Smithgall and Stafford Join Brenau Board

Aug 25, 2011
Rudi Kiefer
A Brenau University alumna who had served two previous terms on the university’s governing board and an Atlanta businessman whose parents were both members joined the Brenau Board of Trustees and attended their first meeting Oct. 22. 

At the recent fall meeting of the Brenau board, long-time member Sidney O. Smith Jr., nominated and won unanimous approval for the appointment of Shay English Stafford, who had served previously from 1995 to 2001, and for Charles A. Smithgall III. The appointment marks Smithgall’s first service on the Brenau board, but he follows in the footsteps of his father, the late Charles A. Smithgall II, and his mother, Lessie Bailey Smithgall, who remains trustee emeritus at Brenau.

“These are both outstanding individuals and they both will make excellent additions to the board,” Smith said.

Shay Stafford and Charles Smithgall 

Shay Stafford, left, served two previous terms on the Board of Trustees while both of Smithgall’s parents served previously.
Frances E. (Shay) Stafford, a native of Hendersonville, N.C., graduated from Brenau in 1969 with a degree in psychology and education. She began her career in Washington, D.C., as an assistant to U. S. Rep. Roy Arthur Taylor, the nine-term Democratic congressman from her native North Carolina. Stafford subsequently she worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as governmental coordinator for the southeastern states. Later, she was public relations director of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta.Stafford lives in Atlanta with her husband, Connell, director of the public affairs firm, Troutman Sanders Strategies, and previously a vice president with The Coca-Cola Company and executive assistant to former Georgia U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. They have two daughters, Ali and Jenna, who reside in Atlanta. 

She is also a six-term elder at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, and for 10 years she has been on the board, five as its chair, of Covenant House Georgia, the largest private, non-profit agency that serves homeless and at-risk teenagers.

Charles Smithgall founded SEI/Aaron’s, Inc., in 1995 and currently is the franchisee of 87 sales and lease-to-own stores in nine states. He and his wife, Sally Lee Griffitts (Griff) Smithgall, live in Atlanta and have three children: Chas, Meghan and Jessica.

After he graduated with a degree in industrial management in 1965 from Georgia Tech, where he had played on the freshman football team, Smithgall spent a year at Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1967. The next two years he was a company commander in engineering companies stationed first in South Korea and then in Vietnam.

He continued academic pursuits in 1975 at Harvard Business School in an executive leadership program, but he was already moving up in the business world. After starting his career with Holder Construction Co., and working his way up through the ranks to vice president, Smithgall followed his parents’ footsteps into the communications industry with Chattanooga Cable Television Co. He spent two years with Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, and entrepreneur Ted Turner encouraged him to acquire an Atlanta AM radio station and change the name to WCNN, reflecting the name of the media empire Turner was in the process of launching. Smithgall served as president of what became Ring Radio Company until he began his current pursuits.

Originally published on 11/10/10