Grace Hooten Moore came to Brenau University in the 1930s, and she never really left.
From her graduation and until the time of her death in 2012, Moore was an ever-present figure on the Gainesville campus, attending plays, gallery openings, alumni receptions and sorority events – even serving as a member of the university’s Board of Trustees, including a stint as its first female chair.
And, on Saturday, April 12, during the university’s Alumnae Reunion Weekend, the university made certain her presence would remain as it dedicated and named in her honor the restored iconic fountain on the front lawn of the historic campus.
“This is a fitting way to honor the woman who spent her life serving Brenau and quietly making her presence known,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader.
James H. (Jim) Moore of Gainesville, who followed in his mother’s footsteps as a member of the Brenau University Board of Trustees, said at the fountain dedication that she “would be thrilled” by the honor of having something so visible on the campus named for her.
“She’d be very humbled by it, of course,” Jim Moore said. “She was never the one to beat the drums about herself. But she’d be thrilled. Mother would be so proud of the continued success that Brenau has had. She was proud it had continued many of the ideals that were in place when she was here.”
The fountain was also in place when young Grace Hooten arrived on campus. Although nobody is really sure how old it is, it – or an earlier version of it – has been a mainstay on the front law of the 135-year-old university for at least a century. One of the traditions that emerged over the years was that, when a Brenau Women’s College student got engaged, her fellow students “baptized” her in the fountain. The fountain and its Victorian Era plumbing had been moved several times. As a result it simply was not “carrying its water” any longer.
When Grace Moore died, the family provided the university with some unrestricted funds that remained in her estate to be applied where the money was needed. The university needed some help in paying for refurbishing the fountain, so that seemed the best application. Other donors, including the Class of 2013, also contributed.
Schrader said Grace Moore was one of the first people he met when he came to the university. He called her one of the kindest, sweetest people he’d ever met and said he was impressed with her love for Brenau.
“If it were anything that had to do with Brenau, Grace was attending,” Schrader said. “She loved being around all the girls in the Women’s College. She really set in motion a family dedication to service and support of Brenau. It’s is extremely fitting that this fountain that has become a figurehead of the front campus, a tradition for so many, especially in the Women’s College, that we honor Grace perpetually by naming this fountain for her. And for generations to come, Grace Hooten Moore will be known to the women of Brenau.”
Born in McDonough, Ga., then a very small town in north central Georgia, Grace Moore developed a love of drama and won a state competition as best actress. It was her love of the fine arts that drew her to Brenau, renowned for its music and drama programs, and she graduated with degrees in drama and speech.
“She really fell in love with the place,” Jim Moore said. “If you look back on your life when you were the most happy and look at where you were, it really has an effect on you. The whole experience was wonderful for Mother and she remained active her whole life. She was in a sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, which she loved. She would tell you Brenau was a great, wonderful experience.”
Moore did leave Gainesville briefly after graduation to teach speech and reading at a high school in Canton, Ga., but she returned in 1939 to marry her local sweetheart, George Walton “Dub” Moore. She and Dub had five children, sons Walton and Jim, who stayed in Gainesville, and three daughters, Dixie Harris of Raleigh, N.C., June Boggs of Wilton, Conn., and Jean Moore Young of Atlanta.
Many members of the Moore clan were on hand for the dedication, including two of Jim’s sisters, June and Dixie.
As a child, Jim Moore recalls, he and his siblings spent many hours on the campus, going there with their mother to see plays or to attend sorority events.
Her support of Brenau was not Moore’s only contribution to the local community. Although she was raised a Baptist, she joined the Gainesville First United Methodist Church and was an active, involved member until her death. She was a founding member of the Junior League of Gainesville and, putting her Brenau degree to work, she was a volunteer storyteller at the Gainesville-Hall County Library.
Grace Moore served on the Brenau Board of Trustees and for one term was the board’s chair. According to Schrader, only one other female previously had served in any role like that, which was so pivotal to the governance of the university – Lucile Townsend Pearce, widow of the long-time president of Brenau, H.J. Pearce.
Perhaps Grace Moore’s most fitting legacy is that her family has continued its support of Brenau and its programs. Jim Moore’s wife, Evanda Gravitte Moore, followed her mother-in-law as a trustee. Jim Moore is a current member of the board.
“Both of my parents were active in the community. When you grow up in that kind of environment, you realize that you have to give back. Gainesville is fortunate to have Brenau in its community. We’re proud to serve Brenau because of what it has meant to our family.”