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,
Professor of Phys. Science and Director of Sustainability Dr. Rudi Kiefer,
Assistant Professor of Biology Teri Nye,

Mary Beth Looney wins 2013 Faculty of the Year Award

Mary-Beth Looney after receiving 2013 Faculty of the Year Award, including an undisclosed dollar amount.
Mary-Beth Looney after receiving 2013 Faculty of the Year Award, including an undisclosed dollar amount.

Picture this: two dozen grown-up looking people in a classroom, all of them faculty, plus a couple of student assistants. All are wearing more or less elaborate togas or poorly disguised bed sheets. Some are negotiating in a civilized manner, European Parliament style. Others are yelling and hurling insults at each other, antique Roman Senate style. This is the scene in a workshop conducted by Mary Beth Looney to introduce the “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy to Brenau classrooms in the spring of 2013, and the participants are having a grand time playing out an event that might have taken place 2,000 years ago. A number of courses, covering a variety of majors across the curriculum, are likely to adopt some form of this role-playing game, which was initiated at Barnard College.

“The Faculty of the Year 2013 Award goes to Professor Mary Beth Looney”, Provost Nancy Krippel announced at the Faculty Retreat Thursday. “Her sense of innovation, the quality of her work with students, and her merits in promoting the fine arts have made her the best choice of many.”

Bringing innovation to Brenau University has been Looney’s trade mark. Many Women’s College students count her study abroad trips to Greece and Italy among the highlights of their stay at Brenau. A few years ago, faculty colleagues enthusiastically attended her “Credit Cafe” sessions, which provided a forum about teaching methods and ways for continuous improvement. Old timers remember Looney as a graphic artist and assistant manager in the gallery.

Chair of the Department of Art and Design since 2005, Professor of Art and Design, and Program Director of Studio Art, Looney earned her B.A. degree in Studio Art from Roanoke College. Her M.F.A. in Painting came from the Savannah College of Art and Design. To that, she added a Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of Georgia. From 1996 to 2004, Looney was an adjunct professor at Brenau University before becoming a full-time faculty member. “ Professor Looney is not only a conscientious department chair and advisor, she is an outstanding teacher,” said Dr. Andrea Birch, Dean of Fine Arts and Humanities.

Given the close relationship between Brenau University and the arts, and the one between Mary Beth Looney and Brenau University, it surely won’t be long until the next round of innovations comes from her office.

Kiefer elected to EarthShare Board of Directors

Photo of Rudi Kiefer
Rudi Kiefer, Science professor and director of sustainability at Brenau, will serve on the Board of Directors of EarthShare

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., science professor and director of 
sustainability at Brenau, was elected on 
May 31 to serve on the Board of Directors of EarthShare.  “The nomination came as a surprise,” Kiefer 
said.  “But meeting the other board 
members after the election, I was thrilled. 
The board includes community and business leaders, as well as environmental 
and legal professionals from Georgia.  It’s 
a great opportunity for networking and serving the cause of sustainability 
during the three-year term.” 

EarthShare of Georgia is a nonprofit that raises funds 
through employee giving for more than 60 environmental member organizations 
dedicated to conserving and protecting our air, land and water.  Its vision is “working for the day when our 
air, land and water are clean, abundant and healthy.”   More information about the group is found at

Photo of Southface building.
The Southface Building: rooftop employee break “room”, solar collectors, rooftop garden and rainwater collector.

“The first EarthShare meeting I attended was at the 
Southface Building in Atlanta,” Kiefer said. 
“If I understand the affiliation correctly, Southface is the environmental 
associate of Home Depot.  They have an 
incredible setup in and around their building. 
A water garden outside, an additional rooftop garden, solar electric 
panels on top, waterless toilets – never heard of those before – smart air flow 
climatization, and more.  It was worth 
the trip to Atlanta just to get a tour of that building.”  Since the Bioscience Field Station in the 
back of the Brenau Campus already includes a garden project, Kiefer hopes to 
borrow some of the Southface ideas for collecting rainwater to make a water 
garden, and start a similar installation as a teaching model at Brenau.  The Field Station project, which started with 
a massive cleanup in the spring semester, is scheduled to continue this fall, jointly with Profs. Jessi Shrout and Teri Nye.

‘Grandma is an Activist’ Brenau Sustainability Singers Provide Musical Fun

(Photo from video) The plot of the sketch consists of a group of students desperately trying to write a sustainability-related song for a class assignment, with somewhat comical results.
(Photo from video) The plot of the sketch consists of a group of students desperately trying to write a sustainability-related song for a class assignment, with somewhat comical results.

Expressing thoughts through music is a time-honored tradition at Brenau.  Lately, the trend has also emerged among staff and students who aren’t in the Music Department.  This past year, productions by Juli Clay, James Sennett, Kimberly Dean and Danielle Miller have delighted a variety of audiences.

For the Earth Day Sustainability Fair event of 2013, Brenau’s EcoFriends students teamed up with vocalist music majors to perform a musical sketch of their own.  The Grand Finale show in the SUB was “purely for fun,” said Lauren Cain, WC’14, president of EcoFriends.  “We wanted to show that you can be concerned about ecology and the environment but still have a lot of laughs in the process.”

Accompanied by sustainability director Rudi Kiefer (piano), the Sustainability Singers, convening just for this one-time event, performed a sketch which featured songs with familiar melodies but entirely home-made lyrics.  “Choir director Bobby Ivey lent us some of his finest vocalists.  We only had time for a quick run-through, without a real rehearsal,” Kiefer said.  “So the emphasis was on singing loudly, above anything else.”  Credit for the video recording is due to Nick Dentamaro of Communications & Publications.  Kiefer added some panels and extra video clips.  The 12-minute show can be viewed at

The repertoire consists of songs titled “Grandma is an activist”, “We’re doing the best we can”, “We should welcome global warming when it comes”, and “Lend a hand.”  “Nobody should take it too seriously,” said English major Morgan Davis WC’14, who immediately joined the production when she heard about it in an honors course.  “I hope people will enjoy our look at the lighter side of sustainability!”

The stage performers were Keisha Boykin, Morgan Davis, Dannin Duncan, Rachel Ellis, Rachel McFarland, Paislie McNutt, Cody Otero, and Riannon Webb, with R.Kiefer at the piano.