Brenau University, located in Gainesville, is a private, comprehensive liberal arts university. Baccalaureate, master's, and educational specialist degrees and certification programs are available through its four divisions: the Women's College, the Evening and Weekend College, the Online College, and the Academy, a college preparatory program for female high school students. Brenau is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and subject-specific accrediting organizations.
Brenau was founded in 1878 as a private institution for the education of women. Though never directly supported by or affiliated with the Baptist Church, Brenau was originally named the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. W. C. Wilkes, the institution's first administrator, is credited with building many of the historic buildings that still stand today.
In 1900 H. J. Pearce purchased the institution and renamed it Brenau, a linguistic blend formed from the German word brennen, "to burn," and the Latin aurum, "gold." Its motto is "As Gold Refined by Fire."
The academy was formed in 1928 when Pearce told his wife that some of the first-year college students were having trouble with their course work. She began a program to help prepare young women for college, and the program evolved quickly into the Brenau Academy. The academy, the only all-female boarding school in Georgia, admits young women in grades nine through twelve to its college preparatory programs.
In the late 1960s Brenau began offering evening classes to male students at the junior and senior levels. As the number of evening students grew from 17 in 1969 to 1,466 in fall 2003, the structure of the program evolved. The Evening and Weekend College, as it is known today, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees at five sites throughout Georgia and was the first of its kind in the state.
Brenau College became Brenau University in 1992 by a vote of the Board of Trustees, a name change that reflects the comprehensive programs of study, the diverse student body, and the graduate programs. In 2002 Brenau's Online College was formed using Internet technology to reach students who are unable, because of professional or personal responsibilities, to attend classes on campus. Several baccalaureate, master's, and certification programs as well as individual classes are available in this format.
Total enrollment for the 2002-3 academic year was 2,400 students: 620 in the Women's College, 1,700 in the Evening and Weekend College and Online College, and 80 at Brenau Academy. By 2005 enrollment in the Women's College reached 747. The four divisions of the university collaborate to bring educational opportunities to the north Georgia area and beyond. The Women's College continues the rich tradition of education for female students, both residential and commuting. The mission of the university is reflected in the strong emphasis on the broad-based liberal arts education through more than thirty majors. The Women's College is recognized for its fine arts offerings, career-oriented majors, and programs for developing leadership skills. It boasts one of only two occupational therapy programs in the state.
The Evening and Weekend College serves returning adult students, both men and women, who attend classes after work and on weekends. Convenience and flexibility are the hallmarks of the program. Bachelor's and master's degrees in education, business administration, nursing, interior design, and accounting are among the degrees offered. For the Online College there is no residence requirement, and students can complete courses on their own schedule. Extensive faculty training in Internet technology ensures student success.
In 2002 Brenau celebrated the opening of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts, named by the trustees for Brenau's president. This new, $11.5 million building boasts 51,000 square feet of theater, classroom, and gallery space. The Burd Center provides a much-needed performing venue for students and community groups.
From its founding to the present day, Brenau University has been an integral part of the Gainesville and north Georgia community. Many community groups use historic Pearce Auditorium and other Brenau venues for performances. Brenau graduates contribute to the business, medical, and teaching professions of north Georgia. Thousands of schoolchildren tour free art exhibits in the Brenau galleries each year. Millions of dollars are contributed annually to the local economy by the students and faculty who live and work in the area. Brenau University is committed to remaining a good community partner.