The journey from a small town to the big city

On Feb. 19, Myra and I boarded the commuter train at Princeton Junction, New Jersey for the quick ride to Penn Station in New York City. We were on our way to our final reception as president and first lady for Brenau alumni and friends in the Big Apple. Internally, I am very traditional and sentimental, but I don’t often show it. During that trip, I reflected on our first reception in New York City almost 15 years ago. We met in a local restaurant just off of Times Square with a lot of the same folks we would see later that night.

One particularly special alumna, Roslyn Wallace, WC ’44, lived in Pearl River, New York. Roslyn, who majored in biology at Brenau, was a nationally acclaimed cancer drug researcher and a leader in Zeta Tau Alpha both at Brenau and on a national scale. Before her death in 2009, Myra and I would drive north along the Hudson River to her modest house in Pearl River every time we came to the area. We would visit in her little living room, show love to her longhaired cat and go through the photo albums of Roslyn’s Brenau years. She had graduated in the mid 1940s and was sharp as a tack until a rapid decline into dementia overtook her.

Roslyn Wallace, WC '44Roslyn still remembered Brenau, even if she couldn’t remember the name of the “nice young president” who was visiting her. When Roslyn passed, the former ZTA Woman of the Year and nationally recognized pharmaceutical researcher’s bequest was almost her entire estate to use so that Brenau and her students would be best served. And, so, the seeds were planted for what is now the Department of Physical Therapy of the Ivester College of Health Sciences at Brenau University.

Roslyn is one example, as are each of the Brenau alums that Myra and I visited on that cold February evening in Mr. Graham Arader’s Art Gallery on the Upper East Side. Almost every one of them began their journey in a home far away, passed through the launching pad of Brenau and were somehow propelled or magnetically pulled to the heart of the action there in New York.

From a small town to the big city! The metropolis may not be where they stay, but it is where they are making a huge impact today: singing and teaching at Carnegie Hall, dancing off Broadway, coaching successful life habits or standing as strong female attorneys in a dominantly male environment. We have members of the Brenau family all over this world, and the footprint is only growing larger and more impactful every day.

Brenau graduates prove this every day of every year, and I hope our students will never be fooled by those who do not understand their personal journey or growth. Usually, Brenau graduates begin in a small town, whether it’s Moultrie, Georgia, or Wuhu, China.

I suppose that Brenau is a metaphorical wormhole, a connecting transport across the universe. We can take our graduates to any “Big Town,” anywhere. And, yes, they can come home again to that small town, but neither they nor the world will ever be the same. I am humbled and proud that part of my life has been part of theirs.

Ed L. Schrader, Ph.D.
President, Brenau University

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