Tag Archives: Martha Berry

Abby Thomas

Abby Thomas, left, has found her calling with Special Olympics International. She is seen here with colleagues Meghan Meyers, middle, and Terrel Limerick.

When Abby Thomas (14C) first stepped onto the Rome Braves Miracle Field during a field trip with her Berry kinesiology class, she knew she had to be involved with the work being done there. It was there that she found the perfect source of experience to complement her academic preparation as a public health major with a concentration in disability studies.

Her subsequent experiences as a volunteer and intern fueled a passion for helping people to participate in sporting activities – regardless of physical or intellectual ability – that continues to flourish today through her work as manager of strategic partnerships for Special Olympics International in Washington, D.C.

“The work we do is really exciting and important,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with and for people with disabilities, and I’ve always had a passion for sports, so Special Olympics is the perfect marriage of those two things.”

In her role, Thomas is responsible for directing corporate fundraising efforts for an organization that serves more than five million athletes worldwide. Inspiration for her work comes from the athletes she gets to work with on a daily basis – people who serve as both colleagues and friends in her office at SOI Headquarters.

Recently, she returned to Berry to share the story of Special Olympics with students in an Exceptional Child course taught by Dr. Michelle Haney. During her presentation, Thomas noted the similarities between Martha Berry and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver – two strong-willed, innovative and determined women who left a legacy that continues to change the world and benefit others today.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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Students Playing Frisbee at Ford
IN THE SHADOW OF AN ICON: The Ford Buildings have been a center of student life on the Berry campus since their construction in the 1920s. The English Gothic design of these gifts from Henry and Clara Ford have helped Berry earn wide acclaim as one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. Photo by student Alex Killingsworth.

The Ford Buildings have been drawing audible gasps from prospective students and other campus visitors since the days of Martha Berry herself, so it should come as no surprise that these breathtaking structures turned up on USA Today’s list of America’s “51 most amazing university and college buildings.” The list features one campus building from all 50 states (as well as the District of Columbia), and wouldn’t you know it, the Ford Buildings were chosen to represent Georgia.

Click here to view the entire list, which also includes buildings on the campuses of Stanford University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Princeton, Duke and Yale, among others.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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Julie Bumpus and Alexi Bell

PEOPLE WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Above, student Alexi Bell interviews Associate Dean of Students Emeritus Julie Bumpus during this year’s Scholarship Night program. Below, senior Danielle Bowling, left, poses with her mentor, Director of Student Activities Cecily Crow (94C), during Always Berry Week. Photos by students Matthew McConnell and Bailey Albertson.

Always Berry Week

What does it mean to be “Always Berry?”

That question inspired a series of videos produced this spring in which alumni of all ages (and President Briggs!) have reflected on the things that make Berry special. Hopefully, you’ve seen and enjoyed these videos in your inbox or on social media. If not, click here to see what we’re talking about.

Earlier this month, students joined the conversation as part of a week-long campus celebration known as “Always Berry Week.” The alumni engagement office hosted the event in partnership with Athletes Bettering the Community, the Student Government Association, Krannert Center Activities Board, Berry resident assistants and the Student Philanthropy team. Together, they provided students with the opportunity to honor their Berry mentors while simultaneously supporting the Save a Student Scholarship. More than 400 students, faculty and staff took part, filling a display in Krannert Center with Polaroid selfies honoring the people at Berry who have made a difference in their lives.

The week concluded with Berry’s annual Scholarship Night celebration pairing donors with their scholarship recipients in the Cage Center. More than 100 student volunteers welcomed participants by lining the drive as candleholders, honoring a tradition that dates back to the “Berry Pilgrims” of Martha Berry’s day. Students Mahmood Abdellatif and Alexi Bell acted as hosts for the program, which was planned by students and featured remarks by a number of donors and scholarship recipients in attendance.

Always Berry Week is over now, but there is more fun yet to come. Click here to learn more about what it means to be “Always Berry,” and keep an eye out later this week for a new video featuring an unforgettable rendition of Berry’s Alma Mater that you don’t want to miss.

By Jennifer Wright

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Finding Kate CoverKate Macy Ladd visited Berry only once in her life, but those three days in 1915 inspired a lifetime of support. The legacy of her generosity is still evident today in the form of Lemley Hall, the Road of Remembrance, Memorial Library, and, of course, the Ladd Center, the only Berry building that actually bears her name.

The story of the New Jersey philanthropist – an heiress to the Standard Oil Company – is chronicled in Finding Kate: The Unlikely Journey of 20th Century Healthcare Advocate Kate Macy Ladd, a new book by Meryl Carmel. It was during her 10 years of research on the project that the author learned of Ladd’s strong ties to Martha Berry and her schools.

As Carmel recounted, Ladd’s visit to Berry was driven by a desire to seek out causes and people she could support. Joining her was husband Walter – a future Berry trustee – her Pomeranian dog and good friend Alice Lemley. During a train layover in Atlanta, she ordered boxes of chocolates for the Berry students.

“For many of those children, no one had given them a gift like that before,” Carmel noted.

Ladd was so inspired by the students’ gratitude that she continued to send them Christmas chocolates every year until her death in 1945.

Kate Macy Ladd Portrait

A color version of this Albert Herter portrait hangs in the Court of Honor at The Martha Berry Museum.

“She describes the experiences she had with the children at Berry to be some of the most interesting of her life,” the author said.

Beyond her own donations, Ladd helped lay the groundwork for the “Berry Pilgrims,” groups of wealthy Northerners who would come to Berry to see the campus and donate money to the school. As detailed in Berry College: A History, by Drs. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS), and Doyle Mathis (58C, FFS), these pilgrimages were led by Emily Vanderbilt Hammond, another prominent philanthropist who first met Martha Berry at Ladd’s home.

Ladd’s opinion of the Berry founder was such that she eventually established a private trust to provide her with a private income. She also helped fund significant reconstruction and landscaping at Oak Hill in the late 1920s.

Interestingly, the only structure on campus named for this early friend of Berry wasn’t built until the 1960s, long after her death. As the author explained, Ladd was a very selfless person who was less interested in the credit for the donations and more concerned with the giving itself.

“She had a heart for people, for all kinds of people,” Carmel stated.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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Video courtesy of Ryan Gooding and the Boulder Daily Camera

Sandy Bonnyman Jr. with Medal of HonorMost students graduate with some knowledge of Martha Berry’s family history, but it’s doubtful many know the story of her nephew, Marine 1st Lt. Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor for valor in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II. He lost his life that day in 1943, and for nearly 75 years his body was lost as well.

Bonnyman’s heroism and the subsequent search for his remains were the focus of a recent campus presentation by Clay Bonnyman Evans, grandson of the World War II hero and author of Bones of My Grandfather: Reclaiming a Lost Hero of World War II.

Evans was thrilled by the opportunity to share the story of his grandfather with Berry students.

“I love Berry College,” he said. “I think it’s such an amazing and cool school. And I love the fact that people in the Berry community and in Rome are interested in the Berry family story.”

In his earliest years, Evans recalls his grandfather being an almost mythical hero symbolized by the Medal of Honor that hung on the wall of every house he knew as a child. Decades later, he played a role in solving the mystery of his grandfather’s whereabouts through his work with History Flight, an organization led by Mark Noah dedicated to finding and recovering the bodies of missing American soldiers abroad.

“If anyone was going to get this done it was going to be this little nonprofit,” Evans said.

In 2015, History Flight uncovered Bonnyman’s body along with others buried in a small stretch of land known as “Cemetery 27” on that far away Pacific island. Evans was present when the archeologist identified the remains. Later that year, his grandfather was finally laid to rest in the family burial plot in Tennessee.

“I was privileged to be a part of the effort to locate his remains, but the credit for that goes to Mark Noah and History Flight,” Evans said. “Mark, like my grandfather, was doggedly determined. He refused to give up, and he made it happen. Without Mark Noah, I feel very confident that we would never have found my grandfather.”

More coverage: Washington Post; Campus Carrier

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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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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Martha Berry’s friendship with Henry and Clara Ford left an indelible impression on the institution that bears her name. Recently, Ford Motor Company honored the legacy of that friendship in a video featuring Edsel Ford, Henry and Clara’s great-grandson. Shot on campus last October, the video made its debut in January at a “Salute to Dealers” event honoring the philanthropic efforts of Ford dealers worldwide.

President Steve Briggs, who appears with Edsel Ford in the video, explored the history of Martha Berry’s “improbable friendship” with the Fords in his winter Berry magazine essay. Read more.

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American Spirit MagazineBerry’s famed Ford Buildings graced the cover of the 2015 education issue of American Spirit magazine, the national publication of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In spotlighting Berry and other DAR-affiliated institutions nationwide, the issue credited Martha Berry with first stirring the DAR’s “passion for supporting schools” with her 1904 address to the organization’s Continental Congress in Washington, D.C. It also traced the unique history of “Martha’s great experiment” and lauded the college for staying “true to its founder’s vision of building and sustaining communities through education.”

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Martha BerryBerry long has been a destination of choice for television and movie crews seeking a one-of-a-kind setting for their productions, but the most compelling story on campus – that of Martha Berry herself – remains largely untold. Not since the 1952 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “Forgotten Children” – featuring Cloris Leachman as Martha Berry with James Dean in a supporting role – has the Berry story been the subject of a commercial film or television show.

Jessica Clay Smith (00C) hopes to change that with The Sunday Lady, a proposed film about Martha’s life. The Atlanta-based actress and producer is currently working to build awareness in advance of a fall Kickstarter campaign to support the project.

“During the preparation period, I have become only more fascinated by the remarkable Martha Berry,” Smith said. “Her personal motto, ‘Prayer changes things,’ has become more than just the theme of the movie; it is also the theme of the production. I am eager to share the exciting news of this journey with the Berry community and pray each current and former student will become a part of this story as well.”

Berry Chief of Staff Whit Whitaker (81C) commended Smith on her efforts.

“We are excited about Jessica’s commitment to her project and certainly wish her well as she moves forward,” he stated. “Every alumnus, alumna and friend of Berry would be thrilled to see a high quality movie tell the Martha Berry story.”

Follow The Sunday Lady on Twitter and Facebook.

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Martha BerryFOX 5 Atlanta kicked off its celebration of Women’s History Month by profiling a pioneer in education near and dear to the hearts of Berry alumni  – Martha Berry herself! Providing context for the audience were Tim Brown, director of Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, and Marti Berry Walstad, Martha’s great niece and a current member of the Berry College Board of Trustees. Many will recognize the FOX 5 reporter as former Atlanta Brave Ron Gant, now a co-host for Good Day Atlanta. Click the image to view his report.

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Martha Berry's GraveThe next time you visit campus be sure to stop by Martha Berry’s grave and see recent improvements that have made the site more visible and accessible to visitors attending special observances. Under the glow of the familiar gaslight flame you will find beautiful stonework installed by the student masonry crew and newly planted English boxwoods that fulfill Miss Berry’s original desire for the site. The work was completed in September and dedicated on Mountain Day during a memorial tribute hosted by the Daughters of Berry.

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Mountain Day Brochure CoverAs the first hint of fall kisses the morning air, our thoughts invariably turn to Mountain Day – now less than three weeks away. Highlights for alumni are plentiful this year, including the fifth-annual Mega Reunion and several different affinity group reunions.

Reunion List

Class years (at Mega Reunion): 1972A, 1972C, 1977A, 1977C, 1982A, 1982C, 1987C, 1992C, 1997C, 2002C, 2007C.

Affinity groups: Charter Fellows Conference, Longleaf Pine Alumni Reunion, Pathways Program Reunion Breakfast, Psychology Alumni Breakfast, Study Abroad 40th Anniversary Reunion, Latino/Latina Alumni Merienda, Recent Graduates Reception.

The Mountain Campus will be a focal point of alumni activity throughout the day Oct. 6, beginning with the morning convocation at Frost Chapel. This year’s speaker is Brian Brodrick (97C), an All-American runner at Berry who now serves on the Board of Visitors.

Online registration for several events (including the Friday afternoon golf scramble, Saturday morning 5K and ALL reunions) closes Friday, Sept. 28, so sign up today! If you can’t be there in person, Virtual Mountain Day will bring the fun to you via streaming video of the Grand March and a live chat.

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