Tag Archives: Christopher Browning Pavilion


Berry Trailblazers

Dr. Beverly Smith (front left) and Evelyn Hamilton are all smiles at the gala celebrating the anniversary of their historic graduation from Berry.

Two distinguished alumnae – Evelyn Hamilton (69C) and Dr. Beverly Philpot Smith (69C, FFS) – shared the spotlight at a November gala marking the 50th anniversary of Berry’s first African-American graduates.

A crowd of 150 students, alumni, community leaders and friends took part in the Trailblazer Gala, hosted by the Berry African American Alumni Chapter in collaboration with the alumni office. Noted television personality Judge Glenda A. Hatchett delivered keynote remarks at the event, held in Oak Hill’s Christopher Browning Pavilion. In attendance were many students and alumni who have benefitted from a donor-funded scholarship named for the history-making graduates. Facebook photo gallery

Hamilton, who earned a B.S. in home economics from Berry, is retired from the Floyd County Department of Family and Children Services.

“I can remember my first day at Berry because it was the beginning of something that had never happened in Rome or Floyd County before,” Hamilton recalled of Berry’s integration, which began in 1964 under the leadership of then-President John R. Bertrand. “The atmosphere was not what I thought it was going to be from watching other states and colleges that had integrated. You saw the violence, the water, the dogs and that kind of stuff, but we had none of that when we entered on the first day here at Berry.”

Smith, who graduated from Berry with a B.A. in English, is a retired educator.

“Berry has made it possible for me not only to be an asset for the community, but for myself and for the family that I have now,” she said. “I have 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. My children are very productive; they’re supervisors and managers. I used to take them to classes with me and they had to sit across the hall in empty classrooms because I told them education is extremely important and you don’t ever stop learning.”

Watch the video above for more from these incredible women. If you would like to honor their courage with a gift to the Hamilton/Smith Scholarship, visit www.berry.edu/gift.

We are pleased to acknowledge the following Gala Committee members for their passion and hard work in bringing this event to fruition: Brenda Thompson (88C), Darcel Ivey (90C), Terri Colson Earls (85C), Chrystal Murray Robinson (90C), Jackie Lawrence Echols (90c), Lee-Anda Hutchens Uter (92C), Hester Parks (95C) and Lisa Fraley Rasheed (90C).

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Evelyn Hamilton and Beverly Philpot SmithTrailblazers Gala Logo Evelyn Hamilton (69C), left, and Dr. Beverly Philpot Smith (69C, FS) made history a half-century ago as Berry’s first African-American graduates. This fall, the college’s African-American Alumni Chapter is commemorating their legacy with the Trailblazer Gala. The dinner celebration will be held Saturday, Nov. 16, at Oak Hill’s Christopher Browning Pavilion, beginning at 6 p.m.

Both women have distinguished themselves in service to their professions and communities in the years since graduating from Berry. Hamilton spent 34 years with the State of Georgia, Floyd County Department of Family and Children Services, while Smith is a longtime educator whose many career highlights include work at Berry as a faculty member and Pathways Program director. A scholarship for Berry students has been funded in their honor.

“I know Dr. Smith and Ms. Hamilton personally, and they are both such dynamic people,” said Director of Alumni Relations Jennifer Tucker Beard (93C, 00G). “They’ve done a lot in their careers and in their lives, and it is great we are now able to honor them.”

The gala will feature keynote remarks by Judge Glenda Hatchett, a trailblazer in her own right who has distinguished herself on the bench, in corporate service and as star of her own Emmy-nominated television series. Other program highlights include a video tribute to the two honorees.

Visit www.berry.edu/trailblazer if you are interested in attending. The last day to register is Nov. 7.

We are pleased to acknowledge our partners at Georgia Power for their generous sponsorship support.

Reporting by student 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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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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