Dance department faculty, students remember Jolie Long Carlton

Jolie Long CarltonJolie Long Carlton, longtime Brenau University professor and former chair of the Department of Dance, died Tuesday, May 1, surrounded by family at her home in Gainesville, Georgia.

Carlton joined Brenau’s Dance Department in 1998, bringing thoughtful and technical skills along with what her former coworkers describe as artistic passion and deep friendship.

Madia Whillette Cooper-Ashirifi, BU ‘04, department chair and assistant professor of dance, was both Carlton’s student, mentee and coworker.

“I am reminded how I landed here working side-by-side with an extraordinary woman like Jolie,” says Cooper-Ashirifi. “As her student, I recall her keen eye for detail and logistics, the way she articulated instructions and gave feedback, and her loving nature that penetrated through the whole department. Now, I appreciate our friendship as co-workers and as sisters in faith. She was everything one could look for in a great mentor.”

Jolie Long Carlton, longtime Brenau University professor and chair of the Department of Dance, with Vincas Greene, Brenau professor from 1994-2015 and dance department chair from 2005-2015.

Vincas Greene, Brenau professor from 1994-2015 and dance department chair from 2005-15, says Carlton’s support and friendship “are foundational in my life at Brenau and beyond.”

“Many times we were mistaken for sister and brother, which was completely understandable when we both had long, wavy, chestnut brown hair and sharp features,” Greene says. “But it was our outlook that gave us the image of siblings – we balanced each other. Jolie was grounded and practical while I could be flighty and off-the-wall. This led us to wonderful discussions and a meeting in the middle that helped us grow as professors, colleagues and friends.”

Greene says Carlton supported him as his own wife battled and won against cancer, before her own diagnosis in 2013.

“I look back and realize how blessed we all are to have Jolie as part of our lives,” Greene says. “Her strength, positive outlook, clear thoughts and love are woven into the fabric of Brenau University and all of us that have included her in our life journeys. Jolie has made an indelible mark on Brenau University, her students, her colleagues and me.”

Greene came to Brenau in 1994 at the same time as Carol Smiarowski, who headed the dance department – and hired Carlton – until 2005, two years before she lost her own battle with cancer.

Jolie Long Carlton and husband Dennis Carlton.

Following Carlton’s retirement in 2018, the dance department created a memory book for Carlton full of photos and notes from former students and coworkers. Stephanie Pace, BU ‘11, calls Carlton “the cornerstone of my college experience,” while Melinda Cassiday, BU ‘17, said “I would not be who I am today without her.”

“Jolie Carlton opened my mind to the possibilities of different paths in dance and the work ethic that needed to go with it,” said Laurin Dunleavy, BU ‘02. “She inspired me as an undergrad and continues to influence how and why I teach and advocate for dance in the Atlanta community today.”

Cooper-Ashirifi said that Carlton, who is survived by her husband Dennis, will be remembered for the impact she had on countless students during her time at Brenau.

“Although I only knew her for a short while, it was clear that Jolie was the consummate dance professional, sharing her extensive expertise and experience with her students,” said Jim Eck, Brenau provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Her passion for dance, coupled with a positive and friendly spirit, led her to develop many strong relationships at Brenau. Jolie helped to strengthen the dance program in significant ways, and she will be greatly missed by all.”

Jolie Long Carlton watches over Brenau dance students Brittany Daniel, back, and Emily Lemons as they exercise on Pilates equipment.
Brenau University faculty sit near an empty seat in honor of the late Jolie Long Carlton, a Brenau University professor and chair of the department of dance, during the Women’s College Commencement at Brenau University Friday May 4, 2018 in Gainesville, Ga. (Jason Getz for Brenau University)

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