The athletics department at Brenau University has been named the Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Department, thanks to the support of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation.
“We are grateful to the Ivester Foundation for another extraordinary gift,” Board of Trustees Chair Mike Smith said. “Brenau has featured competitive athletics since the early 1900s, and the support of Doug and Kay Ivester ensures this signature component of The Women’s College at Brenau continues for generations and provides a world-class experience for student-athletes and those who visit the facilities.”
The naming honors Kay Ivester’s father, who was born and raised in New Holland. He attended New Holland School on the site now home to Brenau’s Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park. Grindle joined the U.S. Navy at 17 and served in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Japan. Upon returning to Hall County after the war, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Inez Wilson, also of New Holland.
“My dad always believed that people and organizations either were advancing or going backward, there was no standing still,” Kay Ivester said. “He would be delighted with the continuous forward progress Brenau University demonstrates day in and day out. He would be proud of the expanded use of his name to advance Brenau and Brenau Athletics.”
After working for Pacolet Manufacturing Co. and General Motors, Grindle founded and operated the Gainesville Vending Co. to provide food services for industrial plants in Georgia and North Carolina.
“The Ivester Foundation, and Doug and Kay Ivester as individuals, have been strong supporters of Brenau University, our students and the Gainesville community,” Interim President David L. Barnett said. “We are thankful for the transformational gifts they have given across programs and facilities that continue to help Brenau fulfill our mission to challenge students to live extraordinary lives.”
The gift for the naming of the department is the second from the Ivester Foundation to support athletics at Brenau in honor of Grindle; the first was funding to create the Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park, a 16.75-acre facility located about a mile from the historic campus. The park houses Pacolet Milliken Field, Brenau’s softball field. The land for the park was donated by Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc. in 2014 and is at the site of the historic New Holland textile mill village. Doug and Kay Ivester, who grew up in New Holland, funded the park’s development.
“I have known and worked with Kay and Doug Ivester for the last 50-plus years,” Lynn Darby, president of the Ivester Foundation, said. “They have long been focused on making the lives of Gainesville and Hall County citizens better and the Foundation is always looking to support facilities, programs and activities which do just that – ‘make lives better.’ Athletics is one of those elements which contributes to well-rounded lives and we are pleased to be supportive of the athletics program at Brenau.”
Brenau is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. As of spring 2023, Brenau supports 11 varsity sports and 14 teams with roughly 150 student-athletes who boast an overall GPA of 3.3. Additionally, 22 of those athletes are NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
“Thanks to the generosity of Doug and Kay Ivester, we are able to continue to grow a quality program for our student-athletes that supports the success of the whole individual,” Michael Lochstampfor, vice president of athletics and head soccer coach, said. “Our student-athletes have been successful in the classroom and in competition, and this generous commitment will elevate the level of excellence that is expected from our Golden Tigers.”
Turner Cole, a senior member of the Golden Tigers softball team from Mountain Brook, Alabama, said the Ivesters’ support inspires Brenau’s student-athletes.
“Their support has helped our softball program continue to perform at the highest level,” Cole said. “We will never stop working hard to make them proud of Brenau Softball and all of Brenau’s student-athletes.”
Brenau will celebrate the naming at a ceremony at the Grindle Athletics Park in the spring; details will be announced at a later date.
Brenau student-athletes had a banner year academically as 12 teams and 47 students were honored by the NAIA for achievement during the 2022-23 academic year. Brenau also was recognized as a five-star Champion of Character for the 14th consecutive year.
The Golden Tigers have a tradition of excellence and have distinguished themselves nationally in tennis, swimming, softball, basketball, competitive cheer, golf and other sports. The university has won two national championships in tennis in 1999 and 2002. One or more Golden Tiger teams have made national tournament appearances every year since 2000, except in 2020 when the pandemic canceled competition. The Golden Tigers have appeared in national conference playoffs approximately 45 times and hold 17 conference championships.