Works for me!

Richards, left, with Dr. Sandra Greniewicki, who in September 2011 was designated the first occupant of the Mary June Moore Richards Endowed Chair in Nursing.

Through the trees outside June Moore-Richards’ home in Los Gatos, Calif., you catch a glimpse of the snow-dusted mountains marking the southern perimeter of Silicon Valley at the base of the San Francisco peninsula. Although she misses her husband, Charles, who died in 2008 and with whom she had shared the home since their marriage in 1989, she loves the weather here, she loves the comfort and security of her community, and, at 84, she is not about to change a thing. “For me, this is a very pleasant place to live, so I plan to stay right here,” she says with sparkling blue eyes and more than just traces of her North Carolina-bred accent still in her speech.  When something works for you, why change it?

That was her philosophy for the 35 years that she spent working for General Electric Corporation’s nuclear power division, based in nearby San Jose, where she managed the comings and goings of seemingly more money than the economies of small countries. She remains steadfastly loyal to what she regards as one of the greatest corporations ever – from annual meetings she attends each April of the “Nuclear Pioneers” who worked for the GE division at its inception in the 1950s to the appliances in her kitchen. That is also her philosophy about the white ’94 Camaro (“It can really fly when you want it to,” she says.) that she bought new and still drives. And it is her philosophy about Brenau University, from which she graduated in 1948 as a precocious 19-year-old.

“I wouldn’t take anything for having attended Brenau,” she says. “It meant the world to me.” Tellingly, just a few moments earlier, she used almost the same words to describe her career at GE. Not surprisingly, over the years Richards discovered a nexus for her loyalties, tapping into a corporate program that matches dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 a year, the retiree’s contributions to Brenau. She now is putting finishing touches on perhaps an even more significant contribution: creation of an endowment for a distinguished chair for research and teaching in the Brenau School of Nursing.

Richards’ loyalty to Brenau transcends any nostalgia for a genteel women’s college in the post-World War II South. She loves GE because her division, by her account, “had more brainpower than any other component of GE” and made her part of the world-changing enterprise that fed the increasing appetite for inexpensive energy and electrical power. For her to see Brenau as something other than an ever-changing, vibrant, innovative institution would be totally contrary to her core. “I love the fact that it is now Brenau UNIVERSITY,” she says. “I love that it is staying ahead of the times with all of its new professional programs. I think it would be a marvelous thing if Brenau got a medical school.”

Mary June Parham graduated high school at age 15. Her parents kept her close to home in Asheville, N.C., for her first college experience. However, her life-long friend Martha C. Edens, WC ’49, of Columbia, S.C., convinced her to transfer to Brenau. June excelled in math and science. She and her roommate, Jody Belden, WC ’48, of Ocean City, Miss., planned to go to medical school, but all slots were filled by men returning from World War II. Instead, she went to work for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, spending six years helping U.S. and Canadian chapters sort out organizational and financial problems. Then she married and moved with her first husband to California, where he attended law school. For her, the California residency took; the marriage did not. The former husband went back South; June went to work for GE.

She started as a clerk, but quickly cracked the glass ceiling, becoming for more than two decades manager of finances and contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear power plant construction around the world. More important she met Charles – the University of California, Berkeley, mechanical engineer who was a power plant construction project manager. Although she still maintains that she would have been a great doctor, she adds, “My only regret is that God saw fit to take Charles too soon.” She sees the path that opened for her now leads to helping open paths for others in health care education.

“In the long run,” she adds with conviction,” I believe that everything turns out like it should.”

– David Morrison

Look for additional detail about June Moore-Richards’ legacy contribution to her alma mater in an upcoming issue of Brenau Window. To learn whether your employer has a program for matching gifts to Brenau, contact Matt Thomas at mthomas@brenau.edu or 770.718.5309.

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