University also honors North Carolina philanthropist Irwin ‘Ike’ Belk
In ceremonies this weekend Brenau University conferred 786 degrees on 762 undergraduate and graduate recipients – some of whom have completed dual degree programs for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. All told Brenau awarded 341 graduate diplomas and 430 undergraduate diplomas at two ceremonies at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5.
In addition, on the recommendation of the faculty and by unanimous vote of the Brenau Board of Trustees, the university conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree on North Carolina business leader and philanthropist Irwin “Ike” Belk for his extensive leadership and financial contributions to close to 50 higher education institutions in many states, the U.S. Olympics, the American Cancer Society and many other charity and civic endeavors.
In Friday’s ceremony, the university awarded 199 degrees to graduates of the 134-year-old Brenau Women’s College. The remaining 563 graduates, honored at the Saturday ceremonies, represent the university’s coeducational undergraduate and graduate programs in Gainesville and four other Georgia locations and online. Three of the Saturday graduates were undergraduates from the university’s newest campus in Fairburn, Ga., and 21 received Master of Science degrees from the Brenau occupational therapy program at the North Atlanta/Norcross campus – the first graduates from that program at that location.
Brenau President Ed L. Schrader told the graduates that it has been the university’s job to “provide you all with an extraordinary foundation.”
“Your job,” he said, “is to take it and make it work, to be leaders in the world because we know you’re capable, to be servants of the world because we know you care…. In the world today human achievement for the benefit of the world is needed more than ever.”
Schrader’s comments solidified a focus of the ceremonies on the idea of servant leadership. Upon presenting the honorary degree at the May 5 ceremony, Schrader told the 90-year-old Belk that “ you have spent a lifetime putting into practice what you learned from your parents and what you learned in your own early education: to be a man of morals, a man of faith, a man who does something worthwhile, and a man who knows the importance of doing rigtt by your fellow human beings.”
The keynote speaker for both graduation ceremonies was Dr. Kent M. Keith, internationally renowned author of “The Paradoxical Commandments” and the chief executive for the Greenleaf Center for servant leadership.
Although Keith conceded that the new graduates will encounter difficult people and difficult problems in a complex society, he challenged them to “face the worst in the world with the best in ourselves.”
“We don’t control what the world does to us,” he said, “but we get to decide how we’re going to respond to what the world does to us. … You and I get to decide who we’re going to be and how we’re going to live. We can do what we know is right and good and true, no matter what. And the good news is that’s where people have been finding a lot of meaning [in their lives] for a long, long time.”