Brenau University Confers Top Service Awards on Entrepreneur Emmie Henderson Howard and Ultimate Community ‘Volunteers’ Joyce and Jock Hornor
Brenau University Thursday night conferred its highest non-academic honors on youthful entrepreneur Emmie Henderson Howard and two of Gainesville’s most energetic and engaged community service volunteers, Jock and Joyce Hornor.
Howard, a 2001 Brenau alumna, co-founded Southern Proper, an extremely successful enterprise that provides men’s neckties and other upscale fashion accessories for men and women, received the Distinguished Service to Brenau Award. She currently chairs the 1878 Council, a group of alumni, business and community leaders and others who play a significant role in advising university administrators on a variety of activities to strengthen and support the institution.
Jock and Joyce Hornor, who have been actively engaged in volunteering and offering other support for a wide variety of charitable, community service and education activities since they moved into the area more than 30 years ago, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, respectively, for distinguished community service.
Brenau University President Ed Schrader presented the three awards Thursday night at Brenau Downtown Center, formerly the Georgia Mountains Center, at the annual President Club Dinner for financial supporters who contributed to the university’s annual fund or other programs.
“These three have one major trait in common,” said Schrader. “They all believe that devoting as much of their time and effort as possible to outstanding community service is simply a normal part of their everyday lives. They each have played significant roles with their volunteer service in improving education at all levels in this community.”
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan award was named for an Indiana native, the 19th century New York lawyer and philanthropist who made community service projects, particularly those related to expanding educational opportunities to all people, as much a part of his regimen as his successful business ventures. The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award is named for his wife, a southern-born humanitarian who assisted prisoners during the Civil War and in its aftermath worked aggressively for reconciliation between the states.
“The Hornors are ideal recipients of these awards because, simply put, they are good citizens,” said Schrader. “More often behind the scenes instead of out front, they are – in the true spirit of the Sullivans – tireless practitioners of the art of good citizenship. They willingly share their good fortune and they are also willing to get their hands dirty by applying their time, passion and energy to building a better world for us all.”
Schrader cited many examples of their work in the community, including efforts on behalf of Elachee Nature Center, where both have applied extensive time and resources Joyce Hornor as a volunteer and Jock Hornor as a board member and chair of the board. He also pointed out Jock Hornor’s work with Lakeview Academy, “where he has done everything from serving a chairman of the board of trustees to driving a team bus to and from games.” Jock Hornor also taught in the classroom and coached soccer at junior high and senior high levels during the academy’s early years.
Joyce Hornor, a well-known Gainesville artist, also was instrumental in establishing one of the most successful fundraising activities in the community, the annual Marketplace program that benefits the Northeast Georgia Health Systems. By donating her highly regarded still life paintings and other original arts works for sale in various charity auctions, he added, she has helped raise significant sums for local charities.
In addition to philanthropy, Schrader said the Hornors are best known for volunteering their time. “It has been said,” the Brenau president explained, “that for the last 30 years nobody in the community ever asked for volunteers who did not see one – or both – of them raise their hands.”
Howard, who came to Gainesville as a Brenau student from her family’s farm in Golddust, Tenn., about 50 miles northeast of Memphis, met her husband, Tommy, in Gainesville while she was working on a class project as a business student. After several years in various jobs with Newell Rubbermaid, she and a former Brenau classmate Regan Hardy Howell in 2005 launched Southern Proper. The company, which produced men’s neckties in bright colors and “southern” images incorporated in their design, quickly gained national prominence with features in such publications as Southern Living and Gun & Garden.
However, as a student, she already demonstrated her proclivity for service. In fact, for her work on campus in a wide variety of activities she received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award that Brenau gives to its student servant-leaders.
“Since her graduation,” Schrader said, “she has continued her service to the university, volunteering for everything from planning social events to engineering major fundraising campaigns.” For example, under her leadership, the 1878 Council, previously serving strictly in its advisory role, has now undertaken as its own project a campaign to raise $1.5 million to purchase about 30 new pianos for the Gainesville campus in Brenau’s All-Steinway School initiative.
“Whenever I have asked Emmie for her help on anything, she has never refused,” Schrader said. “However I usually do not have to ask.”