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Evolution of learning: Communiversity combines educational forces

POSTED: October 23, 2007 5:01 a.m.
It all began with an idea.

C.E. "Gus" Whalen Jr., former chief executive of the Warren Featherbone Co., wanted to do something unique with the property after it stopped manufacturing baby clothes, which it had done for 50 years.

Whalen knew he wanted to do something with education but wasn’t sure exactly what.

In 2005, Whalen hatched the idea for the Featherbone Communiversity, designed to provide cross-generational learning through an alliance of educational institutions.

"It’s interesting how in life, seemingly chance events change forever the course of what we do," Whalen told a room full of Hall County residents Thursday evening during the official dedication of the Featherbone Communiversity.

The dedication followed the opening of Brenau University’s nursing school at the Featherbone Center about one month ago.

In addition to the nursing school, the Featherbone Center houses Lanier Technical College’s Manufacturing Development Center.

A "business incubator" shares space with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center and the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.

Children’s museum Interactive Neighborhood for Kids is also in the center.

"Everybody wanted to be a part of this," Whalen said. "This has grown and matured way beyond what we could have imagined."

Ed Schrader, president of Brenau University, said communiversity is "intentional synergy," where people get together and do things they would not be able to do apart.

"We know good learning’s going to happen here," he said.

Mike Moye, president of Lanier Technical College, said that in the year since the school’s Manufacturing Development Center opened, 21 jobs have been created that would not have existed without the incubator.

The goal is for businesses to grow, graduate from the Featherbone Center and for new businesses to come into the incubator.

"We see grand things happening in the future because of these opportunities," Moye said.

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said everyone brings different experiences and backgrounds to the communiversity, and that everyone can learn from each other.

"None of us is as smart as all of us," he said.

Education is exemplified by community diversity, which is the foundation for a successful individual and a successful community, said Martha Nesbitt, president of Gainesville State College.

Nesbitt said the community’s dedication to education has made all the difference, and will continue to make a difference in the future.

"When we think about communiversity we need to remember, never underestimate the power of an individual to make a positive change," she said.

Also present at the dedication was Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who said Gainesville has always been, and always will be, known for its innovation.

In watching the Warren Featherbone Co. over the years, Cagle, a Hall County resident and native, said he has seen successes that have made the community proud.

Now that the Featherbone Center has been reinvented, Cagle said it will continue to carry on the legacy of fostering new entrepreneurship within the community.

"Life is not about self. Life is about service," he said. "We have come a long way, and we do get much further in accomplishing our goals when we do it together."



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