The Brenau University Alumni Association names seven women with careers ranging from NASA executive and two-star admiral to Hollywood costume designer and folksy newspaper columnist to its 2013 class of the Brenau Alumni Hall of Fame.
The recognition program, on hiatus since 2005, became a new feature of the alumni group’s signature reunion weekend celebration for the 134-year-old Women’s College on the historic Gainesville campus. Although past inductees have included men who earned degrees at Brenau through its coeducation programs in Gainesville and other campuses, the 2013 group is all female.
“That is just the way things worked out,” said Jenny Dell, the alumni director. “Still, the honorees not only represent Women’s College alumnae but also graduates of Brenau Academy, our Kings Bay campus on the Georgia coast and even one graduate from a Brenau program that once operated on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens. The all have one thing in common: with their Brenau diplomas and degrees, they all went on to do remarkable things in their extraordinary lives.”
The inductees include:
Dr. Gale J. Allen of Springfield, Va., director of strategic integration and management in NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, completed a Master of Business Administration degree on Brenau’s Kings Bay campus in 1991 while she was running the U.S. Navy submarine base chemistry labs. She credits that degree with helping her not only crash through the “glass ceiling” in the once male-dominated space program but also in getting a previously elusive job within NASA in the first place. She currently is participating in planning and development of NASA initiative to send a mission to Mars. In March 2009 she was unanimously elected to serve on the Brenau University Board of Trustees.
Katherine Jane “Janie” Bryant of Los Angeles, Calif., currently the lead costume designer on the highly acclaimed hit television series Mad Men. Bryant, a native of Cleveland, Tenn., graduated from Brenau Academy in 1985 and attended the Women’s College for a year. As one of the top costume designers in film and televisions, with work that has been spun off into retail clothing lines, Bryant’s credits range from Wes Craven thrillers to the HBO television western, Deadwood, for which she won an Emmy in 2005.
June Moore-Richards of Los Gatos, Calif., at 19 years old graduated at from Brenau Women’s College in 1948. She leveraged her passion for science and both natural and learned business acumen into a significant role as one of “Nuclear Pioneers” at General Electric’s power generation subsidiary, created after World War II for the development of electrical power around the world. Throughout the years she provided a steady stream of financial gifts to Brenau, culminating in her recent endowment of the distinguished chair for research and teaching in the Brenau School of Nursing.
Sylvia Macklen Robinson of Fredericksburg, Va., graduated from Brenau Academy in 1954. For more than four decades she worked to improve environmental and health conditions in Puerto Rico, primarily through the Executive Tourism Task Force, which she co-founded in 1982. She worked with numerous agencies, including the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, to help restore the storm water system in and around her community. That and other activities in neighborhood cleanups, beautification projects and enforcement efforts leading for a higher quality of life earned her top honors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – an Environmental Quality Award in 2007.
Gail A. Smith of Decatur, Ga., is director of public and corporate affairs at Georgia-Pacific Corporation. She graduated from Brenau Women’s College in 1983 with a double major in English and business administration, a year after G-P moved its corporate headquarters from Portland, Ore., to Atlanta. Smith began working at Georgia-Pacific communications as communications assistant, but during her career at the company she has worked in media relations, served as executive speechwriter and managed communications for some of the company’s manufacturing businesses, as well as its former timber business. Smith also makes time to volunteer through Georgia-Pacific’s ServiceForce. She was elected to the Brenau Board of Trustees in 2005.
Ronda Rich Tinker from Clermont, Ga., is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, radio commentator and best-selling author. She graduated from Brenau Women’s College in 1983 with a degree in a degree in journalism. She began her career as a sports writer, including time covering NASCAR, but exploited her natural gifts as a north Georgia story teller for her five books and column that appears in more than 50 newspapers. Her book What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should) has gone through more than 30 printings.
U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Patricia E. Wolfe of Jacksonville, Fla., is acting commander of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Philadelphia, Pa., and one of very few women to hold the two-star rank. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree in 1987 from Brenau at its former operations at the Navy logistics school in Athens, Ga. Although technically a reservist since she left full-time service as a young officer, she has been recalled to active duty numerous times, from Desert Storm to Operation Unified Response for Haiti earthquake relief efforts. As a specialist in helping small businesses acquire and manage major defense and government contracts, Wolfe was Brenau’s representative honoree at the “Entrepreneurs…Masters of Innovation” program in 2012.
The alumni association scheduled the Hall of Fame induction to occur April 13 at a banquet at Brenau Downtown Center near Gainesville’s town square. The Downtown Center currently is under renovations to become the home of new graduate programs in health careers preparation, including a doctorate in physical therapy.
In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, the Brenau Alumni Association this year honors three young alumnae for their accomplishments, one for professional achievement and two other graduates for service to the university and the community. All citations, Dell said, were based on nominations and recommendations by other alumni.
Young alumnae honorees are Attorney and judicial candidate Brook Atkinson Davidson, a 2002 Women’s College graduate; Emmie Henderson Howard, a 2001 graduate who co-founded Southern Proper, the provider of upscale neckties and other fashion accessories for men and women; and Kristina Shepard Rhoades, an 2008 Women’s College graduate who also earned a Master of Science at Brenau in 2010, was station manager at WBCX-FM 89.1, Brenau’s radio station, before increasing her involvement as Atlanta Abilities Expo ambassador and as a social media marketing and advertising professional.
Danita Emma, a “nontraditional” Women’s College student who enrolled in the dance program only after she had an extensive professional career in ballet, graduated from the Women’s College in 2001. After serving as an adjunct faculty member at Brenau, she went on to manage an auxiliary dance program at Syracuse University and the International Ballet Intensive, an organization for sharing through educational programs, performance opportunities and international cultural exchanges the elegant science of classical ballet technique with professional and pre-professional dancers to enhance their capacity as performing artists. IBI now conducts summer programs for young dancers with Syracuse University and Brenau.
Rosanne Chastain Short, who earned a Master of Science in organizational leadership in 2006 after graduating from the Women’s College in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, received the alumni association’s Distinguished Service to Brenau award. The Cornelia, Ga., resident is currently director of nonresidential programs and support services at the university.
Kelly Flanagan McCormick, a 2004 nursing graduate of the Women’s College who now lives near Warner Robins, Ga., earned her recognition after the death of her young son, Peyton, for returning to campus to instruct students on dealing with terminally ill patients and grieving family members from her perspective as both a nurse and a mother.
More than 300 Brenau Women’s College and Brenau Academy alumnae plus families and friends were expected to converge on the Brenau University for the April 12-14 reunion weekend and the “May Day” celebration for current students.
For additional information, see the alumni association pages on the Brenau Web site.