Three Brenau University trustees retire from the board

Jim Mathis

Three members of the Brenau University Board of Trustees — Jim Mathis, Ben Lilly and Gary Riley — retired this spring after 67 years of combined service to the institution.

“Their many years of service to Brenau is certainly in and of itself a foundation for celebration,” said Pete Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “More importantly, these have been years of financial support and dedicated service, of representing the university well in the community, providing leadership on numerous board committees, and providing sage advice to the board and university management. Brenau University is certainly better off for their presence, and I am personally grateful for their many contributions.”

Ben Lilly

Mathis, who became a Brenau trustee in 1992, was president of SunTrust Bank of North Georgia from 1977-1995. He is president emeritus of the North Georgia Community Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations and donors by building and distributing philanthropic assets in the region, and which Mathis has worked with for more than 20 years.

Lilly has been a real estate agent in Georgia since 1968 and a broker since 1971. He spent 11 years with one firm before opening his own, Lilly Realty Associates Inc., in 1979. In his tenure as a trustee, Lilly worked with Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer David Barnett as the former chair of the facilities committee. He helped to secure properties for the regional campuses, specifically those in Jacksonville, Florida, and Norcross, Georgia. His mother, Helen Lilly, WC ’31,, is an alumna of The Women’s College, and her son has donated art that hangs in the Bentley Rare Books Room in Trustee Library. Most recently, Lilly donated a 19th-century painting to the university’s Permanent Art Collection. He has been a Brenau trustee since 1994.

Gary Riley

Riley, meanwhile, worked at Lemmon Pharmaceutical Co. early in his career before serving as president and chairman of the board of Cooper Laboratories. He then became vice president of marketing and sales for Rubbermaid Inc. From Rubbermaid, he became president of Cookware Group. Before retiring in 1997, he served as chairman of the board and president of Teledyne Industries.

A trustee since 2004, Riley worked with Barnett as chair of the finance and investment committee, and he was instrumentally helpful to Barnett’s predecessor, Wayne Dempsey, during the recession. Riley spent hours on campus with Dempsey and Barnett, researched numerous endowment groups and helped plan the financial path and process the university now successfully follows. He and his wife, Georgine, have long been personally generous to Brenau and perhaps most notably gave the university a sculpture that was commissioned in memory of their son. Titled Boy Flying the Enterprise by Gregory Johnson, it can be viewed in Trustee Library today.

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