The Atlanta-based Lettie Pate Evans Foundation this month awarded Brenau University a $1.5 million grant, payable in full on May 6, for technology enhancements connected with the renovation and repurposing of the new Downtown Center in Gainesville, Ga. The grant represents a significant portion of the funds the university needs to convert the former Georgia Mountains Center convention and events venue into a state-of-the-art home for a new physical therapy doctoral program and other health professions-related graduate studies.
“This is the most powerful endorsement yet outside of the Brenau family and Gainesville civic and business leaders that our strategic plan for the Downtown Center meets a vital need for higher education in the state and region,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader when he announced the grant at the April 5 meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees.
Evans was one of the first women in America to serve on the board of a major corporation. Her husband in 1899 conceived the idea of bottling for mass market sales what was then only a popular soda fountain beverage, Coca-Cola. When he died in 1906, she assumed management of all the family’s business affairs and served as director of The Coca-Cola Company for almost 20 years. The foundation, with assets valued at more than $262 million, has a particular interest in supporting private secondary and higher education, arts, culture, museums and historic preservation.
The foundation has made several significant contributions to Brenau over the years, but the grant for the Downtown Center almost matches the total of all other Evans Foundation grants combined.
P. Russell Hardin, president of the foundation, notified Schrader of the award on April 2.