Tag Archives: LifeReady Campaign

Kevin Renshler Portrait

Kevin Renshler

Marc Hunsaker Portrait

Marc Hunsaker

Entrepreneurship and personal and professional development are the focus of two recent appointments meant to build on historic strengths and further develop opportunities for students.

Dr. Kevin Renshler is the inaugural director of the Center for Student Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, a major priority of Berry’s LifeReady Campaign. Dr. Marc Hunsaker, meanwhile, will lead the newly formed Center for Personal and Professional Development.

Renshler has an impressive background working with students to advance skills in business, creativity and engagement, most recently serving as associate director of MiddCORE and professor of practice at Middlebury College. At Berry, he will work to enhance the entrepreneurial development of students and revamp the start-up process for student-operated enterprises, among other duties.

Hunsaker comes to Berry from Michigan State University, where he served as purpose and career design consultant for the university’s Career Services Network. Responsibilities in his new role include integrating and strengthening existing programs related to professional learning experiences, career advising, internships and mentoring. He will also lead the college’s work program, now called LifeWorks.

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Dr. Craig E. Johnson brought his unique perspective on leadership to the Berry campus Oct. 3 as the latest speaker in the Cecil B. Wright III Integrity in Leadership Lecture Series. The author of Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach and Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow took students and others guests on “A Walk on the Shadow Side of Leadership” during his presentation in Krannert Center.

Johnson, an emeritus professor of leadership studies at George Fox University, has served in leadership positions at nonprofit organizations and has been an active participant in educational and service trips to Kenya, Rwanda, Honduras, Brazil, China and New Zealand. He is the recipient of George Fox University’s distinguished teaching award, as well as the outstanding graduate faculty researcher award in 2016.

While on campus, Johnson sat down for a brief on-campus interview (view above), sharing his thoughts on the current state of leadership and other topics.

“It’s certainly … been a dark time for leadership in terms of tribalism,” he stated. “We have more people displaced than ever before. There’s a rise of nationalism and so forth, but I’m with Desmond Tutu … I believe that light is stronger than darkness and life is stronger than death, so I think in the long run I’m optimistic.”

The Wright Lecture Series is an initiative of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership, which is dedicated to helping students develop a better understanding of ethical leadership in all aspects of life. Programming is made possible through gifts to the LifeReady Campaign.

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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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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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