Author Carmen Deedy Charges Brenau Graduates to Continue Learning While Becoming Teachers

Author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy told more than 200 graduates of the Brenau University Women’s College here Friday night that their responsibility as new college graduates was to continue being students while at the same time embracing the responsibility to teach others who will come after them to “leave the world a better place than we found it.” 

“Everyone here has someone who gave you a leg up,” ‘she told the graduates, adding that it might be parents who paid the tuition or, point to the members of the Brenau faculty in ther ceremony, “someone in this room. “Now it is your turn. We are here to learn and we are here to teach.”

But, she added, that pay-back must be accomplished “not as charity, but as justice.”

The Women’s College commencement, held at the Georgia Mountains Center, just a few blocks away from the Brenau Gainesville campus, marked the beginning of the Mother’s Day weekend with some special presentations.

Dr. Deedy

The noted storyteller who has befriended Brenau in recent years is visibly taken aback when Presidsent Schrader presents her with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She later explains her emotiuonal reaction to the honor was because she never had an opportunity to attend college.

Although diplomas normally are presented to individual students by Brenau President Ed Schrader, for two students he passed on the honor to their mothers. Dr. Mary Shotwell, a professor of occupational therapy at the university, presented a Bachelor of Science diploma to her daughter, Rachel, who majored in psychology. Virginia Burton of Snellville, Ga., a breast cancer survivor, presented her daughter, Cynthia, with a diploma for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.Deedy also received special recognition at the commencement. Brenau’s Board of Trustees conferred on her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The Class of 2010 is the largest ever for the 132-year-old Women’s College, which has about 900 residential and nonresidential students on the campus in the historic district of Gainesville. 

Graduates from coeducational undergraduate and graduate programs on regional campuses and online received their diplomas on May 8 in a separate ceremony. All told, Brenau this commencement seasons conferred undergraduate degrees on 455 students and graduate degrees to 375.

Deedy had appeared on the Gainesville campus at the fall formal convocation, where she received a standing ovation from students folloying her inspirational speech. It was during the week of the anniversary of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and Deedy had just publiushed her latest book, 14 Cows for America. She had previously visited Brenau when she was writing the book, and she brought with her the young Maasai warrior who had inspired her to write the moving story. Seniors who attended the convocation requested that Schrader invite her back for their commencement.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Deedy and her family immigrated to Decatur, Ga., to escape the Fidel Castro’s repressive regime. For more than two decades she has been one of the nation’s most acclaimed storytellers and authors. Although her medium is classified as “children’s literature,” her stories, writing style and humanity appeal to all age groups.

The university also acknowledged contributions of three faculty members with special awards:

Louise Bauck, an avian veterinarian who chairs the university’s Department of Math & Science, received the $2,500 Ann Austin Johnston Award for outstanding teaching. The award is made possible by Donald C. Johnston of Dublin in honor of his wife, Ann Austin Johnston, a Brenau graduate. Bauck, who joined the Brenau faculty in 2005, has a Bachelor of Science from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and both Master of Veterinary Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees from the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

Suzanne Erickson, associate professor of finance and chair of the business administration department in the School of Business and Mass Communication, received the $1,000 Teaching Excellence and Leadership Award, funded by Vulcan Materials Company through the Georgia Foundation of Independent Colleges. She has been at Brenau since 2007. Erickson holds a Ph.D. in fiancé and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Washington and an M.B.A. from Seattle University.

Perry Daughtry, who divides his half-time load between the nursing and psychology departments, received an award for outstanding part-time faculty. He has been teaching at Brenau since 2006. Daughtry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in experimental psychology from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Science in industrial psychology from the University of North Texas.

Also, Kyleigh Nicole Wright, a psychology major from Elkin, N.C., and Bridgid Leanne Hook, a native of Zimbabwe now living in Gainesville, a business major, were the graduating seniors in the Women’s College with the highest grade point averages – 3.97 over their four-year college careers. They shared the Cora Anderson Hill Academic Award, named for a Brenau alumna from Gainesville with a distinguished career in journalism and public service.

Originally published on 6/01/10

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