Tag Archives: LifeReady Campaign

Ford Auditorium Renovation

Current view of Ford Auditorium stage, with seats removed and scaffolding installed to provide access to the ceiling.

As a student, Betty Anne Rouse Bell (52H, 56C) performed in Ford Auditorium – and scrubbed its stage. In May, the alumna who counts the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan among the many she has entertained with her voice returned to the source of so many great memories, this time with mini-sledgehammer in hand, to celebrate the beginning of a $6.3 million renovation and restoration of the beloved Berry icon.

Bell – whose name will grace the interior recital hall thanks to a generous surprise gift from her husband, Robert – joined many other alumni and friends at the event, which featured performances by student vocalist Carrie Sturniolo, trumpeter Leif Atchley (19C) and the Ross Magoulas-led Alumni Choir.

President Steve Briggs commended the more than 400 donors who have contributed to the LifeReady Campaign project thus far, noting that they “have banded together, each playing a part like the members of an orchestra, to accomplish something beautiful that transcends their separate contributions.”

Fittingly, some of the most significant gifts have honored alumnae like Bell whose lives found expression through their experiences as students in Ford Auditorium and the surrounding Ford Buildings. They include Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS), whose 90th birthday challenge spurred significant support for the renovation last summer; and Margaret Weaver Faison (36C), whose family has named the entrance hall in her memory.

Dickey took her turn with a sledgehammer, as did Audrey Morgan, an honorary alumna and Berry Board of Visitors member whose late sister, M. Bobbie Bailey, will be remembered with the naming of the Ford stage.

Following a plan developed by Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago, one of the nation’s foremost acoustics consulting firms, workers are even now breathing new life into the facility. Highlights of the renovation include installation of an all-wood ceiling, wood-carved acoustical paneling, adjustable acoustical banners, and sound reflectors; a 1,086 square-foot accessible stage with curved front; a new arched seating configuration with room for 366; a redesigned balcony with improved sight lines; and restoration of historic elements, among other enhancements, including updates to adjacent music department spaces.

There’s still time to lend your voice to the chorus of donors ensuring that Berry students have a performance venue worthy of their talents. Click here to make your gift supporting the Ford Auditorium renovation today.

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Nathaniel PearsonThe evolution of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership continues with the appointment of Dr. Nathaniel Pearson as inaugural director.

Pearson, formerly executive director of the Nerney Leadership Institute at Cabrini University, assumed his new role June 1. He is the first person to hold the directorship, which is named in memory of Elvin (35C) and Fleta Patterson (35C) Sims. The position was endowed by a $2 million commitment from their son, retired Union Pacific executive John Edward Sims, who wished to honor their example as parents, educators and mentors in their home and community.

As director, Pearson will work to further BCIL’s impact through collaboration with faculty, staff, students and community partners. Current initiatives funded by gifts to the LifeReady Campaign include the Gordon and Joyce Carper Mentoring Program, which recently completed its sixth year pairing Berry students with community leaders; the Cecil B. Wright III Lecture Series, which this spring welcomed international journalist and former CNN executive Parisa Khosravi; and the Bowen and Barbara McCoy and Ted A. Owens faculty development grants.

In addition to his work as executive director of the Nerney Leadership Institute, Pearson has also served as assistant professor of leadership studies at Cabrini University and West Virginia University. His background is in child and family counseling, and he holds a doctorate in leadership studies from Gonzaga University.

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Parisa Khosravi and Buster Wright

Berry Trustee Buster Wright (73C), right, greets Parisa Khosravi, the latest speaker in the lecture series that bears his name.

Parisa Khosravi may not have literally moved mountains, but she has rerouted a commercial airline, covered the Iraq wars and Tiananmen Square, and promoted equality and acceptance as a leader at CNN. Earlier this spring, she shared her experience and insight with Berry students through the Cecil B. Wright III Integrity in Leadership Lecture.

As an immigrant who lived through the 1979 Iranian revolution, a religious minority and a woman whose first language was not English, Khosravi had to overcome doubters who didn’t believe she was good enough to be a journalist. She refused to let them limit her potential, ultimately serving as CNN’s senior vice president of international news gathering, national news gathering, global relations and the first-ever ambassador for CNN Worldwide.

“Why would we ever allow someone else to tell us what we’re capable of?” she asked.

In her remarks, Khosravi emphasized how important it is to take care of your people and to treat them all with respect. She noted that she always made sure her employees kept tabs on their physical and mental health, especially when covering stories in war zones and other serious situations.

“As a leader, people need to know you are as good as your word and you will have their back,” she said. “And they will have your back too.”

Khosravi said that anyone can become a leader, but they have to be willing to work at it.

“People are not born leaders,” she stated. “We become leaders by how we handle ourselves in the valleys of life.”

The Cecil B. Wright III Lecture Series is an initiative of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership, a major priority of Berry’s LifeReady Campaign.

While on campus, Khosravi sat for a brief interview focusing on integrity and other leadership-related issues. Click the video player above to view.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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Students representing The Berry Farms Genetics Enterprise discuss their work with an attendee at the SPARK Conference.

Students discuss the work of The Berry Farms Genetics Enterprise during the recent SPARK Conference, hosted by Berry College Student Enterprises.

Students with the entrepreneurial bug have had plenty of opportunities to nurture their innovative ideas lately! Berry recently hosted its first student pitch competition, featuring $27,000 in donor-funded prizes, as well as the annual Spark Conference for social entrepreneurship.

Thirteen students representing seven different majors took part in the pitch competition, with five finalists presenting their ideas before live and virtual audiences to a panel of alumni judges who are no strangers to entrepreneurial success: Jeff Jahn (07C), Roy Miller (58C), Tricia Steele (09C) and Robert Swarthout (04C).

For Steele, “entrepreneur” was a natural career choice, even as a physics major.

“Studying science made me a great problem solver,” she explained. “And then I found that people will pay you really well to solve problems for them!”

Like the judges, senior Ben Umberger has pursued his entrepreneurial dreams at Berry. His Umberger Farms Cattle Company won the top prize of $10,000 from the Henry and Clara Ford Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, along with an additional $1,000 audience-choice award. In his pitch, he described how he learned to raise cattle as a young boy, a story to which Miller related.

“Growing up on a farm … I can admire what Ben has done, going through the struggles and things he’s had to go through to get where he is,” Miller said.

Other winners in the competition included:

  • Josie Hadaway, Written By J, $7,500 Chairman’s Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Jorie Hodapp, Jorie Cakes, $5,000 Bettyann O’Neill Innovation Fund
  • Harmony Petty, Harmony’s Crafty Creations, $2,500 Entrepreneurial Seed Fund
  • Anthea Phitides, Well Made by Marula, $1,000 Entrepreneurial Seed Fund

The following day, the SPARK Conference hosted by Berry College Student Enterprises took center stage. Among those leading sessions were Jahn, who launched his award-winning DynamiX web development firm as a Berry student, and Atlanta Tech Village Vice President Karen Akridge Houghton (01C). Keynote remarks were delivered by Alex Gonzalez, chief innovation officer for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and founder of the Highwire Group, a consultancy of executives, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders who advise executives on being pioneers and change-leaders.

Entrepreneurship is a major priority of Berry’s LifeReady Campaign.

By Jennifer Wright

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Bob and Betty Anne Rouse Bell

Betty Anne Rouse Bell (52H, 56C), pictured with husband Bob, has distinguished herself as a performer and advocate for the arts.

Betty Anne Rouse Bell’s lifelong love of music and drama was cultivated as a high school and college student at Berry in the 1950s, so it’s entirely fitting that future students find similar inspiration in a place named in her honor.

The Betty Anne Rouse Bell Recital Hall is the first major naming associated with plans to renovate and restore Ford Auditorium as a first-class venue for Berry students, faculty and the community at large. The naming of the performance space inside the historic facility was made possible by a touching act of love by Bell’s husband, Bob, who surprised his wife with a gift to Berry honoring her powerful love and appreciation for the school. Combined with the generosity of many other alumni and friends, that gift has helped push fundraising for the $6.3 million Ford project past the $4 million mark. Berry officials hope to complete funding by May 2019 so that work can begin.

Architectural Rendering of Ford RenovationPlans for the auditorium – constructed in the 1920s at the direction of Henry and Clara Ford – include the restoration of beloved historic architectural elements and significant internal renovations meant to enhance the acoustical experience for performers and audience members alike. Expertise has been provided by Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago, one of the nation’s foremost acoustics consulting firms. The project also calls for refurbishment of the music department.

The recital hall naming is fitting recognition for a “double alumna” (52H, 56C) who has distinguished herself as a performer – sharing her vocal talents with presidents, governors and foreign dignitaries, among others – and advocate for the arts. Click here to read more.

If you would like to join the Bells and so many others in supporting the Ford project, please visit berry.edu/gift.

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Ouida Dickey Birthday CelebrationHAPPY BIRTHDAY! Smiles were in abundance at the 90th birthday celebration for Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C). The Ford Living Room will be named in her honor at Mountain Day in October.

Gifts honoring the 90th birthday of Berry icon Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C) have propelled fundraising for the planned renovation of Ford Auditorium past the halfway mark to $3 million. The goal is to complete funding for the $5.3 million project during the next year so that work can begin in 2019.

Ford Auditorium RenderingAlumni and friends committed more than $570,000 to the “Ouida Dickey Birthday Challenge,” earning double credit for their generosity thanks to matching funds from an anonymous lead gift. Donors joined Dr. Dickey in July for a special birthday celebration in the Ford Living Room. A second ceremony is planned for Mountain Day Weekend, at which time that space – located at the heart of the Berry Alumni Center – will be named in her honor.

Dr. Dickey is beloved for her many years of distinguished service to Berry as a student, faculty member, administrator and volunteer. Her family is also deeply rooted at the institution. Late husband Garland (42C) pioneered Berry’s intercollegiate athletic program along with his brother, Ed (41C), while daughters Angela (75A, 79C) and Jennifer (77A, 80C) are “double alumna” (high school and college) who have forged exemplary careers in government and higher education, respectively.

It was fitting that gifts honoring Dr. Dickey’s birthday supported the Ford renovation, as the auditorium also turns 90 this year. Click here to learn more about plans to renew the facility as a first-class performance home for Berry music students. You can support the project at berry.edu/gift.

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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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Ouida Dickey Birthday Challenge Banner

Ford Auditorium Rendering

Architectural rendering of Ford Auditorium renovation.

Dr. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS) didn’t set out to become a Berry legend, but 72 years after she first arrived on campus as a freshman in 1946, it’s impossible to imagine the college without her. As the former student, faculty member, administrator and president of the Berry Alumni Association prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday later this summer, family and friends have come up with a unique way to honor her that also benefits Ford Auditorium, another Berry icon turning 90 in 2018.

The $500,000 Ouida Dickey Birthday Challenge has two goals – to name the Alumni Center living room for Dr. Dickey and to generate support for the planned $5.3 million renovation of Berry’s signature venue for music performance and education. Gifts of any size will be matched by the generosity of an anonymous donor, doubling their impact.

The goal is to complete the challenge in time for Dr. Dickey’s birthday July 27. Make your gift today by visiting berry.edu/gift and choosing “Ouida Dickey Birthday Challenge” in the drop-down menu or mailing a check to Berry Advancement Office, P.O. Box 490069, Mount Berry, GA 30149-0069. Contact Scott Breithaupt (91C, 96G) at sbreithaupt@berry.edu or 706-238-5897 for more details.

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Christine Todd Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman talks to Dr. Brian Campbell, associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies.

The Cecil B. Wright III Integrity in Leadership Lecture Series welcomed an impressive voice of experience Jan. 25 in the form of Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush.

Whitman, who made history in 1994 as New Jersey’s first female governor, addressed the topic of “Women, Leadership, Power and Politics: Overcoming Obstacles,” in her formal remarks in Krannert Center. She also took part in a classroom discussion with students in Berry’s environmental studies program.

During her presentation, Whitman stressed the importance of integrity in any leadership position and talked about characteristics such as education, perseverance, honesty and decency that contribute to it.

“To me, leadership isn’t leadership at all without integrity,” she stated. “It’s exploitation.”

Afterward, she fielded numerous questions from a very engaged student audience, with topics ranging from her involvement with the EPA to her inspiration for going into politics.

The Wright lecture series is an initiative of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership, a major priority of LifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity. Past speakers have included Harvard University’s Barbara Kellerman, Aflac CEO Dan Amos, meningitis vaccine expert Dr. Marc LaForce and Home Depot Executive Vice President Bill Lennie.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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Audrey Morgan at Sisters Theatre Dedication

Audrey Morgan stands in front of a portrait of herself and sister Bobbie Bailey in the lobby of Berry’s new theatre.

“The dedication of this theatre is nothing short of a miracle. Less than two years ago, it was only a dream.” – Audrey Morgan

Dry eyes were scarce Oct. 6 as students, faculty, alumni and friends joined Audrey Morgan and her family for the dedication of Sisters Theatre. The name of Berry’s newest fine arts facility celebrates the legacy of love and lifelong commitment to the arts shared by Morgan and her sister, the late Dr. M. Bobbie Bailey.

“For me personally, the new theatre has deep meaning,” Morgan expressed. “I was very blessed to have as my sister Bobbie Bailey. Our lives as sisters and best friends were entwined for 85 years; our names as business partners entwined for 55 years. And now with this beautiful new theatre on the Berry campus that I love so much, our names are going to be entwined for years to come. Tonight is truly a mountaintop experience for me. I could not be happier or more honored.”

Morgan, a Berry Board of Visitors member and recipient of the college’s honorary doctorate, played a critical role in the now-completed $6.7 million campaign to fund the theatre’s construction and associated improvements to Blackstone Hall. Her $1 million challenge gift initiated fundraising in 2015; a year later, a second $1 million gift was announced, this one from the foundation of her late sister.

Students and faculty were thrilled to take possession of their new 9,226 square-foot performance home, which features a black-box stage with adjustable seating for up to 276. Coupled with the improvements to Blackstone Hall, the new facility doubles the amount of functional space available to Berry’s theatre program.

The Berry College Theatre Company christened the new facility with its fall production of Crimes of the Heart. Next up is Make Merry (Or How to Survive Your Family on Holidays), scheduled for Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1-2. Click here to order tickets.

Sisters Theatre Photo Gallery

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Elvin and Fleta Patterson SimsIn life, Elvin (35C) and Fleta Patterson (35C) Sims dedicated themselves to quietly shaping the character of their own children as well as the countless others they served as educators in rural Georgia. Now that legacy will extend to generations of Berry students thanks to a $2 million gift from their son John Edward Sims to fund the directorship of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership. Among many important responsibilities, the new director will work with faculty to infuse coursework related to personal integrity and leadership into every major and develop tools and training for students to practice ethical problem-solving. This individual also will oversee existing initiatives, including the Gordon and Joyce Carper mentoring program and the Cecil B. Wright III lecture series. Berry officials expect to fill the position in 2018.

“We are grateful for Ed Sims’ vision and desire to honor his parents in a way that recognizes their life-changing experience at Berry,” President Steve Briggs said. “Because of his generosity, generations of emerging leaders will be asked to think deeply about issues of conviction and character as part of their Berry experience.”

Read more: Retired marketing executive honors parents with $2 million BCIL gift

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Isabella Kukor conducts research with Dr. Jay Daniel.

Isabella Kukor conducts research with Dr. Jay Daniel.

Hours before most people pour their first cup of coffee, freshman Isabella Kukor slips on her boots for the early-morning shift at Berry’s on-campus dairy. By the time she heads to class at 8 a.m., she has milked cows, fed newborn calves and performed many other duties in and around the facility. Next on her to-do list – after class, of course – is researching new techniques for preserving animal tissue with Professor Jay Daniel in Berry’s new animal science laboratory. Overwhelming? Kukor wouldn’t have it any other way.

The animal science major from Frederick, Md., has been working with large animals since she was 8 years old. By the time she was 15, she was showing prize-winning goats and dairy heifers at her local county fair. In high school, she was a member of the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America), serving as a chapter officer. After graduation, she spent a year as state president for the organization before choosing to travel nine hours from home to attend Berry. The reason? Opportunities available through Berry’s highly regarded animal science program to work toward her dream career in agricultural business management.

“Berry provides real job experience and realistic expectations when it comes to a career in veterinary medicine or agricultural science,” Kukor explained. “Students are encouraged to work with the animals, taking care of their needs.”

Berry hopes to maximize the educational opportunities available to students like Kukor through the LifeReady Campaign. Click here to learn more about the vision for animal science, including a major new classroom and teaching-lab facility to be constructed adjacent to McAllister Hall.

By student writer Katherine Edmonds

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