Anonymous Donor Seeds Scholarship Honoring Wayne Dempsey for $50,000

Nov 24, 2014
Brenau Staff

An anonymous donor seeded with a $50,000 pledge a financial assistance fund for both undergraduate and graduate students at Brenau University to honor the institution’s long-time executive vice president and CFO Wayne W. Dempsey, who died in 2014 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Called the Wayne W. Dempsey Endowed Scholarship Fund, the gift by benefactor’s specification is available to any students at any level “who are pursuing a degree, completing their studies or seeking to achieve better lives through a Brenau University education.” However, preference will be accorded to those enrolled in either the College of Education or the College of Health Sciences. Dempsey, a life-long educator, began his career as a high school biology teacher.

The late Wayne W. Dempsey, Brenau University former executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer.
The late Wayne W. Dempsey, Brenau University former executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer.

By design the fund – described by university officials as a quasi-endowment – will receive gifts of $10,000 per year for five years. When the fund accumulates $50,000, earnings from fund investments will be disbursed annually to select students – ironically on a formula that Dempsey as Brenau’s top financial executive helped maintain to keep university endowment investments solvent during the rough economic times in the last decade.

The fund is also something of a “challenge grant.” Friends of Dempsey and others who want to honor him may contribute to the quasi-endowment pool of funds that the institution can draw from immediately to begin awarding Dempsey scholarships, or they can contribute to the endowment, thereby helping attain the $50,000 threshold quicker.

“This gift is the perfect way to honor the memory of our great friend and colleague, Wayne Dempsey,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader. “Wayne played an extremely important role in the development of Brenau’s 2025 Strategic Plan that we are now well underway toward implementing. A major thrust of that plan is a sharp focus on the development of broad health sciences programs, including doctoral degrees, and providing for the first time a deep pool of institutional financial assistance available to graduate students as well as undergraduates.”

Schrader noted that, although the execution of the strategic plan began in the midst of an economic recession that saw colleges and universities throughout the country scaling back on even day-to-day operations, Dempsey’s astute financial management helped enable Brenau to take major steps forward in growth and development.

Matt Thomas, vice president for external relations at Brenau who is in charge of fundraising activities, said that the anonymous donor specified that the scholarship also honors Dempsey’s wife, Marsha, who served as a public school teacher in her career.

“The two knew each other literally since infancy,” said Thomas, “and they were always of like mind when it came to improving this university and prospects for providing assistance for young men and women who want to further their educations – especially those who otherwise would not have financial means to do so. The Brenau community remains indebted to both Wayne and Marsha for their leadership and service among us.”

Wayne Dempsey died May 2, 2014, in his native Rome, Georgia, where he and Marsha retired after almost a decade in Gainesville while he worked as Brenau’s second-in-command to his long-time friend, Schrader. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2009 and given only a few months to live, but he not only defied expectations in his survival, he did so with great calmness and courage – all the while maintaining his continually upbeat attitude and near-legendary sense of humor.

Dempsey also had a passion for music, performing in church orchestras and singing in choirs. If there were any kind of “public singing” at Brenau when Dempsey was around, one could hear his clarion voice soaring in harmony with voices of other singers. Not surprisingly, Dempsey took the lead – again in the middle of a recession – to launch Brenau’s All-Steinway Piano Initiative to replace old, worn-out instruments with new Steinway-branded pianos. Dempsey took the lead in negotiating the contract with the manufacturer that would keep prices stable through a multi-year fundraising campaign and was on hand to take delivery of the first piano, a concert grand installed in Pearce Auditorium, which the university acquired and named in Dempsey’s honor.

“When you look at Phase II of our $40 million ForeverGold campaign, you will see that finishing the All-Steinway initiative is included, building out health sciences is included and increasing scholarship endowments is included. All bear the thumbprints of Wayne Dempsey,” said Thomas. “The donor was spot-on in targeting the contribution this way.”

For more information about participating in the initiatives honoring Wayne Dempsey or any other activity related to the ForeverGold campaign, contact Thomas at or at 770-534-6160.