David Morrison

David Morrison retires as Brenau vice president for communications and publications

Jun 25, 2018
Kristen Bowman

After 11 years at Brenau University and more than 50 years in the industry, Vice President for Communications & Publications David Morrison will retire effective July 1. Current Director of Development Ben McDade will take on the role as vice president of the renamed Office of Marketing & Communications.

David Morrison
David Morrison

Perhaps known best for his sense of humor and proclivity for storytelling, when asked why he was retiring Morrison quipped, “Because I’m older than dirt.”

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with an increasing brood of grandchildren,” said the grandfather of five. “I’ve got a fly rod hanging on my wall that hasn’t been used in several years, and some writing that I’ve put off for decades that I’ve not had time to do.”

Brenau President Ed Schrader called Morrison a “thoroughly professional journalist” whose contributions to Brenau have been numerous.

“As a child of the 1960s and ’70s, his spirit is a bit restless and sometimes his attention span is shortened by daydreams of trout streams, tropical beaches or north woods campsites,” Schrader said. “I can’t fault him for that, because my mind wanders there as well. Brenau is a better place because David walked under her trees and through her halls.”

In his more than 11-year tenure as the public relations shop’s foreman, Morrison saw the university through massive university campaigns, dramatic changes in the industry and enormous growth within Brenau itself.

“My first memorable work assignment was a groundbreaking for the nursing school at Featherbone, which in hindsight signaled the beginning of a groundswell of enormous changes that were headed the university’s way,” he said. “Within my first few months we had a feasibility study that indicated Brenau could successfully launch a medical school if the economy were favorable. Of course it proved not to be, but that marked a real shift in focus to health science professional education at Brenau.”

Morrison said public relations for higher education shifted greatly in the last decade. The Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007 – one month after Morrison started at Brenau – “changed the significance of this job for the university and for the public.”

Highlights of his time at Brenau include raising the alumni magazine Brenau Window to “what I think is a first-class publication,” plus creating events that helped Brenau tell its story.

“One of the great features of Brenau, to me, is our involvement in the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women,” he said. “We fully invested in that and to showcase it we brought Khaled Hosseini, who had just written the book The Kite Runner, to campus in 2008. It was a great event that helped us focus on our interdisciplinary approach to higher education, which blends liberal arts traditions with professional education, because here was Hosseini, a medical doctor and best-selling author of fiction.”

Morrison, a Birmingham, Alabama, native spent his early career as a journalist, working for such publications as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He subsequently was an executive in regional and international public relations agencies, a member of the journalism faculty at Georgia State University and associate editor of Auburn Magazine at Auburn University. He received a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University.

Ben McDade
Ben McDade

Meanwhile, McDade previously worked as executive vice president at Baptists Today News and Nurturing Faith Inc. in Atlanta. He was responsible for creating and directing the organization’s development and marketing program, including fundraising and other financial initiatives. Earlier he worked at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as vice president of advancement. He also owned a marketing communications counseling services firm, McDade & Associates Inc. in Macon. At Mercer University he served as senior assistant vice president of university relations and marketing. At Smyth and Helwys Publishing in Macon, he was vice president of marketing and communications.

“When Ben first came to Brenau, he was coming for a job outside our department,” Morrison said. “I saw his application and thought, ‘Jeez – he should be applying for my job.’”

The South Carolina native earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina. Additionally, he studied at the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University and participated in workshops at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

For the last four years, he has worked in Brenau’s Office of External Relations, assisting with the successful $40 million ForeverGold campaign.

“I am most impressed with the caliber of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Brenau, as well as the many friends who have such a strong connection to the institution,” McDade said. “I look forward in my new role to building on the fine tradition of sharing the many facets of the university through effective and engaging communication as we continue to position Brenau as a world class partner in higher education.”

Schrader said he is pleased to welcome McDade into the new position as he moves from one senior role at the university to another.

“The tasks and expectations are drastically different than those assumed by David Morrison when he first came to Brenau,” Schrader said. “Communications and media strategy are more individually yet flexibly focused on digital communications, social media platforms and viral communications. Ben understands the necessity to utilize current technology while energizing and optimizing traditional communication channels.”

Those who would like to wish Morrison well prior to retirement may stop by the office at 437 Brenau Ave. in Gainesville from 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, June 28.

“I have always thought Brenau has a great vision, a great mission and a great story to tell,” Morrison said. “We really have had the luxury under Brenau leadership of having a really clean slate for how we tell that story. We had limited resources, which plagues all institutions of our size, but we aspired to make the best of it. I think we have done that.”