Twinkle in the Eyes

In 1936 the Gainesville Rotary Club asked local artist and Mark Trail comic strip illustrator Ed Dodd to do some pen and ink drawings of its members. Dodd complied, adding limericks. On the caricature of Hugh Hosch (pronounced like “shush”), owner of a textile mill that made denim clothing, he wrote:

“Hugh Hosch had plenty of push
And became an overalls king.
Then he discovered
A girl who was star-eyed
And loud did the wedding bells ring.”

The “girl,” of course, was the former Mary Helen Roop of Carrollton, Ga., who came to Gainesville as a 16-year-old Brenau College student in 1931 and never left. She celebrates her 99th birthday on Nov. 2 and, along with the stars that remain in her piercing eyes, you see a lot of twinkle and an absolute joie de vivre.

Mary Helen’s father was a superior court judge and he and his wife probably saw that same twinkle in their only child’s eye when they sent her off to college.

Mary Hellen Hosch“Of course, I have an early fall birthday, but still I was going off at 16,” she says in an interview in her assisted living home in Gainesville’s Lanier Village. “And they said, ‘you have to go to a girl’s school in Georgia, at least for the first two years.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘since I get to choose, I pick Brenau because it is the only girl’s school in the state of Georgia that has sororities.”

Quality of education aside, she thought it would be great fun to be in a sorority. For her, that proved true after she pledged Delta Delta Delta. Ask her what else she, as a well-to-do young southern woman during the hard days of the Great Depression hoped to get from a college education and she will speak plainly: “Get married. That’s all I wanted to do.”

She got the husband, right enough, but she also acquired a lifelong passion for Brenau. “I liked it so much stayed the whole four years.” Her parents reminded her of their promise that she could go to any school of her choosing after she turned 18, or as she put it, “anywhere I could get in,” but ‘I didn’t want to leave and go anywhere else. I sure was happy at Brenau. I made a lot of good friends.”

She said she “had taken piano forever,” and she continued those studies at Brenau with its highly-acclaimed music faculty. She also tried new things – some of which took and some of which didn’t. Her stint as a reporter for The Alchemist, for example, did not lead to a career in journalism. However, opportunities to travel abroad did. She had taken her first trip to Europe as a father before college, but the second time she went with a group of Brenau classmates, chaperoned by Eva Pearce, sister of the college president. “Miss Eva would let us do anything we wanted to do,” she reveals. “If we met boys on the street and we wanted to go sight-seeing with them, she’d let us.”

Her most famous student exploits, however, is that she was a founder of the super-secret H.G.H. Senior Honor Society. Although her photo appears in a booklet that chronicles the organization, you can ask her about it today and she is likely to reply, politely, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

For close to half a century Hosch has repaid her debt to Brenau financially and through service to the institution, including time on the university Board of Trustees. Because of her support and love for music and the arts – as long as her health permitted it she was a continual presence at gallery openings, plays and music programs – the university named the theater in the Burd Center for Performing Arts for her.

“I am always for anything that will help Brenau,” she says.

2 Responses to “Twinkle in the Eyes”
  1. Carroll Stacy Garrett Fonville 1966 Delta Delta Delta says:

    Mary Helen, I am Stacy Garrett Fonville,from Bowlers Wharf, Va. I remember your being so sweet to us at the Tri Delt House. What wonderful memories. I was hoping to hear you playing the piano. Thank you so much for making us so happy when we were at Brenau. You are still as beautiful as you ever were…

  2. Tami Lee WC'02 says:

    I think this may be my favorite thing I have ever watched about Brenau! What a wonderful woman who has really helped to shape Brenau in to what it is today!

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