THOMASVILLE - Alumni and former faculty, administration and staff descended upon Thomasville last month to wish Brookwood School a happy 50th birthday, flying in from states as far away as Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New York to take part in the school’s three-day celebration.
Much has changed at the school in the past half century, but Brookwood’s most important features have remained the same as they were envisioned by the school’s founders, said Dr. Randy Watts, Headmaster. “Throughout this celebration, we’ve been able to look back, understand and reflect upon the dreams of our founders. It’s my sincere hope that over the past fifty years that we’ve been able to exceed those dreams,” he said.
Today, one half-century after its founding, Brookwood’s alumni are leaders locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, Watts added. “Fifty years later, Brookwood continues to be a community building leaders.”
The school’s anniversary celebration began with a golf tournament on Thursday, Dec. 5, named for the school’s fourth headmaster, Tom Johnson. Later that evening, members of the Brookwood community, past and present, gathered at the school’s Joe and Mary Beverly Athletic Center to cheer on girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball teams in their games against the Chiles High School Timberwolves, of Tallahassee, Fl.
Friday brought a tour of the school and a special luncheon for a group of visiting alumni, some of whom had not set foot on campus for many years.
Brookwood’s growth has been tremendous over the past half century, said alumna Claudia Mason ‘76, the daughter of two of the school’s original founders, Edie and Hey Mason. “Having been there during Brookwood’s very first year, on that very first day of school, and all in that one little building — it was fun to go back and to see what that bigger happy family is all about,” she said. “The enrollment numbers are amazing.” The school began in 1970 with 140 students. Today, there are 500 enrolled.
A group of 250 on Friday evening filled the Glen Arven Country Club to capacity for a formal dinner, where two former administrators — Jim Lyle, Brookwood’s first Headmaster, and Tom Johnson, Brookwood’s fourth Headmaster — reminisced about times past. Also speaking were Mason; Joe Beverly, former Board Chairman; Philip Watt ‘79, former Board Chairman; and Phil Danner, former faculty member.
For Joe Beverly, who became active with the Brookwood community several years after it was founded, the event brought back many fond memories. “To hear the stories told, it reminded me of so many great things in the past,” he said.
The evening’s cuisine was inspired by recipes in the school’s 1986 cookbook, Animal Crackers, said Charnie Beverly ‘90, former Board Chair. “The menu was a fun throwback to Brookwood families from the 1970’s and 80’s. Many of those same people who contributed to Animal Crackers looked down at the printed menu to find that their own recipes were featured during the evening’s dinner,” she said.
The gala event culminated in the release of the school’s history, a hardcover, full-color coffee-table book entitled Roots & Wings: A Celebration of Brookwood School’s First Fifty Years. The book is available for purchase at Brookwood School and at The Bookshelf in downtown Thomasville.
Author Nadia R. Watts, a former Brookwood English teacher, explained to the group how her book’s title was chosen: “The word ‘roots’ is evocative of the ideas of stability, tradition, family and connectedness to ancestry,” she said. “The word ‘wings’ evokes freedom, self-direction, aspiration, imagination and victory.”
“Brookwood School provides the roots for its children to feel protected, stable and connected as they grow,” she continued. “The school’s root system nurtures them as they develop the ability to make sound decisions for themselves. With a Brookwood education, students can sprout wings and take flight as adults, well prepared to make their own unique contributions to this world — with the knowledge that the Brookwood family will always be home.”
The celebration ended on Saturday with a picnic on the grounds of Box Hall Plantation, whose rich history intertwines with the founding of Brookwood and the early years of the school, said Charnie Beverly. “Mrs. Louise Hines, a founder of the school and former Lower School Headmistress of the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, made Box Hall her home with her husband, Buddy. The foundational seeds for Brookwood began at Box Hall, and early organizational meetings were held at Mrs. Hines’ lovely home,” she said.
“The first football team practices were held on the lawn followed by a dip in the pool. Brookwood’s roots literally came from the grounds as volunteers cut sod from Box Hall and moved it to the front of the newly built school, just in time for opening day in 1970,” Beverly added.
The picnic featured a book signing and a panel conversation emceed by Jay Flowers ‘76. Reminiscing with their former student were longtime Brookwood teachers Ann Larson, Sherrie Callaway, Phil Danner and Carolyn Nicholson.
Brookwood School this year garnered the Hutchison Legacy Award from the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce at its Community Impact Awards Ceremony in November. This award is given annually to an organization that has shown service and involvement in the community and has demonstrated staying power, longevity and the ability to adjust to the changing economic climate.
Today, Brookwood School is one of only 470 institutions in the world to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School and was recently recognized by the nationally recognized research Company in Washington, D.C., as a national thought leader in creativity and innovation.
A college admission consulting firm, which is widely used by colleges and universities, provides a ranking for every high school in the US. On this ranking scale, Brookwood’s Upper School was in the 93rd percentile when compared to all high schools in the country.
For those who have been a part of the Brookwood community for decades, the celebration was like an enormous, festive family reunion, with “hugs, laughs and even some emotional tears,” Charnie Beverly said.
Jim Lyle, the school’s first headmaster, said the celebration was “the most memorable three days in [my] lifetime.”
Located in Thomasville, GA, Brookwood School is a private school for grades JK-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.