Founded 135 years ago as an all-female institution, Brenau University is located in Gainesville, Georgia, about fifty miles north of Atlanta. Brenau takes its name from the German word brennen, meaning “burn,” and the Latin word aurum, meaning gold. “As Gold Refined By Fire” became the school’s motto. For the first 93 years of its existence, Brenau remained a women’s college, but today it includes several coeducational campuses and offers online courses and graduate degrees. Even so, over 80 percent of Brenau’s current students are female.
I live about thirty miles north of the main campus. My family has been associated with the school since the mid-1890s when my great grandmother taught art there. Her son, my grandfather, became chairman of the board of trustees. My mother attended Brenau as did my sister, brother and cousin, and my aunt taught there in the 1960s. I earned my Bachelor’s degree there, and after obtaining an advanced degree elsewhere, returned to teach at the Brenau Academy, an all-girls boarding high school on the university campus. Today, I still teach at Brenau as an adjunct professor of History.
The front campus looks much as it did in the late 1800s, and the old buildings stretch across an entire city block. When I was a student there, it was possible to enter a building on Washington Street, wind one’s way through passageways and an underground tunnel, and eventually exit a block away. Now that can no longer be done, as the tunnel is blocked off, new walls have been built, and passages that once existed can no longer be found.
For more lingering looks at colleges and universities, see http://lingeringvisions.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/lingering-look-at-architecture-septembercollege-and-universities/