ribbon-cutting Darby School
Brenau University celebrated the new home of the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling in the Gainesville Renaissance on the Brenau Downtown Campus From left: Doug and Kay Ivester, Julie Battle, Lynn and Diane Darby, Anne Skleder and Mike Smith.

Brenau cuts ribbon on new downtown home for Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling

Apr 6, 2022
Edie Rogers

Brenau University celebrated the opening of the new home of the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling in the Gainesville Renaissance on the Brenau Downtown Campus on Thursday, April 7, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The new building, which completes the fourth side of Gainesville’s downtown square, was developed by Gainesville native Doug Ivester, a Brenau trustee and former Coca-Cola CEO. He and wife Kay Ivester also funded the naming of the Darby School for a longtime friend.

Darby School ribbon-cutting“This is another extraordinary gift by Doug and Kay Ivester,” Brenau University President Anne Skleder said. “Their generosity and commitment to the people of Gainesville and Hall County is the focus of their extremely generous investment in education and the health sciences. We are humbled to be stewards of their investment.”

The move from Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus facilitates expansion of the school’s counseling clinic and academic programs, including plans to add a dance/movement therapy certificate program beginning January 2023 and a doctorate in clinical psychology to begin fall 2023.

The growth of the Darby School, which is part of the Ivester College of Health Sciences, is driven by a national and statewide gap in mental health services. Georgia ranks at the bottom nationally in access to mental health, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America. Much of the state is categorized as underserved by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“The state of Georgia is in dire need of more well-trained mental health professionals. Even more importantly, the local need is great. In Hall County, there are only 4.9 psychologists per 10,000 children, and 76 other counties have no psychologists,” Skleder said. “Brenau is working to address this shortage and is dependent upon highly trained, experienced and motivated faculty like Dr. Julie Battle, chair of the Darby School, to do so.”

The employment of counselors in substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health is expected to grow 23% through 2030, with about 41,000 annual job openings nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Brenau’s doctoral program will provide more psychologists as well as psychology professors to educate future counselors that will fill the thin ranks of mental health practitioners, Battle said.

Brenau also provides services to the public through its counseling center, which will expand with the new location.

“We are also working to increase community access to mental health services through our Brenau Center for Counseling and Psychological Services and increase educational and training opportunities for adolescents in our community,” Battle said.

Darby School ribbon-cutting people talkingBattle also is developing a partnership with law enforcement to find the best ways to integrate mental health practitioners into their agencies.

The Darby School was established in 2020 through a generous gift from Doug and Kay Ivester. The naming honors a lifelong friend of the Ivesters, going back to their days working together at Ernst and Ernst, and recognizes Darby’s tireless work as the president of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation.

“Lynn Darby and I have known each other for over 50 years. We have worked together, traveled together, laughed together and cried together,” Doug Ivester said. “Lynn’s mother was a highly respected teacher in Florence, Alabama. Teaching and investing in young people have always been close to Lynn’s heart and his heritage. Kay and I are honored to see the Darby name associated with Brenau’s Ivester College of Health Sciences.”

Doug Ivester has been a member of the Brenau Board of Trustees for more than 30 years. Over this timeframe, the Ivesters personally have funded various efforts at the university, including scholarships and facilities.