Trustees Name Graduate School for Judge Smith, Approve Nursing Doctorate Program for 2011

Aug 25, 2011
Rudi Kiefer
The Brenau University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name all of its graduate programs after former U.S. District Judge Sidney O. Smith Jr. and to launch the process for creating its first doctoral degree-granting program.

Smith, who is a fourth generation member of the governing board of the 132-year-old Gainesville, Ga.-based institution, received the honor in part because of his work that helped Brenau gain full university status by expanding its academic offerings into graduate studies. Significantly, it was Smith who made the motion at the fall meeting of the Brenau board to approve the creation of a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Brenau. Pending approval of regulatory and accreditation bodies, the university plans to admit its first students into that program next fall.

Sidney O. Smith Jr.

Retired Federal Judge Sidney O. Smith or one of his ancestors have been involved with virtually every major development at Brenau since its creation in 1878.
The vote on both issues occurred on Friday, Oct. 22, during the trustees’ fall meeting, which was held at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

“This movement toward the doctoral degree is the most significant step the university has taken in its academic evolution in decades,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader. “As the first initiative of what is now the Sidney O. Smith Jr. Graduate School this is the beginning of the realization of the strategic plan and long-term mission of Brenau University.”Schrader said that in many instances colleges and universities reserve the naming of strategically important programs for large donors, many times in negotiated “naming rights” agreements. Although Smith has over the years made significant financial contributions to Brenau, Schrader said those are eclipsed by his “leadership contributions.”

“Brenau is everything that it is today because of Sidney Smith,” said long-time Smith friend and fellow trustee John W. Jacobs Jr. “Likewise, what it will be in the future will have his indelible stamp. Graduate education will be the lynchpin that drives Brenau’s success.”

Smith was born and raised in Gainesville, Ga., where in 1878 his great-grandfather, Reconstruction-era Congressman William Pierce Price of Dahlonega, Ga., was a member of the founding board of what is now Brenau. Price’s son-in-law and Smith’s grandfather, William Arthur Charters, was on the board in 1911 when Brenau became a chartered institution of higher learning. Also, Smith’s father and mother, Isabelle Price Charters Smith, served simultaneously on the Brenau board.

Following service in World War II, Smith graduated cum laude from Harvard, where he played on the football team with future U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia law school. After private law practice and service as a Georgia superior court judge, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where he served for nine years, including six years as chief judge.

His service to both public and private education began as chairman of the Gainesville Board of Education. Including his service on the Brenau board, including a period as chairman, he also served on the state Board of Regents, the governing body for Georgia’s public colleges and universities. Although he offered to step down from the Brenau board to remove possible conflict of interest questions, members of both bodies collectively dissuaded him.

Although Brenau historically is a women’s college, the trustees in the 1970s expanded its charter to also offer coeducational programs in Gainesville and on other campuses. In the 1990s, Smith was instrumental in expanding graduate programs and approving Brenau’s university status. The vote on the nursing doctorate continues that legacy.

Smith’s motion to approve the program received a “second” from Trustee Robin Smith Dudley, a 1978 Brenau nursing graduate.

Technically, Brenau already has one “terminal” degree – the highest degree attainable in an academic discipline or profession. In the fall the university seated its first class for a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design.

Graduate Dean Gale Starich said the nursing doctorate program must first win approval by the university’s main accrediting board, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Then, the university will notify the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Georgia Board of Nursing of its intentions to offer the advanced degree. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Brenau should seat its first students for the program in August.

“This is a clinical doctorate,” Starich said. “It focuses on the advanced clinical aspects of nursing rather than the purely academic doctorate in the field.”

The SACS action essentially changes the character of Brenau, elevating it from a master’s degree-granting institution to a doctoral degree-granting university.

Starich said that, while it is looking at the proposed DNP program, SACS is also considering proposals for additional doctorates at the university – an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in adult education and a doctorate in occupational therapy, both of which could be implemented as early as 2012. The OT and nursing degrees fall under Brenau’s College of Health & Science. The adult education program, however, will involve that college as well as the colleges of Education, Business & Mass Communication, and Fine Arts & Humanities.

Brenau currently enrolls about 2,800 students, more than 900 of which are enrolled in coeducational master’s degree- and specialist-level graduate programs in its four colleges. The implementation of the university’s strategic plan calls for increasing enrollment to about 5,000 students by 2025 with most of the growth’s occurring in graduate programs.

The historical Brenau Women’s College, which falls under the university’s Undergraduate School, will maintain an enrollment of between 900 and 1,000 students.


Originally published on 10/27/10