Sally Foster Addresses Her Newest Fellow Alumna of Brenau Academy, Including First ‘Early College’ Graduate

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer
Sally Foster
Brenau Academy Headmaster Tim Daniel says Dugan shows signs of building some equally impressive academic credentials. Unlike students in traditional high schools that complete "advance placement" courses to earn the right to skip prerequisites for some college courses, Dugan completed two years' worth of cully accredited college work that is fully transferrable to virtually all colleges or universities. Not only did she complete college-level courses, she also aced them. According to Brenau University Dean of Health and Sciences Gale Starich, Dugan is one of her top biology students in the college courses. Dugan also won one of the top awards for college English students at the recent Brenau Women's College honors convocation.

Sally Davidson Foster of Spartanburg, S.C., founder of Sally Foster Gift Wrap, addressed graduates of Brenau Academy at the preparatory schools commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 22, in Pearce Auditorium on the Gainesville campus.

The ceremony also marked the first graduation from the Brenau Academy “Early College” program in which students at the grade 9-12 residential school can receive a two-year college Associate of Arts degree along with their high school diplomas. Katie Dugan, 17, of Cumming, Ga., received the first A.A. diploma awarded to a Brenau Academy student in the program.

“It is particularly fitting that Sally Foster will provide the commencement address on this occasion,” said Brenau University President Ed Schrader. “She was an ‘early college’ graduate of Brenau Academy before it had an early college program.”

Foster, who founded what became a $100 million company providing fund-raising products and services to schools and other nonprofit organizations, was only 16 when she graduated from Brenau Academy and enrolled in Duke University.

The Greenville, S.C., native was class valedictorian at Brenau Academy. She graduated from Duke as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

After serving as director and chief financial officer for the ETV Endowment of South Carolina, which provides financial support for the state’s public broadcasting organization, she parlayed her moonlighting business to become what one local newspaper described as the “gift wrap guru” with Sally Foster Gift Wrap, a national leader in fundraising for non-profit organizations. Called “a raucous southern belle” by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she loathed the normal PTA fundraising activities for her children’s school in the Atlanta suburb, Dunwoody, so she tapped into that part of husband Phillip’s business that sold giant rolls of wrapping paper to department stores and carved out home-size samplers.

With only two patterns of gift wrap to offer and fellow parents helping to cut and roll the paper by hand, the enterprise helped the school achieve the greatest profit ever. By the time she sold the company in 1992, it was a $100 million-a-year enterprise with about 8,000 PTA groups around the United States as customers.

Foster’s career and life’s work also includes service on dozens of boards related to health care and higher education institutions and other community service. She has been inducted into the Brenau Alumni Hall of Fame.

Originally published on 6/01/10