed by Alumni Work Week participants and friends in the Berry College class of 1961 reflect his trademark craftsmanship, as does the beautiful new Christopher Browning Pavilion at Oak Hill.

Recently, friends and family celebrated the opening of a new exhibit at The Martha Berry Museum – “From Tree to Treasure: Woodturnings by Al Christopher” – showcasing a different side of his creativity and artistry.

Al Christopher (61c) with some of his creations

Al Christopher (61c) has been prolific in his art since taking up woodturning in retirement. Select pieces are now on display at The Martha Berry Museum.

It was only in retirement that Christopher took up woodturning, which involves the use of a lathe and hand tools to create works of art. He refuses the title artist, preferring “hobbyist” instead, but the skills used to produce the pieces on display at Oak Hill – many Berry inspired – are undeniable.

“Over the past 14 years, he has gone from being a slightly interested party to someone who lives and breathes this medium, said Rachel McLucas (12C), curator of The Martha Berry Museum. “One of the things that is so evident in this collection is the enjoyment woodworking brings to him. He has a long career in millwork and contracting that has informed his work in unique ways.

“I think whenever anyone approaches this exhibition they’re going to walk away surprised even if they know him and are familiar with his work,” she added. “There are just so many hidden treats within it.”

The exhibition runs through May. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Click here to see examples of his work.

Look for more on Al and Becky Browning (61C) Christopher in the fall issue of Berry magazine, due out in a few short weeks.

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Mountain Day BannerThere’s no denying that the very best Berry experiences are those that bring us together. That’s certainly true of Mountain Day! From the Mountain Day Olympics to the Grand March to the gifts of pennies students drop in the basket at the foot of Lavender Mountain, everything about this grand Berry tradition revolves around our powerful sense of togetherness.

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the things we have planned for this year’s celebration, which is just a few weeks away. Visit berry.edu/mountainday for a complete schedule (be sure to note special dedications honoring legendary faculty members Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C) and the late Dr. Peter Lawler).

As you make your plans, we hope you’ll symbolically join our students in the Mountain Day tradition of giving – it is Martha’s birthday, after all – by supporting crowdfunding projects and other special initiatives. Watch for more information as the event date draws closer.

Reunion BrunchClass Reunions and Related Activities

High School/Academy Reunion Brunch (10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Hill Dining Hall): Classes of 1973, 1978 and 1983. Registration is $15 for individuals, $25 for couples and $5 for children 6 to 16; cost covers brunch, Mountain Day T-shirt and admission to Saturday night football game. Coffee will be served at 9:30, brunch at 10:30. Register.

College Reunion Brunch (10:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, WinShape Hub): Classes of 19731978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008. Registration details are same as above. Register.

Berry football team takes field at Valhalla. 2013C Reunion (Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Schroeder’s Deli on Broad St.): Dutch treat; couple and individual price packages available for Mountain Day T-shirts and football tickets. Register.

Milestone Class Reunion Tailgate (3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Dickey Field adjacent to Valhalla stadium) and Football Game (6 p.m. kickoff vs. Sewanee): Mountain Day football is back! While all alumni are invited to the game, members of our milestone reunion classes (1978, 1993 and 2008) also have the option of attending a free pregame tailgate. Game tickets can be obtained by registering for reunion events above or purchased separately for $6 apiece at berrygameday.com. A huge crowd is expected, so get your tickets early! RSVP.

Other Notable Events

Mountain Day Golf Scramble (Noon, Friday, Oct. 5, Stonebridge Golf Club): Registration is $95 per person. Contact Brian Farrer (02C) at 706-238-5904 for details. Register.

Carl Tallent

Carl Tallent (01C)

Berry College Theatre Company Presents Neil Simons’ Rumors (showtimes all three days at Sisters Theatre): Features scenic designs by Carl Tallent (01C). Tickets are $12 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $6 for students. Call 706-236-2263 or visit berry.edu/bctc-tickets.

Examples of Al Christopher's Berry-inspired woodturnings.

Examples of Al Christopher’s Berry-inspired woodturnings.

From Tree to Treasure (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum): Don’t miss this exhibit showcasing the woodturning artistry of Al Christopher (61c). Admission is free.

Alumni Choir Concert (2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7, Ford Auditorium): Alumni under the direction of guest conductors Ross Magoulas (FFS) and Harry Musselwhite (FFS) will lift their voices in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Berry Singers, founded by Magoulas in 1958. A reunion lunch will be held at noon ($30 registration; $15 for each additional participant). Contact Dr. Paul Neal for more information. Register for lunch.

Special thanks to Plainville Brick Company for providing support for this year’s Mountain Day celebration. These longtime friends of Berry provided bricks for several campus buildings, so it’s only fitting that they now step forward as Mountain Day’s first community sponsor.

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Al and Becky Browning Christopher are all smiles at the dedication of the new event pavilion bearing their names.

Al and Becky Browning Christopher are all smiles at the dedication of the new event pavilion bearing their names.

A beautiful addition to Oak Hill – as functional as it is breathtaking – has enhanced the ability of Martha Berry’s historic estate to serve as a front door to Berry. The Christopher Browning Pavilion was dedicated at Alumni Weekend, a dream realized for two members of the Berry College class of 1961 who poured so much of themselves into it, Al and Becky Browning Christopher.

Made possible by a $1 million gift from the couple, the stunning 5,760-square-foot pavilion is nestled just down the hill from the Oak Hill home, only 100 yards from the site of the historic cabin where the vision for the Berry Schools was born. With its exposed juniper beams and full-lite exterior wooden doors, the structure is a showcase for Al’s considerable talents as an artist. In fact, he created many of the building’s most breathtaking elements at his woodworking shop in Florida, up to and including the cupola on the roof.

The resulting facility blends perfectly with its surroundings while accommodating up to 300 guests, depending on configuration. Features include a full catering kitchen and the ability to be used as an open-air pavilion or closed air-conditioned space.

Speaking for the couple, Al praised the educational experience Berry continues to provide and offered thanks to the many members of the project team who helped bring his vision to life, among them fellow alumni, college staff, current Berry students and external partners.

“One thing I have learned since being involved in several projects at Berry is that students are still being taught to use their heads, hearts and hands,” he said. “Becky and I do believe in what Berry is doing to prepare students for meaningful careers, and that’s why we’re involved alumni. I am honored and humbled for the credit given to me for having a hand in planning and building this building. It would be very selfish for me not to thank the many folks who made this possible.”

Al’s woodworking expertise will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at The Martha Berry Museum. Watch for more details in an upcoming issue.

One local planner described the new pavilion as “all the buzz” locally, with 35 events scheduled to date, including seven weddings. Call 706-368-6789 or email oakhillevents@berry.edu for details on reservations and scheduling.

Related links: Local news coverage; photo gallery.

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A leader in forensic drug chemistry research, a learned historian and dedicated Berry servant, an award-winning journalist, and a skilled woodworker and successful entrepreneur topped the list of award winners recognized at Alumni Weekend. The 2018 recipients of Berry’s Distinguished Alumni Awards included:

  • Dr. C. Randall Clark (67C), professor of medicinal chemistry at Auburn University, Distinguished Achievement
  • Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C), coordinator of public history program and associate professor at Kennesaw State University, Berry campus preservationist, Distinguished Service
  • Al Christopher (61c), talented craftsman, enterprising founder of several businesses in construction and other fields, Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Aitana Vargas (03C), Spanish-language journalist and broadcaster, holds master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, Outstanding Young Alumni
Kay Williams and Tim Howard

Kay Williams, Tim Howard

Other honors presented at Alumni Weekend included the following special distinctions bestowed by the Berry Alumni Association:

  • Tim Howard (82C) – Alumni Council Lifetime Membership
  • Kay Williams – Alumni Association President’s Award

Three classes also earned recognition for reunion giving, including an impressive trifecta by the much-heralded college class of 1958:

  • 1958C – Reunion Cup (percentage attendance), Viking Cup (giving participation) and Ford Cup (dollars given)
  • 1968C –  Martha Cup (percentage increase in giving participation)
  • 1948C – Heritage Cup (increase in planned giving commitments)

Special thanks to the hundreds of alumni and friends who turned out for Alumni Weekend, and congratulations to the classes of 1968A and 1968C, this year’s inductees into Berry’s Golden Guard.

Related Links: Alumni Weekend Class Photos

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2018 Alumni Award Winners

Above: Winners of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards include, from left, Aitana Vargas (03C), Outstanding Young Alumni; Al  Christopher (61c), Entrepreneurial Spirit; Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C), Service; Dr. Charles Randall Clark (67C), Achievement.

Presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Awards (winners pictured above) is one of many highlights planned for Alumni Weekend 2018. Others include dedication of the Oak Hill Pavilion, a new 5,760-square-foot event space on the grounds of Martha Berry’s famed estate, and reunions for the high school, academy and college classes of 1953, 1958, 1963 and 1968.

The fun gets under way Friday, May 18, with the annual Alumni Golf Scramble and continues through the weekend. The pavilion dedication and Alumni Awards presentation will take place Saturday, May 19, with reunion gatherings scheduled across both days. Complementing the milestone reunions will be a dinner for the class of 1961C and a breakfast gathering for the college classes of 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953.

Alumni Weekend concludes with Sunday worship services May 20, just in time for another grand Berry tradition – Alumni Work Week – to begin.

Recipients of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards include:

  • Achievement:Dr. Charles Randall Clark (67C)
  • Service: Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C)
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Al Christopher (61c)
  • Outstanding Young Alumni: Aitana Vargas (03C)

They will be honored Saturday night along with the academy and college classes of 1968, which will join the ranks of Berry’s Golden Guard.

Schedule and online registration: Alumni Weekend, Alumni Work Week

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Hundreds of alumni and friends made the pilgrimage home to Berry for Alumni Weekend and Work Week.

This year’s Alumni Weekend celebration featured reunions for the college, high school and academy classes of 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967. Highlights included Golden Guard induction for 1967 alumni and special recognition for reunion classes achieving notable success in participation and giving. The class of 1967C earned two such distinctions, the Viking Cup and Martha Cup, for giving participation and greatest percentage increase in annual giving, respectively. The Class of 1962H claimed the Ford Cup for total gifts, while the class of 1967A won the Reunion Cup for percentage in attendance. Class reunion photos.

Individual recognition went to recent Berry retiree Rose Nix, the institution’s newest honorary alumna; former Alumni Association President Dr. Randy Green (37H, 41C), the 2017 recipient of the Virginia R. Webb Exceptional Service Award; and Al (61c) and Becky (61C) Christopher, winners of the Alumni Association’s President’s Award.

Once the reunion dinners wound down and the various awards had been presented, the focus turned to one of Berry’s most unique traditions, Alumni Work Week, which this year featured approximately 175 participants and 17 different work crews. More coverage.

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Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum long has been a favorite gathering spot and event location for Berry alumni, the campus community, local residents and tourists. This spring, ground was broken on a new pavilion that will make the historic estate an even more ideal location for weddings, seminars, corporate meetings and other types of events.

Planned for completion later this fall, the pavilion is a dream realized for Al Christopher (61c), a longtime crew chief for Alumni Work Week whose woodworking expertise will be reflected in the juniper beams, full-lite doors and other elegant features of the 5,760 square-foot structure. With a full catering kitchen and space for up to 300 guests, the facility is designed to be used as an open-air pavilion or a closed, air-conditioned space. Funding was provided by an anonymous $1 million gift.

“From the start, we knew this pavilion at Oak Hill would be an important and strategic addition,” said Fred Tharpe (68A), chairman of the Master Planning Committee for the Berry College Board of Trustees, while addressing the Berry family members, alumni and friends who joined college officials for the April 1 groundbreaking.

“Those involved in the project have spent countless hours in planning. Through all of these meetings, we’re always conscious of Martha Berry’s words, ‘I pray that I may leave this place more beautiful than when I found it.’ I think Miss Berry would be pleased with what we’re doing with this pavilion.”

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When Stewart Fuqua (80A) sits down to make his travel plans each summer, sandy beaches and swaying palms are the last thing on his mind. The destinations closest to his heart are Guatemala – where he serves each year with his church – and Berry. Every year since 1998, the academy alumnus has returned “home” for Alumni Work Week. This May, he was one of 175 alumni and friends who spent a week working on 17 different campus projects.

Stewart Fuqua

Stewart Fuqua

Working alongside Al Christopher (61c) and other friends, Fuqua helped build an equipment barn for the Season’s Harvest student enterprise, putting to good use the skills he learned decades ago as a student working on the grounds crew and in the water plant. Those skills have served him well throughout his adult life, whether in his work as a contractor and volunteer firefighter or building a home for a doctor in Guatemala.

Fuqua loves returning to “God’s backyard” – as he refers to Berry – for Alumni Work Week, and he intends to be back next year.

“God willing,” he declared, “I’ll be here.”

Click the video for scenes from Berry’s 31st annual Alumni Work Week.

By Katherine Edmonds, philanthropic communications student writer

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Alumni WeekendThe memories came flooding back May 30 to June 6 as hundreds of alumni returned home for three of the biggest events on the Berry calendar – Alumni Weekend, Young Alumni Weekend and Alumni Work Week.

Alumni Weekend highlights included Golden Guard induction for the college and academy classes of 1964, presentation of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards and recognition of longtime faculty members Peter Lawler and Kathy Richardson as honorary members of the Berry Alumni Association. Also of note were chapel services led by Walter Copeland (64A, 71C) and Alumni Association Chaplain Valerie Loner (91C), as well as special praise for the following individuals:

Bob Williams (62H), Lifetime membership on the Berry Alumni Council
John Shahan (64A, 69C) and Bill Thornton (68C), Berry High Schools/Berry Academy Outstanding Faculty/Staff Awards
Lewis Copeland (60C), Virginia R. Webb Exceptional Service Award
Jennifer Beard (93C, 00G, FS), Berry Alumni Association President’s Award

Alumni Work WeekReunions were held for eleven different college, high school and academy classes, three of which earned awards for participation and giving:

Class of 1959C: Viking Cup (highest giving percentage)
Class of 1964C: Ford Cup (highest total amount given), Heritage Cup (greatest increase in Berry Heritage Society membership) and Martha Cup (greatest percentage increase in gifts)
Class of 1964A: Reunion Cup (highest percentage attendance)

In addition to their financial generosity – the reunion classes contributed approximately $1.02 million in gifts to Berry – alumni also gave of their time and energy through the Young Alumni Weekend service project and Alumni Work Week. The latter drew nearly 200 participants for a week of work and fellowship featuring an ambitious list of projects. One crew led by Al Christopher (61c) and Stewart Fuqua (80A) constructed an enclosed shed for the Season’s Harvest student-operated enterprise, while another led by Jimmy Bell (60C) and Sid Wheeler (60C) completed a dairy cattle barn at the Rollins Ruminant Research Center. More coverage.

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