President Schrader’s Tenure
Brenau University experienced unprecedented growth under President Ed Schrader’s leadership.
Ed Schrader came to Brenau University as president in January 2005 for two simple reasons: a strong appreciation for the university’s rich history and a burning vision for what it could become.
This year, he will retire as president.
As someone intimately familiar with the world of academia and a successful businessman with an entrepreneurial streak, Ed Schrader has the rare combination of scholarly bona fides that faculty expect and business acumen trustees require of a CEO at the helm of one of the leading enterprises in the region. And it is exactly at the intersection of these where the university expanded on so many fronts during the nearly 15 years under Schrader’s leadership.
By personal inclination and pragmatic experience, Schrader, a geologist who left the private business sector midway through his career to return to academia, knew that just his vision for Brenau wasn’t enough to propel the university forward without inviting others to help shape and own the vision. And that’s exactly what he did during his early days.
That willingness to authentically collaborate and to “leave his ego at the door,” recalls Pete Miller, longtime trustee and board chair during Schrader’s tenure, are two key traits that led the board to know they had the right person for the job in Schrader.
“While Dr. Schrader received some pushback by several board members, the strategic planning process he led during his early days turned out to be one of the best things that he did,” says Miller. “It took the board a while to realize they were part of the process from the start. Vision, mission, strategy — all of that did a lot to help Dr. Schrader earn the trust of the board and to set the university on a clear path.”
Brenau 2025 Vision was birthed out of that process, and it served as the blueprint for all that was to follow. By many measures and accounts, it’s been a breathtaking whirlwind of expansion and growth in about every area imaginable.
“One of the things I wish I had known when Dr. Schrader first arrived is that he runs at 100 miles per hour all the time,” Miller says. “In my role as board chair, I had to learn to put my foot on the brake from time to time.”
By 2025, Brenau University will be an internationally recognized leader in innovative higher education with a unique blend of the liberal arts and professional preparation offering advanced degrees in areas that meet the essential needs of the 21st century.
Miller says that this tension is one of the great things about their relationship. “I respect and admire his ability to see the future of higher education and what Brenau needs to do to be prepared for that future,” he says. “I also admire his ability to take a calculated risk and to not be afraid to fail. I’d much rather ease on the brakes once in a while over pushing the leader down the road, and we got that with Ed.”
The gem of Brenau since its inception in 1878 remains The Women’s College. Schrader has consistently demonstrated his support for the development of The Women’s College, as under his leadership Brenau added four new sorority houses, a large residential hall and new sports complex in recent years. In 2012, he created the dean of The Women’s College position, which is
dedicated to the success of the historic heart of the university.
“Dr. Schrader has, from his first moments at Brenau until the present, kept his eyes on the horizon, imagining what the university could become while honoring the notable legacy of The Women’s
College,” say Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College and professor of English.
Trustee Amy Whitley says this commitment was most recently evidenced as Schrader charged a team of administrators, faculty, alumnae and trustees to envision a sustainable future for the next 140 years of The Women’s College.
“It was exciting as a relatively new board member when Ed asked me to participate on this committee,” recalls Whitley. “What I really appreciated about the process was that he had no preconceived notions on what the outcome should be. What he did offer was his unwavering support of singlegender education. What I appreciate most is that it’s clear that he has a special place in his heart for The Women’s College of Brenau University.”
Schrader enthusiastically endorsed the team’s recommendations for a fresh vision that advances and supports women in all aspects: personal growth and community engagement, leadership development, intercultural perspective, and gender awareness that promotes social equity across genders, race, class and economics.
“The Women’s College is newly reimagined and now focuses purposefully upon premier signature programs, innovative curriculum, meaningful cocurricular initiatives, experiential service learning and immersive living-learning communities for women,” says Dobkins.
Ken Frank, professor of conflict resolution and legal studies, has been at Brenau during all of Schrader’s time as president and is especially grateful for Schrader’s support of The Women’s College.
“Dr. Schrader’s enthusiastic support for single-gender education is inspiring, especially when so many other institutions of higher education are moving away from it,” Frank says. “His support
for undergraduate programs such as conflict resolution and legal studies, which lead to graduate educational opportunities, has allowed Brenau graduates to be admitted to some of the finest law schools and graduate programs in the country.”
Schrader’s leadership also brought significant expansion to Golden Tigers athletics, which added 10 sports from 2005 to 2019 for a total of 15. Accordingly, student-athlete enrollment increased from 58 to 214, representing more than 25 percent of The Women’s College student body.
“It is not necessarily unusual for a small college to have a significant percentage of its students as athletes, but it is noteworthy,” says Athletic Director Mike Lochstampfor. “I would attribute our growth to President Schrader and to his vision when he came in 2005 to grow the athletics department and to look at opportunities to provide new teams, to upgrade or reinstall previous programs. I think it has positively changed the culture of the university and provided engagement for students and the community.”
Lochstampfor touted the excellence of his student-athletes not only on the field or court but in the classroom as well. In Schrader’s tenure, student-athletes have held at least an average cumulative 3.0 GPA every year.
“Our athletes are very devoted to what they do academically,” Lochstampfor says. “So we’re not just adding athletes. We’re adding students that take seriously their career aspirations, which is very much tied into their athletic involvement.”
Longtime Brenau trustee Anna Jacobs, WC ’86, who also served on The Women’s College planning committee, says that Schrader’s vision and commitment to The Women’s College as well as the entire university has placed the institution in a strong position going forward.
“With the changing landscape of single-gender higher education, Dr. Ed Schrader has kept a keen eye on the core and identity of Brenau University: The Women’s College,” she says. “His vision in bringing innovative programs from the medical field as well as global partnerships to Brenau have made it possible for The Women’s College not only to succeed but to flourish. Brenau will stand strong in the years ahead because Dr. Schrader was her ninth president.”
Background image: Brenau President Ed Schrader bats during Brenau’s 2018 homecoming softball tournament at Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
For decades, Schrader has been developing relationships and partnerships with academic institutions around the world, particularly in China. Those efforts came to fruition for Brenau in mid-2014 when the Education Ministry of the People’s Republic of China approved an agreement between Brenau University and Anhui Normal University for a joint degree program in early childhood teacher education. The “2+2 partnership” allows Chinese students to study two years at their home institutions before transferring to Brenau for their final two years.
The partnership also provides abroad opportunities for American students and faculty exchanges from both institutions, which commenced in 2015. In May 2018, the first cohort of 2+2 students graduated with degrees from both Brenau and Anhui Normal, and this fall the university will welcome approximately 70 students from Chinese programs. The partnership now also includes joint degree programs in English and interior design. Currently, an additional 125 students are enrolled in China preparing to attend Brenau in the next two years.
Schrader also added an array of academic components and programs that provide academic preparation for some of the most challenging and in-demand professions today, while continuing a steadfast commitment to the liberal arts traditions of the university. At the core of the university’s academic approach is preparing students, regardless of their area of study, to thrive in an ever changing world.
“The strength and success of a university require great presidential leadership,” says Robin Dudley, BU ’78, trustee and chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee. “President Ed
Schrader has enhanced and enriched Brenau University over the past 15 years with his global vision, great leadership style and collaboration.”
Dudley is especially appreciative of Schrader’s innovative planning for Brenau’s future while preserving the legacies of the past. “Dr. Schrader leaves behind more than brick and mortar,”
she says. “The university is positioned to shine and glow brighter well into the future because of his leadership.”
The area experiencing the most change during this time has been health sciences.
“It was apparent from the beginning that Dr. Schrader and I would collaborate to change the face of health sciences at the university,” recalls Gale Hansen Starich, dean of the Sidney O.
Smith Jr. Graduate School and Ivester College of Health Sciences and professor of biochemistry. “One of my first assignments was to conduct a feasibility study to launch a medical school at Brenau, and while the medical school did not come to fruition in those early days, the study did serve to open our vision in what is now the Ivester College of Health Sciences.”
That experience spawned a strategic plan for new program development designed to address major health care professional shortages in Georgia and across the nation. Schrader championed the development of three additional campuses to house health science programs and leveraged existing structures to expand the university’s footprint.
Schrader says that today’s students confront increasing uncertainty and unpredictable change in their lives and that Brenau prepares students for these challenges.
“Our Brenau graduates are prepared to engage in a fast-paced, information-centric, scientifically demanding and culturally diverse global society,” he says. “Brenau’s commitment is to engender in our students a sense of curiosity rather than fear, of innovation rather than acceptance. Today’s Brenau graduate is equipped with the tools and confidence necessary for an extraordinary life, a lifetime leading to personal fulfillment, professional rewards and significant contributions to the welfare of others.”
Since Brenau’s beginning in 1878, the arts have played a prominent role in the history and culture of Brenau University and continue to do so today.
“One of the best gifts I received coming to Brenau University was the great work of my predecessor, Dr. John S. ‘Jack’ Burd,” Schrader says. “One of the many contributions he made was in the area of the arts, having a strong personal interest in the arts and understanding their value to an academic institution.”
Burd inaugurated the Brenau Permanent Art Collection in 1986 and created the first dedicated space for art, the President’s Gallery, that same year. He has remained active during Schrader’s tenure in helping grow Brenau’s art collection, currently valued at $8.96 million and containing more than 6,500 works. The university also houses two other galleries on the historic Gainesville campus, Sellars Gallery and Castelli Gallery. In recent years, the Manhattan Gallery was established at the Brenau Downtown Center, which features a perennial display of Permanent Art Collection works.
Any compelling and transforming vision must be accompanied by robust infrastructure, relevant programs and the financial support to implement these. Schrader knew through his earlier stint as a college president at nearby Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, that fundraising was a critical piece for strengthening the institution. He was quick to build on the solid foundation that Burd had put in place.
“The fact is if you aspire to become a college president today, you must be able to secure funds for your institution,” Schrader says. “My view of fundraising is that we are simply inviting as many people and organizations as possible to join us in our compelling vision for Brenau and our students.”
During Schrader’s time as president, Brenau secured more than $55.26 million in gifts, which included cash, stocks, property, art and other assets. The crowning jewel of these efforts culminated in the successful completion of the ForeverGold: An Extraordinary Legacy campaign in 2018 that netted $42.39 million.
“Dr. Schrader and his staff planned and executed a fundraising campaign that not only solidified the direction of the university for the foreseeable future but also resulted in deeper connections to the Gainesville community, North Georgia and beyond,” says Carole Ann Daniel, WC ’68, Brenau trustee and campaign co-chair. “More importantly, because of these efforts, Brenau students will continue to receive a world-class education at an affordable rate.”
Campaign co-chair and longtime trustee Lorry Schrage agrees: “This campaign effort communicated to our students and our community that Brenau is serious about educating tomorrow’s leaders. I was especially pleased with the continued investments in the health sciences area that created new programs and strengthened existing ones that increased our academic offerings and provided additional health-related services in our community.”
Kit Long Dunlap, WC ’64, Brenau trustee and president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, is proud of Schrader’s impact on the university, the city of Gainesville and Hall County.
“The evolution of Brenau over the past almost 15 years is nothing short of astounding,” she says. “To witness Brenau becoming a thriving community and economic engine during a time when many other private universities are struggling to survive says a lot about Ed’s vision and leadership.”
Dunlap said that as the university has prospered, it has made investments in different areas of Gainesville, including the Brenau Downtown Center on the square and the Featherbone Communiversity, which is now home to Brenau’s Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing and the Business Incubator at Brenau University.
“So many cities and counties don’t have the educational hub and business impact that Brenau offers,” she says. “As we attract new businesses, Brenau and our other educational institutions are a big part of that draw.”
Douglas Ivester, former chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co. and a long-serving member of the Brenau Board of Trustees, says he and Schrader share a deep connection to Gainesville and Hall County as it is Ivester’s hometown and Schrader’s adopted one.
“The community and its people are very important to both of us,” Ivester says. “Dr. Schrader adopted an approach of continuing to integrate Brenau into the community with an eye toward enhancing the hopes and dreams of all residents. Brenau is well positioned to contribute to the lives of current and future students and to the business and nonprofit organizations that will eventually employ those people. Under Dr. Schrader, Brenau continues to be a worthy place for philanthropic investments.”
Schrader looks forward to his next chapter with Brenau, as he will serve in a president emeritus role for five years, and he hopes the next president enjoys their time at the helm as much as he has.
“I inherited an institution known among its alumni and local North Georgia residents for its quality,” he says. “My goal was to expand that recognition and reputation as appropriate to the university’s qualities and in relation to the other institutions in the region. I believed then what I know now to be true: Brenau University is not only one of the finest institutions in the region. It is second to none.”
The 30-credit, online Master of Science in applied gerontology program was added to address the growing need for health care professionals.
Brenau became the High Museum of Art in Atlanta’s first university academic partner and remains the museum’s only university-level partner.
Doctor of Nursing Practice, addressing the critical need for improved nursing care in health care, became the first doctoral program at the university.
The Occupational Therapy Doctorate, designed for practicing occupational therapists to attain their doctorate, became the university’s second doctoral program.
The People’s Republic of China and Anhui Province approved an agreement for the first of many 2+2 programs between Brenau and Anhui Normal University.
Continued from previous column.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved a new Brenau campus in Jacksonville, Florida — the university’s fifth regional campus.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy program, designed to help students become the best physical therapists serving at their highest potential, admitted its first cohort of students.
The post-master’s Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate was founded to meet a growing need.
The exercise science major began after requests from student-athletes for a program leading to advanced occupational therapy and physical therapy degrees.
The first 18 education majors from Anhui Normal arrived at Brenau in the fall, graduating two years later with degrees from both institutions.
The Ivester College of Health Sciences and Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing were both named.
The Ivester College of Health Sciences and Mary Inez
Grindle School of Nursing were both named.
The Doctor of Education program began in the spring with specializations in early childhood education, middle grades education and leadership in higher education.
Brenau University experienced unprecedented growth under President Ed Schrader’s leadership.
In May 2018, Brenau University and Anhui Normal University saw the culmination of a years long investment with the graduation of a particular cohort of students. The agreement, known as a 2+2 arrangement between the two institutions, was first signed in 2014 and allowed Chinese students majoring in early childhood education to complete the first two years of their undergraduate studies on their home campus and their last two years at Brenau.
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