"Contemporary Student" a bronze statue by Gregory Johnson seen on Front Campus of the historic Gainesville campus. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
"Contemporary Student" a bronze statue by Gregory Johnson seen on Front Campus of the historic Gainesville campus. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau University: 143 Years of History

Feb 10, 2021
Sydney Hencil

Every time I see the historic Brenau campus, I feel a little giddy. Most of the buildings on the historic Gainesville campus are colonial revival style which always has my mind wondering and imagining what life was like as a student during the late 19th and early 20th century. There is a sense of elegance that radiates as you walk across the beautiful campus. Now in 2021, the university will be turning 143. But where did it all begin? How did Brenau University come to be?

Founded in 1878 in Gainesville, Ga., the college was originally founded as a private institution called the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary by Dr. W. C. Wilkes. It had one sole purpose – to educate young women.

By 1900, the school became Brenau College after it was purchased by H. J. Pearce. It was renamed Brenau which is a unique blend of the German word ‘brennen’ (to burn) and the Latin word ‘aurum’ (gold). “As Gold Refined by Fire,” soon became the motto of the school. It was not until the 1992-1993 academic year, that the college became Brenau University.

By the late 1960s, Brenau began offering classes to male students during the evenings at junior and senior levels. Soon, the school noticed a rise in admissions of male students and began offering day classes to male students as well. In 2002, Brenau underwent a significant change and started to offer a number of courses available for online and remote learning. And in 2020, Brenau welcomed it’s 10th president, Dr. Anne A. Skleder, Ph.D. Not only is she the 10th president but the school’s first woman president.

Brenau University is a place rich in history and traditions. The school has been making a mark and providing education for over 140 years to men and women from across the globe and will continue to do so. In this series we hope to unravel some of Brenau’s historic moments and traditions.