A group of nursing graduates take a photo during The Women's College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
A group of nursing graduates take a photo during The Women's College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

‘Call the Meeting to Order,’ Admiral Tells Women’s College Graduates

May. 6, 2016
Brenau Staff

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Annie B. Andrews told the 2016 Brenau University Women’s College graduating class to aim high in their professional aspirations. She also gave them a blueprint for success: have a plan, a purpose, a passion and then picture in their minds how they are going to place themselves there.

“Not only as women do you have a voice and a seat at the table, but you also can be the one to call the meeting to order,” Andrews told the graduates.

“Now you are entering into that part of life where your destiny is up to you,” she said. “Successful people understand the old adage that ‘If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.’”

Hollie Rivers, center, Lauren LaRicci and Emily Taylor place their hands on their hearts during the National Anthem during The Women's College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Hollie Rivers, center, Lauren LaRicci and Emily Taylor place their hands on their hearts during the National Anthem during The Women’s College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

At the Friday ceremony on the front lawn of the historic campus, the university conferred 104 diplomas on new graduates of the 138-year-old Women’s College. The Women’s College Class of 2016 comprises five graduates from the College of Business & Mass Communication, seven from the College of Education, 36 from the College of Fine Arts & Humanities and 56 from the College of Health Sciences.

“Admiral Andrews understands the importance of education and she understands the fact the job market today and the needs of society are ever-changing,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader. “When I first met her, I knew she had something important to share with us.”

Andrews, a native of Hinesville, Georgia, who retired from the Navy in October, currently oversees 46,000 employees as assistant administrator for human resource management for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C. During her 32-year Navy career, Andrews focused primarily on human resources and personnel matters, including commanding all of the Navy’s recruitment operations and directing the Navy’s long-term strategic planning for future force requirements.

A graduate of an all-girls high school in Philadelphia, Andrews said she knows very well the spirit of sisterhood shared by this year’s graduating class. However, she also encouraged them to never rest on their laurels, and to engage in lifelong learning to increase their development, employability and sustainability in the job market.

While opportunities for women in the military three decades ago were limited, today, Andrews said all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are making great strides to integrate women into all areas of service. And in the civilian sector, she said the outlook for women – especially those with backgrounds in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) – has never been brighter.

Taking Andrews’ advice to heart, several graduates have already made plans to take the next big step in their personal journeys.

MK Jabbia hugs Brenau President Ed Schrader while receiving her degree during The Women's College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

MK Jabbia hugs Brenau President Ed Schrader while receiving her degree during The Women’s College Commencement on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“I have learned at Brenau to be incredibly unstoppable at anything that I do – mentally, physically, emotionally,” said Mary Katherine “MK” Jabbia, a biology major from Slidell, Louisiana. The All-American on the Brenau Golden tigers swimming team and student government president now is bound for pharmacy school at Loyola University in New Orleans. “My limits are immeasurable, and Brenau has taught me that I am capable of anything.”

Biology major Victoria Adeyemi from Douglasville, Georgia, said she will pursue a master’s degree in microbiology. “What I took away from Brenau are lifelong friendships,” she said. “My friends and I were able to bond a lot, and the bonding here is great.”

The university also presented an honorary Doctor of Arts to former President John S. Burd, who led the university from 1985 to 2004. During his two decades, Burd almost doubled enrollment and engineered a 1,600 percent increase in the university endowment. His most visible legacy, however, said Brenau President Ed Schrader, was Burd’s creation and continuing development of Brenau’s permanent collection of sculpture, painting and other art – starting in 1988 by acquiring a donation of seven paintings through today with more than 6,000 pieces.

“He continues to support the heart and soul of Brenau University,” Schrader said. “Not just the art, but the idea of single-gender education of liberal arts in making the arts, both fine and performing, available to the community.”

Brenau also recognized several faculty members and students for outstanding academic and professional performances.

Hannah Doster, an early childhood education major from Hoschton, Georgia, and Lauren Gooch, a nursing major from Gainesville, Georgia, received the Cora Anderson Hill Academic Award. for the Women’s College graduate with the highest grade point average. Both women  finished with perfect 4.0 averages, meaning they never earned less than an A in all of their college courses. The honor, was named after a Brenau alumna from Gainesville who had a distinguished career in both journalism and public service.

Kay Graham, an assistant professor of occupational therapy, received the Ann Austin Johnston Outstanding Faculty Award for teaching. The award, established by Donald C. Johnston of Dublin, Georgia, in honor of his late wife, a 1939 Women’s College graduate. It includes a $2,500 prize.

Retiring School of Mass Communication Department Chair and Associate Professor Stewart Blakley received the Vulcan Teaching Award for teaching excellence and leadership. The prize comes with a $1,000 prize funded by Vulcan Material Co. through the Georgia Independent Colleges Association.

Portia Burns, an adjunct professor of music and director of Brenau’s gospel choir, and Alecia Webb, assistant director and adjunct business administration professor at Brenau’s Kings Bay campus,  received Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Awards. Webb has been promoted to become director of the university’s Jacksonville campus this summer.

In all, Brenau plans to acknowledge about 373 students in the 2016 graduation ceremonies May 6 and 7.  Saturday ceremonies will include 163 undergraduates and 210 graduate students from Brenau’s coeducational programs on all campuses and online. In a major milestone, the university in the Saturday ceremony will confer its first Occupational Therapy Doctorates to Allen Kareem Patmon of Mableton, Georgia, and Sara Catharine Propes of Atlanta, Georgia.

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