Students learn piano tuning technique in “Music Meets Physics” workshop

Anna Feng, left, and Scott Wang tune a piano.

The colorful piano in the Yonah Lobby, recently decorated as part of an art project, was looking fine. However, people trying to play it were greeted by the twangy sound of strings badly out of tune. Last week, music majors Xueyun “Anna” Feng and Junlin “Scott” Wang, along with business major Yuhao “Charlie” Qiu, made the instrument playable in two afternoon workshop sessions.

“We did this once before with the Blackbox piano,” said Dr. Rudi Kiefer, who supplied piano tools and instruction during the project. It involved ear training to let the students hear the physical characteristics of strings in addition to their musical tone, and practice with a professional tuning lever.

After learning the basics of tuning pins, string pressure and reading an electronic strobe display, the three took turns on the 245 strings that needed adjustment.

“It is interesting to train one’s ears to what the strings are doing, instead of concentrating on the music,” Feng said.

Fellow music major Scott Wang agreed, adding “It’s a lot of fun to have an out-of-tune instrument like that and make it so that everyone can play it and enjoy it again.”

Business major Charlie Qiu remarked on the total of five hours spent on the project.

“I see now why it’s expensive to have a piano tuned by a service,” Qiu said. “It was gratifying to learn that we can also do a decent job ourselves.”

Eggs, organic food plants will be focus of Nutrition and Wellness event March 27

Aisa Goforth, left, and Hannah Rucks-Zaoui at the greenhouse, part of the BUGS Garden.

Did you know that eggs have a nutritional value even after you’re done eating them?

The Brenau University Garden Society (BUGS) will show a creative way to use eggs for preventing blossom end rot and producing better quality fruit. Talks by senior Hannah Rucks-Zaoui and sophomore Aisa Goforth are part of the National Wellness Month “Eggs in the Garden” event at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 27, in front of Hopkins Dining Hall.

Employees can earn one wellness point by attending. The event is a collaboration between BUGS, Hall County Master Gardeners, the Brenau Wellness Committee and the Office of Human Resources.

Master Gardener Don Linke assists BUGS members with project planning in the greenhouse.

In addition to practical demonstrations of mulching eggshells or even using them as planting vessels, local Master Gardener and dietitian Annette Hinton is showing her technique for preparing healthy egg frittata with organically grown, pesticide-free vegetables contributed by the BUGS garden on campus.

This is an opportunity to meet students of the garden club, chat with Master Gardeners, learn about excellent nutrition and pick up tips for growing food as well as preparing it.

“We’re very excited about showing some of the BUGS products again,” said Rucks-Zaoui, the club’s president. “Producing your own food is a skill that students learn for life. But what’s even better is when you produce it without chemicals, and that’s one of our main rules at the campus garden.”

Annette Hinton Instructs BUGS Students in Healthy Nutrition, Chinese Cooking

Dietician/Master Gardener Annette Hinton explains the characteristics of Chinese vegetables to Brenau garden club students.

The Math SPA kitchen filled with Asian aromas as Hall County Master Gardener and dietician Annette Hinton was instructing students of the BUGS garden club on Jan. 24. Hinton showed the characteristics of different Chinese foods from eight different regions with special consideration for the Provinces of Anhui, Sichuan and Shandong.

“We’re very fortunate to have a workshop held by a professional chef who is also a dietician as well as a Master Gardener,” said Rudi Kiefer, faculty advisor to BUGS.

Following the presentation, students and guests gained hands-on experience with authentic Chinese vegetables. Visiting Master Gardeners assisted with the cooking, and soon everybody enjoyed a large variety of dishes that are normally available only in upscale Chinese restaurants. “Every last bit is organically grown and free of chemicals,” said Hinton. “It’s important for students to learn about healthy nutrition at a young age.”

“It’s fascinating to see foods from our home province prepared by a Master Chef,” junior Liang Yuan said. Yuan is in the 2+2 program between Brenau and Anhui Normal University. The meals were accompanied by Chinese green tea that Kiefer brought back from his last teaching stay in Anhui Province.

Hannah Rucks-Zaoui, Brenau senior and president of the garden club, said “the most exciting part is that the students got to choose which Asian vegetables we’re going to start growing now in the campus garden. Come fall, we’ll have home-cooked meals with food grown right here at Brenau.”

The next BUGS “Healthy Living” event will feature local beekeeper Bob Bradbury with a presentation about the production of raw, additive-free honey, along with taste samples. The presentation is at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in Science-21 and is open to the public.

Roemer Shares Story of Gainesville’s Lost WWII Fighter Pilot at Riverside, Dec. 7

Paul Roemer
Junior JPAC participant Paul Roemer examines parts of the airplane wreckage.

In April 1945, just days before the end of World War II in Germany, a U.S. fighter pilot met his fate near the tiny village of Rosien when his plane “Mary Lou” crashed. Immediately after the crash, 2nd Lt. John William Herb was shot by an unknown gunman and his body buried hastily. A young boy was among the many villagers who witnessed the crash. Pieces of the airplane were scattered widely, but the pilot couldn’t be found.

Seventy years later, a group organized by Joint POW Accounting Command (JPAC) of the U.S. military set out to find and retrieve the body. Not only were they successful, they also found a class ring along with the human remains. It identified John W. Herb as a graduate of Riverside Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 2015.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, Mr. Manfred Roemer from Germany will be presenting a slide talk about the crash that he witnessed as a boy and his subsequent participation in the JPAC recovery project. Roemer traveled from Lower Saxony to Gainesville for several days’ visit at Riverside Academy. The presentation is scheduled for 10:40-11:20 a.m. in the Carlos and Sandra Cervantes Theatre for the Arts, Riverside Military Academy, 2001 Riverside Drive in Gainesville. It includes pictures and information not previously published.

Translation will be provided by Brenau Professor Dr. Rudi Kiefer. The event is free and open to the public.

Artist Ying Li Impresses with Exhibit, Insights

Prof. Ying Li talks to Brenau students (Photo: R.Kiefer)

Prof. Ying Li talks to Brenau students (Photo: R.Kiefer)

Students from Anhui Normal University in China, completing the second phase of their 2+2 program at Brenau, weren’t expecting an alumna of their school to give a talk about her artwork on Nov. 13. Ying Li, an ANU graduate of 1977, is professor and chair of fine arts at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

Her unique style of rendering landscapes in oil raised a number of interesting questions during her Nov. 13 artist talk at Brenau. Many of them related to colors and the amount of abstraction that characterizes her work.

“You need to see things your own way. There is no right or wrong way to see,” she explained. “I paint landscapes, but this doesn’t mean I show every item exactly as it is.” One of her favorite anecdotes involved a little girl watching her paint at the shore of a lake. “I’m painting that boat,” she replied when the girl asked about the subject of her work. Her young visitor examined the painting in progress, and finally asked, “Where’s the boat?”

An audience new to her style may first see a collection of paint dabs in many different colors. After stepping back and looking at a painting from greater distance, shapes and depths evolve. Tranquil hues of blue and green are interspersed with loud specs of orange, standing out like exclamation marks in the landscape renditions.

“I paint nature,” Li said. “Nature is not smooth. It’s messy. It’s many different things.”

The attending students, including education and humanities majors among those from the Art & Design Department, took away a sense of enrichment. “This is done differently than I have ever seen,” said Qingyuan Zhu, a graduate student of interior design. “It opens a whole new way of looking at the world.”

Brenau’s Newest Chinese Students Experience North Georgia Mountains

Anhui Students and alumna visiting North Georgia Mountains

At the very top of Georgia, a chance encounter with a Brenau alumna (Hanna Hamline WC'96)

Anhui/Brenau students in Helen, Georgia
Six of the 14 tour participants in Helen

The town of Helen may not be representative of Germany, but it conveys a good sense of American hospitality for tourists. Fourteen students in the 2+2 program with Anhui University in China enjoyed a field trip to the Georgia mountains on Sept. 28, accompanied by Rudi Kiefer, professor of physical sciences and director of sustainability, Ray Tatum, vice president for enrollment management and Khalid Ibrahim, the group’s English instructor.

Sightseeing, lunch and shopping in Helen was followed by a drive to the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center. After the final half-mile walk to the observation tower, the students were stunned by the 360-degree view. “I did not know Georgia had such beautiful mountains,” said Rachel Pei. “It is incredible how far we can see from up here.”

Clear weather and temperatures in the low 80s helped compensate for the serpentine drive up the mountain, and the equally busy return route that can be a challenge for passengers in a packed van. “They were singing Chinese songs in the van most of the time. I don’t know what the words were, but they were having a good time,” Kiefer said. “Conversations were mostly in support of the students’ growing English skills, but I couldn’t resist adding some information about how these valleys formed, and pointing out the floodplains at the bottom.”

Students learned quickly that Brenau is a household name even on Georgia’s tallest mountaintop. A chance encounter at 4,786 ft. elevation with Hanna Hamline,WC’96,  presented a photo opportunity, joining an alumna and 1990’s gallery assistant with Brenau’s newest student group. More excitement is sure to be in store for the group as they spend the next few semesters at the university.

Larry Eschen Dies at 94

A familiar voice is gone from the Gainesville Campus. Capt. Lawrence “Larry” Eschen died on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at age 94.

“Larry was a well-liked visitor to Walters House,” said Matt Thomas, Vice President for External Relations. “ We could always hear him coming down the hall, because he liked to stop at every desk on the way and spread some good cheer and little gifts. His support of our students and programs was exemplary, making learning projects possible that enriched our regular curricular offerings.”

Eschen’s many years of military service made him a keen student of European history. At the end of World War II, he was stationed in Wiesbaden and Cologne, Germany. It was the same time, and the same region, where another Brenau legend was also serving: the late John Jacobs jr., former chair of the Brenau Board of Trustees. Just like Jacobs, Eschen took great pleasure in sharing his experiences of the reconstruction period in postwar Germany.

“Many were the times that he brought a stack of yellowed prints from 1945 to my office,” said Rudi Kiefer, who was director of multimedia publishing at the time. “We would scan and enlarge them, clean them up digitally, and thereby create new documentation of the days that began the deep friendship between the U.S. and Germany. Larry’s pictures provided views that were never seen anywhere else.”

But such small favors couldn’t begin to return the support that Eschen provided to Brenau University, and to the Academy in its final years. Whether it was supporting an athletic team by donating the funds for their t-shirts, or giving to a new initiative of the theatre program, or purchasing office equipment that didn’t make it into the official budget, he never hesitated to show where his heart was. “We enjoyed his regular workout visits at the Fitness Center,” said receptionist Elizabeth Chappelle. “He never arrived empty-handed. Often he’d stand in the lobby and hand out lollipops to the younger students and the little kids.”

Pat Felt, administrative assistant at the Fitness Center, agreed. “He was more than a customer. He was a good friend. Being a people person, Larry never met a stranger. Every time his booming voice was heard from the entrance, we know there would be some humorous anecdotes, and presents for everybody.”

Eschen leaves behind a daughter last known to be living in Mexico, and two grandsons. A guest book and condolence list are available at


Photo of  partial listing of sustainability activities, presented by Michael Chang of Ga. Tech, seemed intimidatingly large.
This partial listing of sustainability activities, presented by Michael Chang of Ga. Tech, seemed intimidatingly large.

Have you ever considered getting an electric car, but 
thought they’re too expensive?  According 
to Hannah Solar Corporation, if you use the tax credit, a lease for a Nissan 
Leaf can be had for as little as $75 per month. 
This was just one bit of information among many gathered by a Brenau group 
who attended the statewide conference of the Georgia College Sustainability 
Network, held in Macon on Sept. 20. 
“The round table session helped open my eyes on what needs to happen 
before a campus can claim a ‘sustainability’ effort at any level of earnestness”, 
said Robert Cuttino.  Together with Rudi Kiefer, who serves on the Steering Committee of GCSN, and Karen 
Henman, he participated in the sessions that included topics as diverse as 
curriculum-building, water conservation on campus, promoting sustainability 
efforts among students, and a round-table discussion about what’s happening at
the various public and private colleges in Georgia.  The variety of themes was also apparent among 
the presenters, ranging from students attending Georgia College & State 
University and Emory University to faculty from UGA, Emory, GCSU, and Georgia 
Southern, as well as industry representatives.

“The presentation about Zero Waste Events at Emory has got 
me interested in investigating how to institute Zero Waste Events on our campus,
and developing greater buy-in to sustainability”, said Henman. As the three members of Brenau’s 
Sustainability Advisory & Action Board (SAAB) attended different concurrent 
session, a whole list of projects and priorities evolved, including more 
recycling efforts, studying the tree canopy on campus, energy efficiency and 
more, which Henman put to paper and summarized for the committee.  A busy agenda for the SAAB seems assured.

“It was great to meet the people in person that I’ve been
teleconferencing with during the summer as we were building the conference
agenda in the steering committee,” Kiefer said. 
“Eriqah Foreman Williams of the National Wildlife Federation, who
oversees the GCSN activities, was already on my ‘old friends’ list because she
did such a marvelous job with the Farm-to-Table Conference in Statesboro last
spring.  And as a UGA graduate, I was
delighted to exchange views with the people from Athens, and learn what they
are doing on the state’s flagship campus over there.” 

Henman’s suggestions about a tree inventory and the campus 
canopy are certain to be followed up in the SAAB, together with other 
vegetation-related projects that are on the burner this year.  A first step is a guest lecture by Joan 
Maloof, author of “Teaching the Trees” and “Among the Ancients”, scheduled for 
Wednesday, Oct.9 at 5 p.m. in Thurmond McRae Auditorium (still being 
finalized).  More rounds of weeds removal 
and clean-up are also slated in the Bamboo Forest area of the Bioscience Field 
Station.  With a design being prepared by 
Teri Nye, and plant selections by Jessi Shrout (both of the Science Dept.), a 
new teaching and research venue is emerging in the back of the Brenau Campus.

“Jessi and Teri had class responsibilities, so unfortunately 
they couldn’t come along to the Macon conference,” Kiefer said.   “But the three of us – Karen, Robert and 
myself – brought back so many notes and ideas that we can stay busy for the 
entire academic year.  The key to it all,
agreed to by every participant, is student involvement in these projects.  Just like last year, it’ll be a priority at 

Trying to Make Sense 700 Times in a Row

Earth Sense appears new every week on p.2. in the Sunday Times, and online at
Earth Sense appears new every week on p.2. in the Sunday Times, and online at

“Calendars aren’t my strongest suit,” admits Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., science professor at Brenau.  “But according to the list of titles I’ve kept, the Gainesville Times has now published the 700th column I’ve written for the paper, one every week.”

It started with a need to provide more public visibility for Brenau University.  Kiefer went to see the editor of the Times and offered to write “a few” weekly columns about the weather, “maybe for as long as six months.”  In January 2000, Weatherwise made its debut, and the reaction from readers was positive.  “They enjoyed the column’s way of explaining how the current weather was coming about, and why weather prediction is never going to be a 100% accurate operation,” Kiefer said.  Suggestions from readers and students soon expanded the range of topics.  Among the unusual ones, articles about measurements of temperature inside a hot car come to mind.  Or why the piano gets out of tune just before Christmas.  Airplane crashes and the weather that brought them about.  Driving a train on flooded tracks.  The biggest caves east of the Mississippi, right here in Georgia.  Why it’s boring to sit through a hurricane.  These and many more topics with a more mainstream scientific focus continued until 2012. 

That year, Kiefer moved into the sustainability office at Brenau, and Weatherwise was replaced by Earth Sense, now online in addition to the printed Sunday paper.  Sustainability and energy use are close cousins, so an early Earth Sense explained how you could have had a better battery in your riding lawn mower.  It also, apparently, made sense to discuss the fallout of 2011 disasters, plus the new ones of 2012.  So flash floods, tsunamis, tornado shelters and aircraft icing appeared in the Times along with more benign topics like rain barrels and air mass contrasts.

“Students sometimes ask if there’s good money in it,” Kiefer says.  “Not in this case, because the primary purpose is still to provide a public service through an educational piece, while keeping Brenau in the news.  They pay me just the right amount for the column so I can buy a daily paper and subscribe to Time magazine.  That’s it.”

Often, the column has a historic or literary lead-in.  “My favorite fiction author is John Steinbeck, especially his Grapes of Wrath, and his less-known novel The Wayward Bus,” says Kiefer.  “Steinbeck had an incredible eye for the little technical things that we use in our lives, and how they sometimes come to control us instead of us controlling them.  In a way, he’s a pioneer of telling the ‘science vs. daily life’ tale.” 

Daily life at Brenau has had a regular place in both Weatherwise and Earth Sense.  Reports of the views and activities of Nursing faculty, the dean of health sciences, occupational therapy, and other fields have shown up on Gainesville’s Sunday morning breakfast tables.  Most recently, readers learned about Prof. Outtara’s views on warfare in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Prof. Art Evans’ experiences and tips for flying an F-4 fighter plane in the U.S. Air Force.  The current issue details how progress in energy savings and improvements of air quality came about so quickly in the city of Oakwood.  That column, and many subsequent ones, are found at

Brenau Scientists Travel to Discover Secrets of Truly Living Well

Plantings at TLW are in handicap-accessible beds. Notice the rich, dark soil color which suggests fertility and high organic content. (Photo T.Nye)
Plantings at TLW are in handicap-accessible beds. Notice the rich, dark soil color which suggests fertility and high organic content. (Photo T.Nye)
August 7 was a very rainy Wednesday in North Georgia, but this didn’t stop a long-planned field trip to Atlanta’s Truly Living Well urban farm. Profs. Jessi Shrout and Teri Nye took the tour of TLW’s Wheat Street location (Rudi Kiefer had to cancel due to a dental emergency), guided by farm manager Ras Kofi.

“The plants are happy, so what’s a bit of rain,” Nye said. The plants were very happy indeed. Brenau’s visitors noticed immediately how healthy the plants look, quite unlike the mineral-fed row crops found at commercial operations out in the country.

“We use compost for plant food, always,” Kofi explained. “The health of the plants, is directly correlated with the health of the soil and compost. And you have to have good starting materials in order to get a good product.” Compost is obtained when plant matter rots under controlled conditions. TLW uses various sources, which include “zoo poop”, whimsically named but self-explanatory, from a firm which retrieves manure from the Atlanta Zoo; free waste from local fruit stands and coffee shops; and mulch from tree services who are usually glad to have a taker for all those shredded cuttings.

Only plant matter is used to make compost, but worms settle in soon after inception of the pile. They are most welcome because they rework and aerate the compost heap. Aerobic bacteria add their own work, generating heat (gardeners call it “cooking” the compost), and facilitating a chemical process which ends up producing nitrates, which are a major fertilizer. Compost also aids in maintaining soil moisture levels, and ensuring a healthy soil texture. Without input of organic matter, North Georgia’s clay soils can easily turn into the red brick-like desert that one can observe on former cotton fields and other mistreated agricultural sites.

Clearing Bioscience Grounds Spring semester 2013: Hard work by students and faculty turned decades of invasive plant growth into fertilizing mulch. (Photo R.Kiefer)
Clearing Bioscience Grounds Spring semester 2013: Hard work by students and faculty turned decades of invasive plant growth into fertilizing mulch. (Photo R.Kiefer)

Truly Living Well was founded in 2006 by K.Rashid Nuri with the objective to bring nutritionally-rich, fresh-picked produce to local residents through a community supported agriculture program. “People often ask me why our produce costs a little bit more than the frozen stuff from the supermarket,” Nuri said at a 2013 presentation that the 3 Brenau faculty attended also. “I tell them: ‘You can pay me now, or pay a doctor later.’” On the Brenau slate for the 2013-14 academic year is an expansion of the Bioscience Field Station next to the Bamboo Forest. It will include raised beds to facilitate production of common food plants for teaching, research, and donation purposes.

Asked what would be the best scope to start such a project, Kofi’s recommendation was to start small right away rather than waiting to start big at a later date. “Projects like these will grow and expand in their own time, and it can be detrimental to bite off too much in the early stages.” Shrout and Kiefer have already secured grant funding to build the teaching garden, and the fall semester will show how much they can “bite off” the project. The size of the bite will in part depend on student involvement, which was plentiful in the spring term when groups like Alpha Kappa Alpha, Servant Leaders, and several science classes plus machinery from the City of Oakwood helped clear the grounds and produce mulch.

The Truly Living Well urban farm includes a food market as well as educational venues. (Photo T.Nye)
The Truly Living Well urban farm includes a food market as well as educational venues. (Photo T.Nye)

“We hope for plenty of student interest again, of course,” said Shrout. “Another exciting aspect is that we plan to work with a people in the School of Occupational Therapy this fall to create something similar to TLW, but on a smaller scale, using universal design principles. OT students are the future experts in designing installations for human use. This includes handicapped access, but also modes of layout that are ergonomic, and simply make sense.”

If you have never visited the Bamboo Forest, a visit to this unique natural environment is awe-inspiring. “The student groups worked very hard in the spring heat and cleared the grounds from 30-year old trash and debris,” Kiefer said. “With some more landscaping improvements that we have planned for the fall, Bioscience Field Station and the Bamboo Forest will be a fresh asset and teaching venue that serves the entire campus.”

To find the Bamboo Forest, follow the foot path from Jewell Hall downhill past the maintenance shops, and continue in a straight line past the greenhouse.

Assistant Professor of Biology and Lab Director Jessi Shrout,  ude.uanerb@tuorhsj
Professor of Phys. Science and Director of Sustainability Dr. Rudi Kiefer, ude.uanerb@refeikr
Assistant Professor of Biology Teri Nye, ude.uanerb@eynt