Douglas Ivester, center, and Kay Ivester greet attendees during the dedication of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A Community’s Legacy

With a new name for the university’s highly regarded nursing school and the completion of a new athletics park where the Golden Tigers national championship-contending softball team commences home field play in February, the name Grindle stands to become one of the most visible fixtures is becoming increasingly on Brenau’s Gainesville campus.

Forever GoldThe eponymous Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park about two miles from the historic campus and and the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing at Brenau East Campus in Gainesville memorialize the lives of two long-time residents of the small, tight-knit New Holland textile mill community adjacent to Gainesville. The naming of the two facilities occurred as a result of the generosity of Kay Ivester, the Grindles’ daughter, and her husband, Brenau Trustee Doug Ivester, who created a well-funded foundation specifically to put a major, perpetual imprint on worthy causes in and around their native sod in Gainesville and Hall County.

Born and raised in New Holland, Ernest and Inez Grindle, like their daughter and son-in-law, were childhood sweethearts at the elementary school that once stood next to the late 19th-century vintage, red brick cotton mill at almost the exact spot now occupied by the Tigers’ softball field. Following his own service in the mill workforce, World War II Navy veteran Ernest owned and operated the Gainesville Vending Co. For several years he and his wife were partners with another mill family in a barbecue drive-in cafe in nearby Rabbitown, the Hilltop Inn, until Ernest contracted multiple sclerosis. Inez at that point virtually worked full time caring for her husband until his death in 1998. She also cared for her invalid brothers, Clinton Wilson and Bobby Wilson, throughout their own illnesses and disabilities until their deaths. The naming of the nursing school for “Miss Inez,” as Doug Ivester referred to her at the dedication ceremony, was a perfect fit because “her chosen role was to be a nurse, if you will,” he said. “Her chosen role was to be a caregiver.” Inez died in 2014 after a sudden illness.

Softball scoreboard at the Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletic Complex.

Softball field in New Holland at the Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletic Complex
New Holland’s mill town once fielded “some great ball players,” according to one former resident, on the diamond near the current location of the Golden Tigers softball team’s new home.

South Carolina-based Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, Inc., put the ball in play for development of the multiuse athletics park when it donated the 16.8-acre tract of land adjacent to the historic Milliken & Company mill on the well-trafficked Jesse Jewell Parkway, or U.S. 129 and Georgia Highway 369. The Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation, funded by the Ivesters, provided funding in 2014 to complete development of the first phase of the park. The university plans a formal dedication of that facility on April 18 before one of the final 2017 season home games for the Golden Tigers softball team (Brenau Window will report more about the athletics park in its next issue).

Although declining to disclose amounts of the gifts, the foundation followed up in 2016 with an even more generous contribution for the nursing school naming. At the same time, the foundation announced that a separate scholarship endowment, established by the Ivesters separately in 1994 to benefit first-generation college students, would henceforth be dedicated to those pursuing health sciences degrees, including nursing.

Ivester Foundation President Lynn Darby said that providing the financial grant to support the Brenau nursing school fulfills part of the foundation’s mission “to prepare skilled health care professionals to meet the needs of the community for generations to come.” Each year Brenau graduates, with undergraduate and graduate degrees, scores of well-trained nurses, many of whom will spend their careers in Hall and adjacent Georgia counties.

Matt Thomas, Brenau vice president for external relations, said the gift to the nursing school is structured to provide for the university’s needs in perpetuity. Annual earnings from the gift will be used at the discretion of the university for health sciences programs, which also could include scholarships for deserving students.

When the Grindles were children living in New Holland, textiles were the biggest industry in the region and the New Holland mill the largest of its kind in the state. Today, those driving between the Brenau campus and New Holland pass through the huge Northeast Georgia Health System and Medical Center complex, representative of what is today the area’s fastest-growing industry: health care.

Kay Ivester removes the covering from the sign for the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing during the dedication of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Kay Ivester removes the covering from the sign for the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing during the dedication of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A fitting honor

Brenau President Ed Schrader says the gift and nursing school naming sustain a legacy of strong female leadership in connection with the school’s history, from Ocie Pope, the first director of the Hall School of Nursing – founded in 1959 and acquired by Brenau in 1962 – to Anne Warren Thomas, the Gainesville benefactor who helped sustain and grow the nursing program in tough economic times.

“It is altogether fitting that the third important name and person involved in the continuing expansion of health care services for Brenau is another woman,” says Schrader. “We appreciate the opportunity to have the name of Mary Inez Grindle on our nursing school that will be with us forever.”

Brenau Nursing Director Dina Hewett characterizes the reallocation of the Ivester scholarship to health sciences and the new endowment as “outstanding news.”

“The School of Nursing has a critical need for scholarships at every level – from undergraduate to doctoral,” Hewitt says. “Many of our students, for example, are career changers with degrees in other fields, and there simply is not the same kind of aid available for them as for new undergraduates. For master’s degree and doctoral candidates, financial aid is essentially off the table because very little exists for them.”

Kay Ivester says she is happy with the decision of the Ivester Foundation to support Brenau’s health science programs, and she was delighted to see her mother honored by naming the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing in her memory.

Doug Ivester, former Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co. and a long-serving member of the Brenau University Board of Trustees, says his mother-in-law was a special, fascinating woman who took great joy from life and found great pleasure in sharing her joy with others. “I can think of no greater honor for Inez,” he said, “than for this nursing school to bear her name.”

From left to right, Douglas Ivester, Kay Ivester and Brenau President Ed Schrader react to seeing the new scrubs for students of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing during the dedication of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
From left to right, Douglas Ivester, Kay Ivester and Brenau President Ed Schrader react to seeing the new scrubs for students of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing during the dedication of the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

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