Originally published on 4/20/10
Brenau University once again will field a student team for the annual Spelling Bee to benefit the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, in Pearce Auditorium on the Gainesville campus. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.
“Bill Gates only thought he made spelling anachronistic when he invented the spell-checker,” said Winter Elliott, associate professor of English at Brenau and coach of the student team. “Today, spelling as important as ever, since knowing the difference between a schipperke, a schnauzer and a schooner can be all that separates a family from buying man’s best friend or a sailing ship.”
The Brenau team comprises four Brenau English majors: juniors Heather Harper and Niccole Bales, senior Kelly Dickens and first-year student Jessica Taylor. Brenau has fielded faculty teams for the bee in the past; a group that claims Brenau’s only championship in the meet; but the faculty apparently abandoned the field to the students in 2010.
Elliot confirmed that “one Brenau faculty team once won the Spelling Bee,” but, she added, “I don’t know when. The trophy is in Virginia Hall [home of the English Department on the Gainesville campus], though.”
Brenau faculty does have significant representation in the event, however. The perennial emcee is theater professor Gay Hammond who, in the words of one observer, helps keep the spirit of the family-friendly event in its proper perspective, which is “somewhere between ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th- Grader?’ and ‘The Gong Show’,” with a healthy dash of “braggin’ rights” rivalry thrown in.
Hammond, who is noted for her theatrical voice effects familiar to many children in the community through the WonderQuest theater productions she directs, keeps the laughter levels high as teams compete to spell successfully the English language’s most bizarre words.
Formed in 1989, The Gainesville / Hall County Alliance for Literacy, which became a United Way agency in 1993, serves as the umbrella agency for all literacy concerns in Brenau’s home community. It is the advisory board for the Adult Learning Center, whose fiscal agent is Lanier Technical College. The center provides free educational programs for adults 16 years and older who have not graduated from high school or whose native language is not English.
The alliance held its first spelling bee in 1992, which makes it the oldest event of its kind in Georgia.