Terry Capers, BU '14 and winner of the Service to Brenau Award, poses for photos with a group of cheerleaders during the homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Terry Capers, BU '14 and winner of the Service to Brenau Award, poses for photos with a group of cheerleaders during the homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Teachers Top Brenau Alumni Honor Roll – But There’s a Little Detective Work Involved, Too

Oct. 4, 2017
David Morrison

Brenau University’s 2017-18 crop of alumni award winners and Hall of Fame inductees focused heavily on graduates who have spent their lives teaching children – along with a retired Atlanta police detective who helped crack one of the city’s most sensational murder cases and a former FBI agent whose career in counterintelligence at times sounded like a chapter from a John le Carré novel.

Claude Porter Sr., BU ’84, of Atlanta, earned a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Brenau and spent close to three decades with the Atlanta police. He was one of three inductees into the Brenau Alumni Hall of Fame.

Attendees gather on the Wilkes Lawn for homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Attendees gather on the Wilkes Lawn for homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

In 1988, four years after his graduation, Porter got involved with the highly publicized case of Julie Love, a well-known 27-year-old fitness teacher who disappeared while walking at night on a Buckhead street. Acting on a tip 13 months later, police discovered her body and commenced the focused investigation that ultimately led to the 2011 execution of the perpetrator. Porter served as a detective and chaplain in the Atlanta Police Department until his retirement in 1998. Then, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Beulah Heights University in 2000, and he was appointed pastor of Visions of Life Baptist Church in 2012.

Brenau Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Lisa Bennett, WC ’77, was on the Brenau swim team from 1974-77 and at one time ranked the No. 7 breaststroke swimmer in the nation. After graduating from Brenau with a Bachelor of Science in physical education, she spent 10 years as an agent with the FBI. For one of her cases, she reached out to another Brenau alumna, Nan Jared Powell, a 1964 graduate whose husband, Jody, was a top aide to President Jimmy Carter. Powell, who after the White House set up a successful Washington-based public relations practice, agreed to set up a fake career identity for Bennett for her work as an undercover operative.

Bennett, meanwhile, never stopped swimming. In addition to coaching, she began Masters Swimming at age 25, competing all over the world. In 2008, she became a member of the open-water swimming relay team called the Mighty Mermaids, which swims all over the country to raise money for charity – like relays for the 26 miles across the sea from the California mainland to Catalina Island.

Most of the honorees recognized during Homecoming Weekend Sept. 29-30 spent career time as teachers and education administrators.

“As Brenau has, since its beginnings about 140 years ago, produced thousands of educators, it is exciting to see that the alumni body has recognized their accomplishments,” said Ashley Morgan Carter, the Brenau alumni director. “Truly they have singled out many outstanding individuals who have had significant impact on the lives of many, many others.”

Brenau cheerleaders performs on the Front Lawn during the homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau cheerleaders perform on the Front Lawn during the homecoming celebrations at Brenau University. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Other Athletic Hall of Fame inductees included:

Linda Austin Thompson, WC ’80, participated on the swim team from 1976-80 and was one of the first divers at Brenau. The Oakwood, Georgia, resident earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and taught social studies for 18 years, and she was a high school administrator for 19 years before retiring last year. She “owes her education and desire to teach to Brenau.”

Abby Gilliamsen, WC ’86, of Jacksonville, Florida, earned a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Brenau and was on the swim team from 1983-86. She was a 1984 NAIA All-American, and was on the 1984-85 swim team ranked No. 12 in the country. After Brenau, she became (and still is) a math teacher at Duval County Public Schools and was an athletic trainer for five years.

Lisa Bowers Drake, WC ’88, was also a 1984 NAIA All-American athlete. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Brenau and has worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Northeast Georgia Medical Center. She and her husband started their own child-care centers, Kids Discovery, in 1994 in Snellville, Georgia, and in 1999 they moved the business to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where they now reside.

Top on the list of inductees to the Brenau Athletics Hall of Fame was Dr. Polly Cabe Roberts of Shelbyville, Tennessee, who from 1969-79 served as the institution’s first director of intercollegiate athletics. Although Roberts in failing health could not attend the ceremony in person, Patricia Gayle Rye, WC ’81, a past Hall of Fame inductee, spoke on her behalf.

“Dr. Roberts was a visionary. She started the programs here at Brenau long before women’s sports were even mentioned in the environments we know today,” said Rye. “She set the path for us to have the experiences we had at Brenau. She worked diligently with campus administrators and created partnerships in the community to make things happen.”

Members of the 2017 SSAC Champion Brenau Golden Tigers softball team pose with their conference championship rings after an alumnae softball game during Brenau's homecoming festivities on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Members of the 2017 SSAC Champion Brenau Golden Tigers softball team pose with their conference championship rings after an alumnae softball game during Brenau’s homecoming festivities on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Gainesville, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Others inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame include:

Jane Suggs, WC ’74, served for six years as a Brenau trustee, and has remained involved with the Tri Delta sorority since she graduated from the Women’s College. Having graduated from Brenau with an early childhood education degree and sociology minor, she now resides in Columbia, South Carolina. She is a member of the Columbia Garden Club, and for the past 10 years she has chaired the Governor’s Christmas Tree committee at the South Carolina State House.

Daisy Waldrep, WC ’61, is a retired teacher residing in Cedartown, Georgia. She has dedicated 37 years of teaching high school science and chemistry and more than two years after retirement to educating young scientists. She is a member of various community organizations, including the Cedartown Junior Service League, Polk Retired Educators Association and the Retired Georgia Educator’s Association.

Here are the recipients of other 2017 Outstanding Alumnae Awards:

Terry Capers, WC ’14, received the Service to Brenau Award. An early childhood education graduate from Hephzibah, Georgia, she teaches first grade at Glenn Hills Elementary School in Augusta. She regularly returns to the Brenau Augusta campus, from which she graduated, to serve students and assist faculty in the education program, including peer tutoring Brenau students during evening classes.

Amber Simmons, WC ’03, received the Professional Achievement Award. She has earned numerous teaching awards, including the 2017 National Council for Teachers of English Teacher of Excellence Award, the 2017 Georgia Council for Teachers of English Teacher of the Year, and the 2016 Brookwood Schools Foundation Grant Recipient. The Snellville, Georgia, resident is a language arts teacher at Brookwood High School.

Michele Davis Hood, WC ’11, received the Community Service Award. The Gainesville, Georgia, resident teaches language arts at Chestatee Academy and is an Early College and REACH Coordinator. She developed the Early College @ Jones program, a partnership with the University of Georgia and Lanier Tech, to support college success for students from poverty and special populations. She is currently enrolled at Valdosta State University for her leadership add-on.

Stefanie Diaz, WC ’05, BU ’07, received the Young Alumna Award. The founder and CEO of Mastermind Your Launch, a marketing company that helps fledgling businesses with successful marketplace launches, she volunteers in the community and helps other entrepreneurs find their footing in the business world. She is also the host and creator of Women Only Entrepreneurs, also known as W.O.E., a networking event to empower and bring together working women.

Sherrie Hengle Devries, A ’59, WC ’60, of Hoschton, Georgia, was the Academy Alumna of the Year. She works at Weddings in Style, and has been a vital part of Brenau’s Alumni Reunion Weekend and May Day celebrations with her beautiful flowers and generous donations for the ARW silent auctions.

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