‘Extraordinary Women’ Address Brenau Graduates: Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Author Carmen Deedy

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Originally published on 4/29/10

Carol Hunstein
Chief Justice Hunstein
Carmen Deedy
Carmen Deedy

Brenau University announced that its lineup of 2010 commencement speakers who will address about 830 graduates May 7 and 8 includes the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Carol W. Hunstein, and internationally acclaimed storyteller and children’s book author Carmen Agra Deedy.
Brenau begins the commencement season at the Georgia Mountains Center at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 7, with 208 Brenau Women’s College graduates slated to receive diplomas. The graduating seniors will end the year as they began it – hearing from children’s book author and storyteller Carmen Deedy, who in September 2009 presented what one top administrator described as “the best convocation speech ever delivered at Brenau.”

On Saturday, May 8, at 10 a.m., also at the Mountains Center, 612 graduates of the coeducational regional campus and online degree programs will hear from Georgia Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, the second woman to hold the top judicial position in the state and one of the few women around the United States to have served as a top jurist.

“These extraordinary women have unique stories to inspire our graduates,” said Brenau University President Ed Schrader. “Although they chose different paths, each has built a lasting legacy because they probably chose different paths from those that conventional wisdom would have had them take.”

Carmen Deedy was born in Havana, Cuba, just as Fidel Castro was coming to power. After four tumultuous years in that revolutionary environment, her parents – who were strong proponents of human rights – fled with Carmen and her sister, settling in Decatur, Ga. As a single mother she decided to make a living by exploiting a rare talent – telling stories, in person and in print, with a razor-sharp wit and light, entertaining style and themes of perseverance and optimism.

Chief Justice Hunstein, above, and Carmen Deedy.
She has the unique talent to engage children in stories about the holocaust of World War II, deaths of friends and loved ones and the aftermath of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Her books, often printed in both English and Spanish, have received numerous accolades and international prizes. She has appeared often during the past two decades to share her stories with children and adults at festivals, schools, conferences, theaters and museums across the nation and around the globe.

If ever there were a person who defines the term “nontraditional student,” it is Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who has served on the state’s high court since 1992. Born in Miami, by age 23 she was a single mother who had lost her left leg to cancer. However, she overcame this adversity receiving an associate’s degree from Miami-Dade Community College, a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Atlantic University and a law degree from the Stetson University College of Law. After private practice in Decatur, Ga., she became the first woman to serve as a DeKalb County Superior Court judge.

According to long-time friend Ken Frank, a lawyer who chairs Brenau’s humanities department and hosts Hunstein frequently as a guest lecturer in the Women and Law course he teaches periodically, “as a student of the law, her written decisions from the bench are well reasoned, extremely well supported by the law and logic, and she seeks to build consensus among her colleagues on the bench.”

When Hunstein rose to the Supreme Court of Georgia 18 years ago, there were few women on courts of last resort in U.S. states and territories. According to statistics provided by the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., the 110 women justices represent 31.9 of the membership on those courts today. Nineteen of 53 chief justices are women – about 36 percent.

All told, Brenau will award undergraduate diplomas to 455 students and graduate degrees to 375, with 13 receiving both undergraduate and graduate diplomas, such as those completing the hybrid five-year Bachelor of Science/Master of Science degrees in occupational therapy.

There are 13 students graduating from Brenau Academy in a separate ceremony on May 22.