Carol Grotnes Belk, the Charlotte, North Carolina, philanthropist who with her husband, Irwin “Ike” Belk, changed the landscape – physically and academically – of colleges throughout a good portion of the eastern United States, died Monday at her home just two days shy of her 87th birthday. Ike Belk, a businessman and philanthropist whose father founded the chain of Belk department stores, holds an honorary doctorate from Brenau University because of the millions of dollars in contributions and art donations that he and his wife made to scores of colleges, universities and other educational institutions particularly in the South. Their gift of the bronze sculpture of a golden tiger to Brenau not only has become a source of pride for the university but also an often-visited landmark in the Gainesville community.

“If you are known by your works,” said Brenau University President Ed Schrader.  “Mrs. Belk certainly will be known for generations to come because she and her husband focused the sharing of their considerable financial resources with educational institutions like Brenau that are helping transform lives.”

The Belks were married for almost 66 years.

A celebration of Mrs. Belk’s life takes place at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Charlotte at the Myers Park Presbyterian Church (2501 Oxford Place, Charlotte, NC 28207). Instead of flowers the family suggests contributions to Mrs. Belk’s favored institutions.

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WomenSource Brown Bag Lunch

This month’s WomenSource Brown Bag Lunch features artist Sue Sigmon-Nosach and will be held in the meeting rooms at the Brenau Downtown Center at noon on Thursday, Sept. 4. Doors open at 11:45 a.m. and registration is required. To register or learn more please visit

Sue Sigmon-Nosach came to her art after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004. Following multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, she wanted to express her feelings about her journey through cancer. She tried watercolors and acrylics, but was not satisfied. Only after completing her first three-dimensional glass mosaic did Sue know she had found the perfect “canvas.”

Using broken glass and recycled windows, Sue creates art inspired by the songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s. She displays her work in galleries and shows throughout Georgia and the Carolinas. Her journey has led her to the formation of a nonprofit 501c3 foundation named the Partnership for Gynecological Cancer Support. She and her friend, Debbie Torbett, who recently lost her nine-year-battle with the disease, saw the need that many women need financial help to meet day-to-day expenses during their treatment. To this end, PGCS is committed to providing assistance for non-insured expenses such as gas, groceries and utilities through their “Below the Belt” fundraising campaign. By aligning themselves with hospital navigators, patients who are in need of assistance are identified and given gift cards to meet these expenses.

The construction on Sorority Circle means there is heavy equipment, fencing and reduced visibility on Prior Street and in the immediate area. Please use the crosswalks when crossing Prior Street and use extra precautions when walking in the construction areas.

Brenau University CFO David Barnett said Friday that the university is well aware of an ongoing dispute between the university’s group health insurance carrier and Gainesville-area health facilities and doctors – a dispute that could have significant impact on university employees’ health care options.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” said Barnett, “and we will be looking into the best alternatives that will serve the best interests of our employees.”

Barnett made the comment following news reports earlier this week and letters that some employees received recently indicating that a contractual dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the university’s health insurance provider, and Gainesville-area service providers, including Northeast Georgia Medical Center and area doctors, has reached an impasse. Unless some agreement is reached, the health care providers will no longer be part of the insurance company’s network. The dispute does not affect employees who do not use the Gainesville hospital or other local providers subject to the dispute.

“That could mean some higher costs for our employees who do get their health care in Gainesville and Hall County,” said Barnett. “We hope the issues can be resolved. But we will keep employees apprised of any developments in the matter or any actions that affect our employees directly or indirectly.”

Crews from All Outdoor Lawn Services worked to clear multiple trees along Boulevard that were damaged in a "microburst" weather event Monday evening.

Crews from All Outdoor Lawn Services worked to clear multiple trees along Boulevard that were damaged in a “microburst” weather event Monday evening.

All Outdoor workers kept traffic moving on Boulevard by clearing the road as limbs fell.

All Outdoor workers kept traffic moving on Boulevard by clearing the road as limbs fell.

An unusual “microburst” weather event struck the heart of the main campus Monday night at about 7:30 p.m., topping and seriously damaging several trees in the front lawn area. Other areas of the campus were plagued by broken limbs and other debris from the event. There was also a power outage in the area – a contributing factor to which was the toppling of a utility pole at the corner of Washington and Main streets.

“I just did not want anybody to think we were out there willy-nilly cutting down trees all over campus,” said David Barnett, the university’s chief financial officer and risk assessment guru, as workers with chainsaws and other equipment cut up the broken and damaged trees. “We only removed trees that could not be saved.”

The eight trees affected, mostly hemlocks, were either on the ground, badly broken at the trunk near the top of the tree or leaning dangerously over the sidewalk and roadway along Boulevard in front of Wilkes Hall. Greg Hutson, owner of the landscaping company that Brenau employs to help maintain the historic campus, inspected all the trees in the front campus area and consulted with university officials about which trees could be saved and which had to be removed.

The trees were to tall to feel in one stroke so AllOutdoor crew members removed the trunks from the top down.

The trees were to tall to feel in one stroke so All Outdoor crew members removed the trunks from the top down.

Although the event and the swarms of workmen along Boulevard busily removing debris was eerily reminiscent of the two tornados that damaged the area in 1903 and 1936, this was no tornado.

A microburst is an intense down-draft that occurs within a thunderstorm that can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can bring high winds that can knock over fully grown trees – especially, as in the case of the Monday event – if accompanied by torrential rains that loosened around the tree’s roots.

And now for the rest of the story….

We know this because Brenau Office of Communications & Publications is in the process of developing an “experts data base” from faculty and staff because occasionally the media and others need some ’splaining to be done. This is just such an occasion. We turn to our resident weather expert, Dr. Rudi Kieffer, and ask him what happened:

The crews are also removing some trees that are leaning dangerously over the sidewalk along Boulevard .

The crews are also removing some trees that are leaning dangerously over the sidewalk along Boulevard.

“What occurred in Gainesville was a typical convective thunderstorm. This kind is quite common in the summer. Humidity can be thought of as energy. The water vapor in the atmosphere condenses when clouds form, and this process releases heat. We had a high of 85 degrees, and the rise of air over the hot city surfaces was amplified by release of heat energy from condensation. While this storm was small in diameter (probably less than 10 square miles), it built up quite strongly. At the peak of the event, winds gusted to 39 mph with quick, heavy downpours. Several trees were brought down on the Brenau Campus, along with a power pole at Washington and Main streets.

“This is not anywhere near the power of the 1936 tornado, whose winds speeds beyond 100 mph knocked a huge hole into the ceiling of Pearce Auditorium and removed dozens of trees. But we’re still fortunate that no injuries were reported, since falling tree limbs are dangerous in any storm. Overall, the Aug. 18 thunderstorm was heavy but not unusual, because north Georgia is an area where intense heat from the sun combines with a steady influx of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico at this time of the year. Another month of summer lies ahead, so we’re likely to see more isolated thunderstorms of this kind. “

Eugene WilliamsThe Gainesville City Board of Education recognized Brenau Chair and Assistant Professor of Education Eugene Williams for his generous donation of school supplies and materials to Fair Street School at the  board meeting on Monday, Aug. 18.

A humble and dedicated leader, Williams shares more than thirty years of experience at the K-12 and higher education levels as a classroom teacher and administrator.  Way to go, Dr. Williams!

Brenau’s retirement representative will be on campus to meet with individuals on Friday, Sept. 19. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Kelley Maddox at 770-534-6270 or

logo822-2769The owner and manager of Conflict CrossFit is offering all Brenau students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff a 20% discount when they show their ID or the Brenau Alumni card.

To learn more about Conflict Crossfit visit

The Brenau cheerleading team has accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Chestatee 8th grade cheerleader Kaylee Grace Lucas. Cheerleading and Dr. Schrader, in turn, challenge every Brenau athletic team, admissions, the Provost and all of the academic deans.

Watch the video and view the original post on Facebook at

Let’s hear our tigers roar!

51--KodV0yLThe late Paul Hemphill, who served at Brenau’s writer-in-residence from June 1985 until August of ’93, broke into the national consciousness as a writer with the 1970 book The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music. The book was his first and best-selling work. But his wife Susan Percy, the retired editor of Georgia Trend magazine who frequently oversaw publication of articles about Brenau, announced that the University of Georgia Press will re-issue the book in the spring of 2015.

Birmingham, Alabama, native Hemphill, then a newspaper columnist of some repute in Atlanta, started the book while he was on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists at Harvard University. The New York Times described the book as “one of the best works on country music ever written.” Hemphill got the title from a song by Georgia singer-songwriter Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, and it turned the national spotlight on the scene around the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, at a time when the often-ridiculed genre was making its break into the mainstream to achieve broader cultural recognition.

Hemphill in his work often referred to long nights on the road with his truck-driving father listening to fellow Alabaman Hank Williams on the radio. His 2005 book, Lovesick Blues, a critically acclaimed biography of Williams, returned him to his familiar subject matter.

Hemphill died of throat cancer in 2009 at 73.