Tag Archives: Alumni Work Week

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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Brothers Leon, left, and Joe Elder and familiar faces at Alumni Work Week.

The Elder brothers, Leon (left) and Joe, are familiar faces at Work Week.

Joe Elder (63C) works in the kitchen during Alumni Work Week, a job that’s reminiscent of his dining hall experience as a Berry student. These days, however, he’s sharing a suite with his wife and brother and whipping up desserts one current student called “life changing.”

Joe and brother Leon (54C) are two of nine children, six of whom attended Berry. Both are Work Week regulars: Leon has participated 14 times over a 20-year span, and Joe has joined him for seven or eight.

“He’s responsible for me being here,” Joe said. “But it worked out great because we get to spend a week together.”

A total of 135 alumni and friends participated this year, including several married couples and sets of siblings. Participants broke into 17 crews and worked on projects all across campus, including the ongoing restoration of Barnwell Chapel.

When they’re not working, the Elder brothers like to “ramble around” campus, Leon said, often driving up to the Old Mill and walking to the reservoir together.

Leon, like Joe, volunteers in food service, lending a hand on the snack wagon crew every year. He loves the opportunity it provides to meet and interact with other alumni.

“We get to work, play and eat around very pleasant people who, even though they have aches and pains, still have a smile on their face,” he said.

Ragsdales at Work Week

Work Week is an annual tradition for Nelda and Joe Ragsdale.

Nelda (64C) and Joe (65C) Ragsdale met as Berry students and married after graduation. More than a half-century later, they welcome the opportunity to return to Berry for Work Week each year. They have attended the event together 21 times since 1997, with Nelda participating one or two years before that.

Joe enjoys learning new things, just like he did when he attended Berry.

“So far I’ve been here 21 years, and I think I’ve done 21 different things,” he said.

Similarly, Nelda has done everything from office work to polishing the cars at Oak Hill. Both expressed an appreciation for the opportunities they’ve had to hear stories from other alumni.

“The early years when we came back, we were some of the youngest,” Nelda said. “Just to hear the stories that others told was a lot of fun.”

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse; photos by student Matthew McConnell

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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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Alumni working in Berry College Archives

PRESERVING BERRY HISTORY: From left, Tom Butler (65A), Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS) and Claudette West Bearden (68C) organize documents in the Berry College Archives during a previous Alumni Work Week. This spring, Dr. Dickey’s daughter, Jennifer, will lead a new effort to collect oral histories from alumni in video form.

Jennifer Dickey

Jennifer Dickey

Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C) has spent much of her professional life studying the history of her high school and college alma mater. Now, in her role as Alumni Council vice president for Berry culture and heritage, she is spearheading a new project meant to further enrich our understanding of that history by incorporating the voices of alumni who have lived it.

Dickey, who serves as Berry’s history consultant in addition to her work as a professor of history at Kennesaw State University, will be working with the Alumni Council’s Heritage Committee to capture these memories in video form through oral histories that will be housed in the Berry College Archives and eventually could be made available online.

“There has never been a systematic, sustained effort to capture the experiences and memories of Berry alumni,” Dickey explained, noting that previous initiatives have been more narrowly focused. “We really want to try to go after everybody.”

The project will launch this May, with initial interviews taking place at Alumni Weekend and Alumni Work Week. After that, it will become an ongoing effort.

“This is not just a ‘Berry is great’ tale,” Dickey stated. “We want them to talk about all of their experiences here – the good and the bad.

“I think it’s going to be a really interesting project,” she added. “Everyone’s experience here is different, but there are a lot of commonalities too.”

Current Berry students will be helping with the project. If you’d like to be involved, email Dickey at jdickey2@kennesaw.edu.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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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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Freemantown Cleanup

From left, Gary McKnight (61C), Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C) and Dr. Susan Bandy (70C) assist with the Freemantown Cemetery cleanup during Alumni Work Week.

As a teacher at Berry Academy, Gary McKnight (61C, FFS) spent 20 summers roaming the slopes of Lavender Mountain with his bird-dog searching for the historic Freemantown Cemetery. This spring, he helped to clean up and restore the site as a participant in Alumni Work Week.

“I thought it was local lore,” said McKnight, one of approximately 150 alumni and friends who returned to Berry in late May for the annual celebration of Berry’s work heritage. Project sites ranged from the House o’ Dreams high atop Lavender Mountain to the Gunby Equine Center to the grounds of Martha Berry’s famed Oak Hill estate.

At the Freemantown site, McKnight worked alongside project lead Joe Ragsdale (65C), campus preservationist Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C) and other alumni to clear briars and debris obscuring the cemetery from view. Freeman family descendants also were on hand to assist with the effort.

The cemetery, which few people are aware exists, marks the site of a once-thriving African-American community established by Thomas Freeman in 1871. Freeman, a blacksmith and Union Civil War veteran, acquired 300 acres of what is now Berry’s mountain campus after his emancipation. He died in 1893, and his wife, Henrietta, and 12 children eventually sold the land to Martha Berry in the years between 1916 and 1926. While the buildings and church have been lost to time, the cemetery remains.

“I never thought it would be up in these trees,” McKnight said, “They’ve grown up in the last 50 years and covered everything.”

Ironically, the trees growing between the graves prevented erosion and helped preserve the cemetery.

Archeologists from the Georgia Historic Preservation Division surveyed the cemetery earlier in the year using ground-penetrating radar. Analysis of that data will help to reveal unmarked graves and determine boundaries for the site. Read more about the survey.

Already, the perimeter fence has been adjusted to incorporate a recently discovered headstone outside the original boundary. A new entrance will be constructed later this summer. Freeman descendants will hold a reunion at the site in August.

Related News: Berry Alumni Work Week reunites roomies; Around Berry photo gallery

By student writer Lauren Higdon

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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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Alumni Awards MedallionThe ranks of Berry’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame will grow by four with the May 20 induction of this year’s alumni award winners. Honorees include:

Kelly Fite (68C), Distinguished Achievement

Cecil “Buster” Wright III (73C), Distinguished Service

Jim Johnson (85C), Entrepreneurial Spirit

Ashley Harp Sheppard (01C), Outstanding Young Alumni

The Saturday night “Awards and Golden Guard Dinner” is just one highlight of Berry’s annual Alumni Weekend celebration, slated for May 19-21. Others include reunions for the college, high school and academy classes of 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967. Visit www.berry.edu/alumni for event details and online registration. While you’re on the website, be sure to sign up for Alumni Work Week, which will be held May 21-26. The registration deadline for both is May 12.

Click here to nominate someone for the 2018 Alumni Awards.

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Hundreds of alumni and friends made their way “home” May 15-17 for Alumni Weekend, with many remaining on campus in the days that followed for the 30th annual observance of Alumni Work Week.

Eight different classes celebrated reunions, with two – 1965A and 1965C – joining the ranks of Berry’s Golden Guard (a distinction reserved for alumni who have been out at least 50 years). Excellence was rewarded with presentation of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards. This year’s winners included:

David Grindle (93C), Distinguished Achievement
Joy Padgett Johnson (73C), Distinguished Service
Jeff Jahn (07C), Entrepreneurial Spirit
Brin Enterkin (12C), Outstanding Young Alumni

Alumni WeekendOther individuals singled out for special recognition included retiring Director of Choral Activities Harry Musselwhite and longtime baseball coach David Beasley, Berry’s newest honorary alumni. Bettyann O’Neill and Joni Kenyon were honored with the Alumni Association President’s Award, while Tom Raulerson (66C) received the Berry High Schools/Berry Academy Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award.

The big winner among the reunion classes was the college class of 1965, which claimed the Viking Cup (highest giving percentage), Ford Cup (highest total amount given) and Heritage Cup (greatest increase in Berry Heritage Society membership). The Reunion Cup (highest percentage attendance) went to the academy class of 1965, while the college class of 1955 won the Martha Cup (greatest percentage increase in gifts). The total amount of reunion gifts contributed by all classes was an impressive $1.16 million.

Photos: Alumni Weekend

Media coverage: Berry alumni return for Work Week

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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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Alumni Weekend PromoGood food? Yes!

Familiar faces? Absolutely!

Fun times? We guarantee it!

Berry’s annual Alumni Weekend and Young Alumni Weekend celebrations promise all of the above and more. The only thing missing is you!

This year’s events will be held Friday, May 30, through Sunday, June 1, with Alumni Work Week beginning immediately afterward and continuing through June 6. Click the links for details on each and to register online. The deadline is Friday, May 16, so please don’t delay.

Highlights this year include 11 different class reunion dinners on Friday, May 30, and an expanded alumni gala the following evening at the Forum in Rome. Reunions are scheduled for the college and high school/academy classes of 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964 and 1969 as well as the college class of 1961. Reunion dinner schedule and pricing.

The expanded gala promises to be an unforgettable tribute to Berry’s past and future, with several special recognitions scheduled. These include the induction of college and academy alumni from the class of 1964 into the Golden Guard and the presentation of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards to the following recipients:

Rayford Boyett (58C), Distinguished Achievement
John Shahan (64A, 69C)
, Distinguished Service
Andreas Economopoulos (97C)
, Entrepreneurial Spirit
Heather Henderson-Keller (03C)
, Outstanding Young Alumni

In addition, two longtime faculty members – Dana Professor of Government and International Studies Peter Lawler and Provost and Professor of Communication Kathy Richardson – will be welcomed as honorary alumni. Receptions for young alumni and Golden Guard members will precede the dinner, and an evening of dancing will follow the official program.

Other events you don’t want to miss include the Friday morning golf scramble, Saturday’s “behind-the-ropes” tour of Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, and Sunday’s worship services. Events specific to young alumni include a Friday night gathering at Schroeder’s on Broad Street, a Saturday morning campus service project, and opportunities to take advantage of recreation and fitness facilities in the Cage Center on Saturday afternoon.

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