Ivester gift elevates psychology to a school at Brenau University

The Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling is the newest addition to Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences made possible through a generous gift of Doug and Kay Ivester. The
naming honors a lifelong friend of both Doug and Kay, going back to their days working together at Ernst and Ernst, and is in recognition of Darby’s tireless work as the president of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation.

Lynn J. Darby

“Lynn Darby and I have known each other for over 50 years. We have worked together, traveled together, laughed together and cried together,” Doug Ivester says. “Lynn’s mother was a highly respected teacher in Florence, Alabama. Teaching and investing in young people have always been close to Lynn’s heart and his heritage. Kay and I are honored to see the Darby name associated with Brenau’s Ivester College of Health Sciences.”

The Ivesters contributed a personal gift of nearly $2.6 million that made this naming possible. The gift includes financial support and their Charles Webster Hawthorne collection of 30 works that was given to the Ivester College of Health Sciences for their continued use in classes for psychology, integrating the arts and health sciences.

“I appreciate Doug and Kay for providing me with this kind gesture of naming Brenau’s School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling in my honor,” Darby says. “It is wonderful to be connected to a school that will help meet the needs of Hall County and its vulnerable adolescent population.”

“This is another extraordinary gift by Doug and Kay Ivester,” says Brenau University President Anne Skleder. “Their generosity and commitment to the health sciences in Gainesville and Hall County is incredible, and we are humbled to be stewards of their investment.”

Skleder says the elevation of the department in the Ivester College of Health Sciences to a school is especially timely since the field of counseling and clinical psychology is in high demand nationally. By 2028, growth in this field is projected to triple growth of other professions. “Even more importantly, the local need is great,” Skleder says. “In Hall County, there are 1,290 clients for each clinician, compared to 330 clients to each clinician in top performing counties. In terms of Brenau’s competitive advantage, there are few doctorates in clinical psychology in this region. Our focus on adolescent counseling will help our program meet a societal need while also being an important point of distinction.”

Skleder says that the comprehensive plan created in support of this effort projects a steady increase of students, eventually culminating in a new doctoral program for psychology within five years. “It is part of our long-range plan to elevate our healthcare programs to schools and to have a terminal degree for each school, so this expansion meets these two forward-looking aspirations,” she says.

Brenau’s newest school currently has almost 300 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs, with the Bachelor of Science degree offered online and on ground. The Master in Clinical Counseling Psychology program with almost 90 students has a strong focus on addressing the needs of adolescents. Approximately 30% of the clients who participate in the Brenau Center for Counseling and Psychological Services are adolescents as are 60% of psychological assessment clients. Of the 150 contracted sites in the community where graduate students provide counseling and assessment services, 40 offer services solely or primarily to children and adolescents.

“This heavy focus on children and adolescents, along with our commitment to increase services to the adolescent population, especially since the increased anxiety around COVID, contributed to the renaming of the department,” says Julie Battle, chair of the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling.

The Ivesters, who grew up in the New Holland community adjacent to Gainesville city limits about two miles from the historic Brenau campus, have been longtime supporters of Brenau — particularly its mission to help meet long-term regional health needs by the continued development of undergraduate and graduate professional programs including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and the upcoming physician assistant expansion. Their support of educational opportunities for Brenau’s students, thereby preparing them for meaningful careers, also reflects their efforts to improve the employment potential for those in Hall County through their philanthropic endeavors.

The new school will be housed on the second floor of the Gainesville Renaissance building, which will complete the fourth side of the downtown square in Gainesville. Construction is scheduled to begin in September, and the facility should be available for use next summer.

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