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Marking an educational milestone: Brenau at 80
Brenau Academy school photographer Don Griner speaks to Kristina Rhodes’ journalism and yearbook class about approaching yearbook photography Tuesday afternoon. Brenau Academy is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Brenau Academy may be a small boarding and day school, but it has a big history stretching back to 1928.

The Gainesville academy’s 60 students filed into classrooms Monday for the first day of school that marked the beginning of Brenau Academy’s 80th school year.

Tim Daniel, headmaster of Brenau Academy, said the ninth- through 12th-grade all-girls school began as the vision of Haywood J. Pearce, who was president of Brenau College for 50 years, starting in 1893. Daniel said Brenau College became Brenau University about 30 years ago.

"Dr. Pearce founded the academy to provide advantages to students they couldn’t find anywhere else," he said.

Begun in a time when educating women was not the status quo, Brenau Academy has

expanded its curriculum over the years to allow high-performing students to participate in Brenau University classes in their junior or senior years at the college preparatory school.

Daniel said its small class sizes, single-sex instruction and rigorous curriculum are among the academy’s enduring traits.

Daniel said the school currently has about 45 boarding students. The academy’s students come from 11 states and seven countries, including Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Bermuda.

The academy will hold an 80th anniversary party this spring, Daniel said. Until then, academy students will interview alumnae of Brenau Academy for a special project students will present as part of the school’s celebration.

The academy’s dedication to educating and empowering women to pursue leadership roles has accentuated its alumnae list, Daniel said.

The headmaster said he often begins morning announcements by mentioning a successful woman in history, such as legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel, on her birthday.

"At our school, all of our girls are leaders. They’re expected to be leaders," he said. "The academy has a long list of young women ... who go out and really accomplish some amazing things."

Daniel said the most famous almuna of Brenau Academy is Amanda Blake, the actress who played the role of Miss Kitty Russell on CBS’s "Gunsmoke" for 19 years. Other famous alumnae include Sally Foster, the gift-wrapping retailer, and Janie Bryant, a Hollywood costume designer who won an Emmy Award in 2005 for her designs that appeared on HBO’s "Deadwood" series.

Bryant will visit the Brenau Academy campus on Sept. 4 to meet with students, Daniel said.

Meredith Petricelli, a senior Brenau Academy boarding student from Cumming, said the legacy of Brenau Academy is inspiring.

"I think it gives you more of an appreciation for women," she said.

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