May Queen Gloria Clark smiles and waves during the wrapping of the maypole. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
May Queen Gloria Clark smiles and waves during the wrapping of the maypole. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Annual Alumnae Reunion Weekend celebrates past, welcomes future

Apr 13, 2019
Kathryne Davis
Anne Skleder, next Brenau University president, speaks during Alumnae Reunion Weekend.
Anne Skleder, next Brenau University president, speaks during Alumnae Reunion Weekend. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

The past, present and future of Brenau University converged during the 2019 Alumnae Reunion Weekend and May Day celebration held April 12-13 at the 141-year-old university’s historic Gainesville campus.

On a rainy Saturday morning that forced some events to be relocated inside, Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College, spoke to alumnae during the champagne brunch in Hopkins Dining Room, with current president Ed Schrader and future president Anne Skleder standing by.

“Brenau, as you know, has grown dramatically during Dr. Schrader’s tenure,” said Dobkins, who noted many of Schrader’s accomplishments during his nearly 15 years at Brenau.

Among those mentioned were the partnership he created with Anhui Normal University in China, expanding Brenau to Jacksonville, Florida, and turning the Georgia Mountains Center into the Brenau Downtown Center. Dobkins continued to say that Brenau has been working on new programs for The Women’s College.

“The Women’s College’s theme has been, ‘honoring the legacy, envisioning the future,’” said Dobkins. “Right here are the two presidents who embody that theme.”

Skleder was named Brenau’s 10th president on the morning of April 12 and attended several events during one of the university’s biggest weekends.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to continue to get to know each of you as time goes on,” Skleder said. “I’ve had so many wonderful, delightful initial conversations with so many of you. I can’t wait to learn how I can best help, support and grow your alma mater.”

Graduates returned to Brenau with their families and friends for two full days of events, including luncheons, cocktail parties, live music, awards, sorority open houses, a derby cocktail party, fashion show and an opening reception of the Brenau Collaborative.

Shania McAmis smiles as she walks to the Crow's Nest during Alumnae Reunion Weekend.
Shania McAmis smiles as she walks to the Crow’s Nest during Alumnae Reunion Weekend. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A tea was held Friday for the 50th anniversary of the class of 1969. Zoe Ann Bushouse Cerny, class of 1969, celebrated her 50th graduation anniversary with several of her classmates. “You can reconnect so easily,” Cerny said. “Fifty years have gone by, and once you get past a few wrinkles and different hairstyles, you see that person again.”

Shay English Stafford, Brenau trustee, and the rest of the class of 1969 were able to meet Skleder during the afternoon tea. “What turned out to be the most exciting thing was being introduced to the new president of Brenau,” said Stafford, who added that it’s great a woman is now representing the university.

One of Saturday’s events included the May Day celebration, a tradition that dates back to the early days of Brenau. The celebration usually takes place on the front lawn with the presentation of the May Court, crowning of the May Queen and wrapping of the maypole. This year’s presentation was moved to Pearce Auditorium, but the students were still able to go outside to wrap the maypole.

Gloria Clark, senior conflict resolution and legal studies major from Decatur, Georgia, was named the 2019 May Queen. Sommer Stockton, senior mass communication major from Hoschton, Georgia, was named May Prince, while Chelsey Bell, senior biology major from Braselton, Georgia, was May Princess. Four representatives from each class also joined the rest of the May Court.

Students also participated in Class Day, held the morning of the May Day celebration. Class Day began with awards being presented in Pearce Auditorium and was supposed to end at the Crow’s Nest with the tradition of the new seniors ascending to the top step for the first time, but ended up getting washed out by a sudden rain.

Ariel Simmons Tithof, class of 2014, was glad to be back at Brenau to visit with her sorority sisters, since many do not live near each other. She said traditions are what she likes most about Brenau. “I think a lot of people say that, but they’ve been going on for years.” Tithof said. “It’s just really awesome to be a part of that.”

Students wrap the maypole during the May Day celebration.
Students wrap the maypole during the May Day celebration. (Scott Rogers for Brenau University)

Tithof was a theatre major at Brenau and currently teaches drama for elementary students in Cumming, Georgia.

One of Tithof’s Alpha Chi Omega sorority sisters, Deidre Cochran, class of 2012, has lived in Minneapolis for about three years and came back to visit her friends. “When I came to Brenau I was not interested at all in joining a sorority,” Cochran said. “Then I met so many amazing women and was like, ‘I should do this.’ It was something that affected my college experience a lot.”

The sun shined in the afternoon and some activities were able to continue outside, including a Chi Omega Terrace dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony. Chi Omega was at Brenau from 1963-2003. The bricks from the original Chi Omega house were saved and were used to build the terrace. Jane Walker Stoner, class of 1966 and member of the first Chi Omega pledge class, said they wanted to to leave a legacy for Chi Omega.

Ashley Carter, director of alumni and constituent engagement, said that she and her colleagues are always looking to enhance the weekend and she encourages alumni to fill out our survey if they attended or did not attend Alumnae Reunion Weekend.