Brenau's Ann Marie Holman hugs her son U.S. Army Communications Specialist Byron Brown who surprised her by coming to the commencement from Ft. Hood in Texas. Holman received her diploma for the Master of Science in applied gerontology.
Brenau's Ann Marie Holman hugs her son U.S. Army Communications Specialist Byron Brown who surprised her by coming to the commencement from Ft. Hood in Texas. Holman received her diploma for the Master of Science in applied gerontology.

Ceremonies Mark ‘Day of Beginnings’ for First Wintertime Graduates

Dec. 12, 2015
Brenau Staff

With weather more comparable to a May graduation day than the season for Christmas wreaths on the university president’s door, Brenau University today officially awarded 455 undergraduate and graduate diplomas at the institution’s first “winter” commencement exercises in its 137-year history.

Brenau President Ed Schrader called the occasion of the two ceremonies in historic Pearce Auditorium “a day of culmination, a day of beginnings.” Graduates received diplomas for degrees ranging from Doctor of Nursing Practice, one of Brenau’s three health science clinical doctorates, to an array of bachelor’s degrees in disciplines like the arts, education, sciences and business administration.

Brenau traditionally schedules two commencement exercises the first weekend in May – one on Friday for undergraduates in the Women’s college, and the second on Saturday morning for coeducational undergraduate and graduate programs online as well as those in Gainesville and on other campuses.

However, many students enroll in courses that they complete after the May graduation in the summer and fall terms. Some of them elect to participate in the next May’s exercises or just skip graduation altogether.

Women's College and undergraduate students cross the stage in Pearce Auditorium to receive their diplomas and shake hands with University President Dr. Ed Schrader.

Women’s College and undergraduate students cross the stage in Pearce Auditorium to receive their diplomas and shake hands with University President Dr. Ed Schrader.

“Brenau values all of its students and we want to celebrate their academic achievements,” said Nancy Krippel, provost and vice president of academic affairs. “We thought if we scheduled a second commencement for the Class of 2015, more of them would want to participate. The interest was so great that we wound up having to add a second December ceremony.”

For James Bland of Snellville, Georgia, it was a day he would not have missed. Smiling broadly after snapping photos of his wife, Jasmin Rios Bland, receiving her Master of Business Administration degree in project management he brushed away some tears as he stood at the back of Pearce Auditorium.

“When I first met her,” said the bioengineering employee at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, “she did not have a high school diploma. After I got her to take the [high school graduation equivalency] test, she has never stopped. This degree took six years, but it proves it can be done.” The Blands also have a daughter at Tennessee State University and a son who just started studies at the University of Georgia.

Some others who did not want to miss the ceremony were U.S. Army Communications Specialist Byron Brown, and his wife, Crystal, who is a patient administration specialist in the Army. The couple drove overnight from Ft. Hood, in central Texas, to surprise Byron’s mother, Ann Marie Holman, when she received a Master of Science in applied gerontology.

“She’s worked so hard, I just had to be here,” Byron Brown said. “I couldn’t miss it.”

Although only about half elected to attend, the 455 eligible to receive diplomas includes 298 graduate students, 43 Women’s College students and 114 other undergraduates. Combining those numbers with the 215 undergraduate degrees and 143 graduate degrees conferred in May brings the total number of 2015 Brenau degrees to 813.

The December graduation breakdown by campus is Gainesville, 156; North Atlanta/Norcross, 90; Augusta, 17; Kings Bay, 18; and South Atlanta/Fairburn, 9. The total also includes 157 who completed all their degree requirements online.

Friends and family of graduates take to the front lawn on Brenau's historic Gainesville campus for photos after the first winter graduate commencement at the school.

Friends and family of graduates take to the front lawn on Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus for photos after the first winter graduate commencement at the school.

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