Tag Archives: Berry Academy


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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James Childre

Photo courtesy of www.berryacademy.com.

Not long ago, we were pleased to share the story of an impressive group of Berry Academy alumni celebrating the golden anniversary of their championship basketball season. Now an effort is underway to recognize the achievements of the many men and women who excelled as high school athletes during that special era in Berry history.

The new Berry High School/Academy Athletic Hall of Fame is meant to honor alumni who achieved at a high level and gained notable recognition in an official school-recognized sport; received a varsity letter or the equivalent; and demonstrated the highest levels of integrity, character and sportsmanship. Nominations may be submitted electronically or by mail to Berry College Athletic Department, Hall of Fame Selection Committee, P.O. Box 495015, Mount Berry, Ga., 30149. The deadline for consideration is Oct. 6.

If you’re not familiar with Berry’s proud heritage in high school athletics, click here to learn more.

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Berry Academy Basketball TeamMembers of the 1964-65 Berry Academy Falcons basketball team returned to campus in December to commemorate the golden anniversary of one of the greatest seasons in Berry history.

Fifty years ago, these men dominated their competition as one of the most formidable high school basketball teams in Georgia. Thriving under the strict leadership of head coach Jerry Shelton (58C), the Falcons soared to a 30-5 record that included a 17-game winning streak to start the season, a four-game sweep of the Rome News-Tribune Invitational Basketball Tournament (now called the Holiday Festival), and a seven-overtime win over Cartersville that propelled them into the state tournament for a second consecutive season.

Five decades later, the bonds of brotherhood that made them such a powerful unit were still evident as team members, fellow alumni and friends gathered for a reunion luncheon in the Berry Alumni Center. Later, the Falcons took the court together once more to be honored before a packed house at Berry’s own Cage Center during halftime of the final game of the 2014 Holiday Festival tournament.

Jerry SheltonThe players were effusive in their praise of Shelton, a standout athlete during his college days at Berry who went on to a distinguished career as an educator and administrator, eventually serving as director of the basketball tournament he’d won as a coach at Berry Academy. They also remembered his late wife, Joyce (63C), the team’s “greatest, most loyal” cheerleader.

With obvious respect and good humor, they painted a picture of a man meticulous in nature, rigorous in his training methods and creative in his coaching. Jerry Chastain (65A), for example, recalled a practice in which Shelton armed defenders with tennis racquets to help his shooters prepare for a particularly tall opponent.

“He made us winners,” declared team captain Tom Butler (65A). “He taught us that we were worthwhile and powerful, to shoot beyond what we thought were our limits, that we were somebody because we were men of Berry. And because of this, we found out who we really, truly could become.”

Bill McWhorter (65A, 69C) added, “Through [Shelton’s] guidance and with a student body that supported a team that loved to play basketball and loved each other, we were able to make the Berry schools proud, not just the high school but the college as well. It’s an honor for me to say that I’m a graduate from Berry Academy, and I was a member of the greatest team ever.”

The reunion was spearheaded by Bob Williams (62H) and his wife, Kay.

More on the 1964-65 Berry Academy Falcons.

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Mountain Day 2013

Brandi Calhoun Diamond and Larry Arrington proudly display the Reunion Cup won by the class of 1993C for percentage participation in the Mega Reunion. Their class also won the tent decorating contest. Other awards went to the class of 1988C (giving total) and 1973C (giving percentage).

A gorgeous fall day on the slopes of Lavender Mountain provided the perfect setting for the approximately 7,500 alumni, students, parents and friends who turned out for the 99th celebration of Mountain Day.

Highlights this year included big crowds for all the traditional favorites – from Friday’s Alumni Golf Scramble, Mountain Day Olympics and talent show to Saturday’s 5K/fun run, convocation service, picnic lunch, Grand March, Mega Reunion and Marthapalooza carnival.

Of particular note was the huge number of high school and academy alumni who turned out for a series of events honoring the continuing legacy of the Mount Berry School for Boys, Martha Berry School for Girls and Berry Academy. Events included a reception and ribbon cutting for a new high school and academy exhibit at Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, a dinner celebrating the completion of A History of the Berry Schools on the Mountain Campus, a new book by Dr. Jennifer W. Dickey (77A, 80C), and a convocation procession from Hamrick Hall to Frost Chapel to hear remarks by Angela Dickey (75A, 79C).

Experience Mountain Day 2013 for yourself by visiting the Around Berry feature on the college homepage, clicking the many photo gallery links in this article or by watching this year’s highlight video. If you’d like a memento, t-shirts are still available for online purchase.

Whether you are a Mountain Day regular or someone who usually makes it back only for reunions, you don’t want to miss next year’s centennial celebration. Mark your calendars now for Oct. 4, 2014. We promise you won’t be disappointed!

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A History of the Berry Schools on the Mountain CampusFor many years, alumni and friends of the Mount Berry School for Boys, Martha Berry School for Girls and Berry Academy have dreamed that the history of those schools – and the important role they played in the development of what is today Berry College – would someday be told. That dream has now come to fruition in the form of A History of the Berry Schools on the Mountain Campus, written by Berry Academy alumna Dr. Jennifer W. Dickey (77A, 80C).

Commissioned by current Berry President Steve Briggs with encouragement from a group of high school and academy alumni known as the Berry Breakfast Club, the new book takes readers on an 81-year journey from the founding of the Berry Schools in 1902 to the controversial closing of Berry Academy in 1983. Dickey conducted extensive research in the Berry College Archives and interviewed more than 60 alumni and former faculty/staff of Berry’s high schools, among them Dr. William Scheel, the headmaster charged with overseeing the closure.

“Writing this book was a cathartic experience for me,” Dickey said. “It gave me an opportunity to delve into the historical record and try to understand how the schools operated and the decisions that were made along the way. I felt like I got to know a lot of alumni and faculty and staff, either in person or through studying the historical record, and gained a greater appreciation for why this school mattered so much to so many people. People’s lives were transformed by their Berry experiences, especially the students who attended the early schools and the Mount Berry School for Boys. My friend and fellow alumnus Tom Butler (65A) talks about the “intangible magic” of the place. I think that term captures the spirit of the high schools on the mountain campus – they had an intangible magic.”

Read more about the new book in this feature story published in the Rome News-Tribune. Copies are available for online purchase through the Oak Hill Gift Shop. Be sure to enter the promo code BERRYALUMNI when checking out to receive a 10% discount.

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Okay all of you procrastinators out there, time is running out to register for the many special events scheduled for Mountain Day. Next Saturday, Oct. 5, thousands of your fellow alumni will gather on the slopes of Lavender Mountain for the annual celebration of Martha Berry’s birthday. A full schedule and registration details can be found on the alumni relations website. Advance registration closes Oct. 2, so don’t miss out!

Highlights this year include a special tribute to Berry’s historic high schools – the Mount Berry School for Boys, Martha Berry School for Girls and Berry Academy. A reception and dinner will be held Friday, Oct. 4, with other high school-themed events to follow on Saturday. Of particular note is the roll out of A History of the Berry Schools on the Mountain Campus, a much-anticipated book about the high schools written by Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 81C). Copies will be available for purchase throughout the weekend. Jennifer’s sister and fellow academy alumna Angela Dickey (75A, 79C) will be the featured speaker at Saturday morning’s Mountain Day Convocation in Frost Chapel. Angela is the 2013 recipient of the Berry Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award. High school celebration.

Also on tap is the sixth-annual Mega Reunion, this year hosting alumni from the college and academy classes of 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008. The fun gets under way at 5 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum. Information and registration.

Other events of note include Friday afternoon’s Golf Scramble, Saturday morning’s 5K (this year benefitting Berry’s planned athletic stadium, Valhalla) and, of course, Saturday afternoon’s picnic lunch and Grand March. While you’re on the mountain, don’t forget to check out the many products available from Berry College Student Enterprises.

If you can’t join us in person, we’re pleased to once again offer a Virtual Mountain Day experience featuring streaming video of the Grand March and a live chat function accessible to anyone with a Twitter account. Be sure to include the hash tag #mtnday13 in your tweets.

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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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We are currently seeking nominations for the 2012-14 term of the Berry Alumni Council. If you know someone who is committed to Berry and interested in taking on a leadership role within the Berry Alumni Association, please complete the online submission form and let us know! The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31.

Nominations are also open for the Berry High School/Academy Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award. If you attended the Mount Berry School for Boys, Martha Berry School for Girls or Berry Academy, we hope you will take a moment to nominate a beloved faculty or staff member prior to the Dec. 15 deadline. Awards will be presented at Alumni Weekend 2012.

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