Suited for Success

Family roots and a Brenau education instill confidence in university’s board vice chair

Business leadership, a strong work ethic and generosity are hardwired into the family roots of new Brenau University Board of Trustees Vice Chair Emmie Henderson Howard, WC ’01, and she appreciates those same qualities in the university she now helps to govern.

Howard says these qualities were honed while growing up on a farm in Tennessee that her family has worked for five generations and through her maternal grandfather’s gas station. She says running a farm takes an entrepreneurial spirit as you negotiate the weather, planting seasons and myriad other variables that mother nature can throw at you. Likewise, she says her grandfather’s gas station was much more than just a place to top off your tank.

“I grew up where my families ran businesses,” she says. “One side of my family is farming, which is running a special kind of business, and on the other side was this full-service tire and gas station where my grandfather old candy, but he also fixed tires and farm equipment.”

Church was also a central part of Howard’s upbringing. “Every Sunday we were in church,” she recalls. “It was a coat, tie, suit for the men and a dress for the women. I just always appreciated seeing my grandfather, father, uncles and my brother work hard on the farm, but then they would look like a million bucks when they dressed for Sunday church. That really just inspired the passion I’ve always had knowing that guys just look better when they’re in a coat and tie or dressed up.”

Howard says she views Brenau as a jewel box filled with traditions, education and history. “The school holds dear so many special things for so many people. For me, my Brenau experience absolutely instilled in me the confidence to start my own business,” she says. “At Brenau I had opportunities to make presentations in front of classes and the entire student body. Those experiences really do help set the stage for what’s next. You just don’t have those kinds of opportunities at large universities. Brenau may be considered small in the higher education world, but it is
mighty in the big opportunities it provides for its students.”

She credits these life experiences for propelling the launch of her first business. In 2005, she started Southern Proper, a haberdashery that embraces appreciation for heritage and fashion, which positioned her as a pioneer of the nationally embraced Southern food and fashion culture. After successfully managing the business for 15 years, she recently sold it and became president of Onward Reserve, also a specialty men’s apparel and lifestyle brand.

“Brenau may be considered small in the higher education world, but it is mighty in the big opportunities it provides for its students.”

Emmie Henderson Howard, WC ’01
Vice Chair, Brenau University
Board of Trustees

Howard, who joined the board in 2014, says her experiences as a student and as an entrepreneurial businesswoman will help in her new board duties. “As one of the younger alumni on the board, I want to be somewhat of a bridge between the board and the school,” she says. “I’ve walked in a student’s shoes, which is a great thing, and now I have this leadership opportunity to give back to Brenau.”

The importance of giving back is another quality she learned in her childhood farmhouse. “Every Sunday morning after my mom managed to get us children out of bed to put on our Sunday best, I remember her sitting down at the kitchen table to write a check for our weekly tithe,” she says. “And then our grandmother and grandfather would always give us a couple of dollars to put in the collection plate. It was just built into our culture, that it’s not about what you get; it’s about what you give.

“As is the case with so many, Brenau has given me so much, and I’m honored to be able to give back by my presence and my financial support.”

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