Ivester gift elevates psychology to a school at Brenau University

The Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling is the newest addition to Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences made possible through a generous gift of Doug and Kay Ivester. The naming honors a lifelong friend of both Doug and Kay, going back to their days working together at Ernst and Ernst, and is in recognition of Lynn’s tireless work as the president of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation. 

“Lynn Darby and I have known each other for over 50 years. We have worked together, traveled together, laughed together and cried together,” said Doug Ivester. “Lynn’s mother was a highly respected teacher in Florence, Alabama. Teaching and investing in young people have always been close to Lynn’s heart and his heritage. Kay and I are honored to see the Darby name associated with Brenau’s Ivester College of Health Sciences.”

The Ivesters contributed a personal gift of nearly $2.6 million that will make this naming possible. The gift includes financial support and their Charles Webster Hawthorne collection of 30 works that will be given to the Ivester College of Health Sciences for their continued use in classes for psychology, integrating the arts and health sciences. 

“I appreciate Doug and Kay for providing me with this kind gesture of naming Brenau’s School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling in my honor,” said Darby. “It is wonderful to be connected to a school that will help meet the needs of Hall County and its vulnerable adolescent population.”

“This is another extraordinary gift by Doug and Kay Ivester,” said Brenau University President Anne Skleder, who will complete her first year as president this July. “Their generosity and commitment to the health sciences in Gainesville and Hall County is incredible, and we are humbled to be stewards of their investment.” 

Psychology currently is a department within the Ivester College of Health Sciences. Skleder said the elevation of this area from a department to a school is especially timely since the field of counseling and clinical psychology is in high demand nationally, with growth by 2028 and beyond projected to be three times the average profession growth. 

“Even more importantly, the local need is great,” Skleder said. “In Hall County, there are 1,290 clients for each clinician, compared to 330 clients to each clinician in top performing counties. In terms of Brenau’s competitive advantage, there are few doctorates in clinical psychology in this region, and our focus on adolescent counseling will help our program meet a societal need while also being an important point of distinction.” 

The Ivesters, who grew up in the New Holland community adjacent to Gainesville city limits about two miles from the historic Brenau campus, have been longtime supporters of Brenau — particularly its mission to help meet long-term regional health needs by the development of undergraduate and graduate professional programs including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and the upcoming physician assistant expansion. Their support of educational opportunities for Brenau’s students, thereby preparing them for meaningful careers, also reflects their efforts to improve the employment potential for those in Hall County through their philanthropic endeavors. 

Doug Ivester, former chair of Coca-Cola Co., has been a member of the Brenau Board of Trustees for more than 30 years. Over this timeframe, the Ivesters personally have funded various efforts, such as a named scholarship fund supporting students pursuing health science careers and a programming endowment bringing internationally renowned speakers and thought leaders to Brenau campuses. In 2017, the Ivesters made a $3.5 million gift through their Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay (Grindle) Ivester Foundation that resulted in the naming of Ivester College of Health Sciences. Previous gifts from the Ivester Foundation included contributions to the Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing and Ernest Ledford Grindle Athletics Park, named for Kay’s mother and father.

The new school will be housed on the second floor of the Gainesville Renaissance building, which will complete the fourth side of the downtown square in Gainesville. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year on the project and the facility should be available for use starting in the summer of 2022.

Brenau’s expansion in a prime location contiguous to the Brenau Downtown Center also allows for a greater vision for Brenau’s downtown imprint. “The creation of a health science-centric Brenau Downtown Campus has positive impact for both Brenau and the downtown area,” said Mike Smith, recently named the new chair of Brenau’s Board of Trustees. “The Brenau Downtown Campus is an important step in support of our strategic vision for expanding our efforts and programs, which will support our continuing efforts to recruit quality students and faculty members to these programs and attract additional charitable dollars.”

Brenau University is organized academically into the College of Business & Communication, the College of Education, the College of Fine Arts & Humanities and the Ivester College of Health Sciences. The latter includes the doctoral-level Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing, the School of Occupational Therapy and the Department of Physical Therapy as well as a range of graduate and undergraduate programs in clinical psychology, mathematics, sciences, applied gerontology, exercise science and pre-professional health care programs.

“The comprehensive plan created in support of this effort projects a steady increase of students, eventually culminating in a new doctoral program for psychology within four to five years,” Skleder said. “It is part of our long-range plan to elevate our healthcare programs to schools and to have a terminal degree for each school, so this expansion meets these two forward looking aspirations.

“I am grateful to Chair Dr. Julie Battle and Provost Dr. Jim Eck for their academic commitment and vision, and to Chair Smith and our Board of Trustees for their institutional support of that vision.”