Tag Archives: Gate of Opportunity Scholarship

Alyssa Hollingsworth PortraitAlyssa Hollingsworth (13C) was already a prolific writer when she arrived at Berry. She further developed her craft through one-on-one interaction with English professors and relevant work experience as editor of the college literary magazine and as a writer for Berry magazine.

This fall, the now-published author returned to Berry as the featured speaker in the David James Poissant Creative Prose Reading Series. While on campus, she visited with former teachers and mentors and shared her talents with current students – praising Berry as the “creative space” that helped to fuel her success.

Five years have passed since the former Gate of Opportunity Scholar earned her Berry degree, during which time she has completed a master’s degree at England’s Bath Spa University and signed a two-book, two-continent publishing contract with Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan) and Piccadilly Press.

Earlier this year, she released her debut novel, The Eleventh Trade, which quickly rose to No. 1 on Amazon’s list of new children’s literature. The book tells the story of a young Afghan refugee who embarks on a mission to retrieve a traditional Afghan musical instrument stolen from his grandfather.

The origins of the story date back to an assignment Hollingsworth was given at Bath Spa to prepare a synopsis for a book she would never write. Later, her literary agent saw promise in the idea and asked her to flesh it out. She started writing in February of 2016; by year end the manuscript had been completed and sold to publishers.

Aiding the creative process was firsthand knowledge of Afghan culture Hollingsworth gained during a 2011 visit to the war-torn nation to see her sister, who was serving there at the time. Still, she faced the challenge of crafting a story that would be told through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who had interests and perspective she lacked. To fill in the gaps, she reached out to her network of fellow Berry alumni to find people with knowledge in those areas.

“There were plenty of things that made me feel very unqualified to write this story,” she said. “But those places where I was completely out of my comfort zone provided really cool opportunities to call on the community around me. I had alumni friends who love Manchester United, or are middle school teachers, or have firsthand refugee experiences themselves. When I got in over my head, I could count on them to help me correct my mistakes. It was such a blessing to take a bit of the Berry community with me into my first book.”

Hollingsworth’s second book, The Invisible Boy, is due for release in fall 2019.

By student writer Kendall Aronson; photo by student Jacob Bushey

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This Is Us Screen CaptureCharlotte Collins Davis (14C) out-tweeted Kate Logan Pearson (02C) by the narrowest of margins to win our most recent Alumni Accent trivia challenge. Both correctly noted that it was President George W. Bush who appointed faculty legend Dr.  Peter Lawler to the President’s Council on Bioethics.

For this month’s question, we shift from politics to television. A few weeks back, we were thrilled to see one of Berry’s inaugural Gate of Opportunity Scholars make a cameo appearance on the hit NBC drama This Is Us. Earn a shout-out in our next issue by being the first to tweet the name of the 2013 alumnus pictured at left (don’t forget to include the hashtag #berrycollegetrivia).

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Berry parents Rick and Barbara Gaby have committed $300,000 in matching funds to encourage gifts supporting the renovation of Ford Auditorium into a first-class recital hall. These funds will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for new commitments by others, doubling the impact of such gifts. Similar matching programs have been successful in generating support for Gate of Opportunity Scholarships, Clark Track and, most recently, the new theatre under construction at Blackstone Hall.

The $4.9 million renovation of Ford Auditorium will breathe new life into Berry’s signature venue for music performance. Planned enhancements include an enlarged stage; 366 seats in an arched configuration; a redesigned balcony; high-performance acoustics; digital lighting and sound systems; climate-controlled instrument storage; a renovated foyer and lobby; and restoration of historic architectural elements.

Contact Scott Breithaupt at 706-238-5897 or sbreithaupt@berry.edu for more information on the matching program. Many naming opportunities are available. To make an online gift, click www.berry.edu/gift and select “Ford Auditorium renovation” from the “Campaign Priorities” menu.

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Audrey Morgan

Audrey Morgan

Todd Brooks

Todd Brooks

The visionary donor who helped spur development of the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship Program and the administrator who has led Berry’s athletic program during a period of tremendous growth have been granted honorary membership in the Berry Alumni Association. Audrey Morgan and Todd Brooks join an impressive list that includes former college presidents, beloved faculty members and other close Berry friends.

Morgan has committed more than $7.5 million to programs and facilities benefiting Berry students, including $1 million in matching funds to encourage support for a new campus theatre. She is a member of the Board of Visitors and a recipient of Berry’s honorary doctorate.

Brooks, meanwhile, has served two stints as athletic director, helping guide Berry’s transition to NCAA Division III and the Southern Athletic Association and assisting in the planning process for the Cage Center and Valhalla.

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Animal Science Laboratory at Rollins

Architectural rendering of the Animal Science Laboratory at Rollins, slated for construction later this year.

Giving to LifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity has now surpassed $91 million! This includes more than $43 million in commitments for Gate of Opportunity and general use scholarships. We are truly grateful to everyone in the Berry community who has supported the campaign to date. A special shout out goes to our alumni, whose gifts account for nearly half the campaign total. Thank you for your support!

Highlights in 2015 included the opening of two major campaign priorities – the new campus Welcome Center and Valhalla stadium for football, lacrosse, and track and field – and Audrey Morgan’s $1 million challenge commitment to fast-track fundraising for the renovation of Blackstone Hall and construction of a new campus theatre. There was also further development of initiatives within Berry’s Integrity in Leadership and Entrepreneurship centers.

Construction of two other campaign-funded projects – the Animal Science Laboratory at Rollins and an event pavilion at Oak Hill – is on tap for 2016. In addition, fundraising is underway for Ford Auditorium’s renovation as a recital hall and construction of an animal science addition for McAllister Hall.

Visit www.berry.edu/lifeready to learn more about the various priorities, and thanks again for helping to make the dream of a “life-ready” education a reality for our students!

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LifeReady LogoLifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity has now surpassed $80 million in gifts and pledges thanks to generous commitments from Trustee Sunny Park and two anonymous alumni. This marks an increase of more than $5 million since the campaign’s public launch in May 2014.

Fundraising has been completed for two campaign priorities – the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship Program and McAllister Hall Science Endowment – and is nearing completion for Valhalla stadium and the renovation of Richards Gym, Berry’s new Welcome Center, and the nursing patient-simulation laboratory in Evans Hall. Other priorities for which fundraising is now underway include an animal science research and teaching center at the Rollins Complex and the new Integrity in Leadership and Entrepreneurship centers. (Look for more on Integrity in Leadership in our next issue.)

Updated information on all campaign priorities is available at www.berry.edu/LifeReady.

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Alyssa HollingsworthAlyssa Hollingsworth (13C) put her writing and editing talents to great use this summer as an editorial moderator with Letter to an Unknown Soldier, a project commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. The project called for people to write letters to the “unknown soldier” depicted by Charles Sargeant Jagger’s statue on Platform One at London’s Paddington Station, and the results were outstanding; more than 21,000 letters were submitted. Contributors included British Prime Minister David Cameron, actor and comedian Stephen Fry, several Berry alumni recruited by Hollingsworth, and thousands of school children. All are featured in a digital memorial reflecting how people in today’s society remember the “Great War.” A selection of the letters will be published in November by William Collins, an imprint of Harper Collins.

A charter recipient of Berry’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, Hollingsworth is currently completing her master’s degree in creative writing for young people at England’s Bath Spa University. As a Berry senior, she won third place in the national Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest.

 By Carey Blankenship, philanthropic communications editorial assistant.  

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First-class facilities, centers for integrity in leadership and entrepreneurship, enhancements to the Work Experience Program, generous scholarships, and new student mentoring initiatives are the focus of LifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity.

Together, these campaign priorities will build on Berry’s historic mission of educating the head, heart and hands and further strengthen opportunities for students to discover their gifts and realize their potential. The result will be graduates who leave Berry even better prepared to improve their homes, workplaces and communities.

“Opportunity long has been Berry’s pledge to hardworking students,” said Barry Griswell (71C), retired chairman and CEO of Principal Financial Group and campaign co-chair with fellow college trustee Randy Berry. “The experience of a Berry education has changed my own life and others, while the character of a Berry education has changed communities for the better. We want to continue this important work.”

The campaign launch was accompanied by news that more than $73 million in gifts and pledges were already in hand. These early commitments – made during the four years preceding the May 17 kickoff event – include $24 million to support an eventual total of 130 innovative, mission-based Gate of Opportunity Scholarships. Funding also has been completed for the McAllister Hall endowment supporting science education and science-based scholarships.

Future commitments will make possible major facilities enhancements for Berry’s growing animal science program and much-needed renovations for the college’s primary performing arts venues, Ford Auditorium and Blackstone Hall. Other brick-and-mortar projects include a campus welcome center and entry enhancements; the Valhalla stadium for football, lacrosse, and track and field; and the recently completed renovation of Roy Richards Memorial Gymnasium.

Learning experiences will be enriched through centers focused on integrity in leadership and entrepreneurship, while work experiences – long a hallmark of a Berry education – will be enhanced through gifts supporting Berry Student Enterprises and other high-level student work positions. New mentoring programs will help students maximize the opportunities afforded by their Berry experience.

Details about each campaign priority can be found at www.berry.edu/lifeready. The site also includes information about giving options alumni and friends can use to help make these projects a reality. Gifts of any size through June 2020 count toward the campaign total.

“We could not be where we are today without your support, and we will not achieve the goals of this campaign without your help going forward,” President Steve Briggs said in an email message to alumni. “We have the opportunity to have a profound impact on Berry and the lives of future students.”

Campaign launch.

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Naing OoAs a graduating senior, Naing Oo (13C) was profiled by CNN.com and featured in Berry magazine as one of seven former refugees who found success as Berry students. Today, he is putting his education to work and indulging his passion for global affairs through service in the Peace Corps. The international studies major and public relations minor is currently stationed in the western African nation of Burkina Faso, working in the community economic development sector.

A native of Burma and a charter recipient of the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, Oo’s unique perspective and natural leadership abilities served him well as a Berry College presidential ambassador and resident assistant in Dana Hall. He credits Berry’s unique mission of educating the head, heart and hands for properly preparing him for his new international journey. His jobs at Berry helped refine his interpersonal communication skills.

“I am representing the United States to the locals in my village, just like I was representing Berry College as a presidential ambassador,” he said. “When the locals see me, they see all of America through and in me. I am so thankful for my experience at Berry for preparing me for this monumental milestone in my career.”

When Oo completes his Peace Corps training, he will be sent to a village called Gabou in the south Sahara. He plans to work with villagers by applying practical public relations and marketing strategies in hopes of increasing sales of the village’s cattle.

Story by Public Relations Student Supervisor Hayden Sloan.

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Gift of Home

Bob (62H) and Kay Williams with Berry football coach Tony Kunczewski.

An on-campus stadium for Berry’s football, lacrosse, and track and field programs is one step closer to reality thanks to a $500,000 commitment from Bob (62H) and Kay Williams.

Gifts and pledges toward the facility – named Valhalla by lead donor Steve Cage (74C) – now exceed $3.9 million. Construction will begin when the fundraising goal of $6.5 million is achieved. Bob and Kay hope their gift will encourage other alumni to support the project as well.

“Let’s get behind it,” Bob challenged. “Let’s show the world that we can do with football what we’ve done with everything else.”

This is the latest in a series of generous gifts by the couple. Their recent commitments, which total $1 million with the addition of the Valhalla gift, include funding for Berry’s new baccalaureate nursing program, two Gate of Opportunity Scholarships and an additional need-based scholarship named for their late daughter, Ann.

Though initially critical of Berry’s decision to add football as an intercollegiate sport, Bob is proud that the field on which the team plays will bear his surname. He and Kay became champions of the program due in large part to the leadership they have witnessed from head football coach Tony Kunczewski. The coach, in turn, feels blessed to have the couple on his team.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Bob and Kay,” Kunczewski stated. “They have been such ardent supporters of Berry athletics for years.”

Visit the Valhalla website to learn more about the project and make your own show of support.

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The largest graduating class in Berry history – 381 strong – welcomed longtime friend and college supporter Audrey Morgan as an honorary member at spring commencement. She joins Martha Berry among the 17 notable individuals who have been presented with an honorary doctorate from Berry since 1933.

Audrey, whose name graces one of the college’s newest residence halls, has demonstrated her commitment to Berry as a member of the Board of Visitors and through her tremendous generosity (more than $6.6 million in lifetime gifts). She helped launch the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship in 2009 and has continued her enthusiastic support of the program in subsequent years. Details of her latest “gift of opportunity” were reported in a recent Berry magazine article.

In his introduction, President Steve Briggs stated, “Audrey’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarships have already changed the lives of dozens of students – and those students, in turn, are becoming agents of improvement. Audrey’s vision is also inspiring others to participate in this remarkable program. Her own gifts will soon fund more than 35 Gate of Opportunity Scholars each year. Her commitment to this program prompted another longtime friend of the college to establish a $10 million dollar matching fund that will result in a total goal of 130 fully endowed Gate of Opportunity Scholarships in the years to come.

“The end result of her carefully targeted philanthropy is, quite simply, lives and communities that have been changed for the better. In that way, as in many others, she reminds us of our founder, who saw education as a way of transforming not just individual lives, but families and whole communities.”

Audrey took great pride in the honor, noting that “after today, not only can I say, ‘I chose Berry,’ but I can say, ‘Berry chose me!'” She also offered encouragement to the newly minted graduates, telling them, “There are so many needs or opportunities waiting for your help, and all of you, I know, have so much to offer.”

More commencement coverage.

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Alyssa HollingsworthAlyssa Hollingsworth (13C) joined students from Yeshiva University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, John Brown University and Lee University as winners in the 2013 Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Contest, a national competition that challenges college students to submit essays focusing on complex ethical issues.

Alyssa’s third-place entry, Naan in the Afghan Village, recounts a 2011 visit to Afghanistan to visit her sister, who works for a nongovernmental agency that specializes in community development and health education for Afghan women. The piece was written as part of a class assignment at Berry and submitted for recognition at the encouragement of Visiting Assistant Professor of English Abigail Greenbaum. The award includes a $1,500 cash prize, as well as an opportunity to  meet Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

A charter participant in Berry’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarship Program, Alyssa graduated in May with a degree in English. She will continue to hone her writing skills while pursuing a master’s degree at England’s Bath Spa University.

 Read more.

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