News & Stories
June 24, 2022

Celebrating Opportunity


Event photography by Mary Claire Stewart (14C)


Moving expressions of gratitude and a spectacular act of generosity punctuated Berry’s first Evening of Honors, a new annual event recognizing individuals and programs that have had an exceptional impact on the lives of Berry students.

The inaugural event commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship and the woman whose vision and generosity helped launch the program, Audrey B. Morgan. Held at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the grand celebration brought together Gate of Opportunity alumni, college leaders, Martha Berry Society members at the Platinum and Gold levels, and other honored guests.

Entertainment by Berry Artist-in-Residence Indra Thomas (see page 9) and the Berry Singers enhanced the festive air of the occasion. Further excitement was generated by news that Morgan’s longtime friend and fellow Berry supporter Lou Brown Jewell had made a gift funding a new nursing scholarship in Morgan’s honor, to be matched by Trustee Randy Berry and his wife, Nancy.

The true stars of the night, however, were the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship alumni who shared their appreciation in person or via prerecorded video messages – and Morgan herself.


Taking the stage at night’s end to accept the first Berry College President’s Award for distinguished lifetime impact on the college, the guest of honor promptly stole the show by announcing a new commitment of $5 million for nursing scholarships. This gift is intended to support Berry’s efforts to combat a critical shortage of nurses nationwide.

“I want to do more,” Morgan said, “and I want to do it at Berry College.”

This latest act of leadership brought to vivid life words spoken earlier by Berry President Steve Briggs: “Always a step ahead, Audrey has the uncanny ability to see problems clearly, move toward them deftly and help solve them gracefully.”


“The Gate of Opportunity Scholarship
allowed me to gain multiple work experiences
that allowed me to discover what I really
loved to do, which was research.” 

Dr. James Ross (15C)
Cancer researcher
Emory University

These qualities led Morgan, both an honorary Berry alumna and a recipient of the college’s honorary doctorate, to step forward with determination in the midst of the Great Recession to help those willing to help themselves. The result was the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, a partnership of thirds involving donors, students and their families, and Berry. The students contribute through participation in the college work program with the goal of graduating with little or no debt.

In the years since Morgan’s initial gift of $3 million in 2008, an impressive group of alumni and friends have stepped forward as Gate of Opportunity supporters. Their combined generosity to date has touched the lives of more than 300 students, including 118 in 2021-22 alone. Additional commitments are in place that – when fulfilled – will increase that number to more than 150 each year.

Ever humble, Morgan was quick to acknowledge the generosity of her fellow supporters, including the incredible gift of matching funds made by the Woodruff Foundation that did so much to spur the program’s growth.

“Thank you,” she said, “for investing in our students.”

Gate of Opportunity alumni voiced appreciation not only for Morgan and her fellow supporters, but also for the program itself.

“As an artist, as an actor, I think what makes you better at your craft and what gives you a wealth of things to draw upon are real-life experiences, and Berry gave me that in spades,” praised Darren Barnet (13C), a member of the original cohort of 11 Gate Scholars who today stars in the hit Netflix series Never Have I Ever.

“What did the Gate Scholarship mean to me?
It meant everything to me, because I never
would have been able to come to Berry College
if it had not been for this scholarship …
completely life changing.”

Dr. Leah Bolden (15C)
Resident: Internal medicine
University of Minnesota Medical School

Anna Rose O’Kelley Garrett (18C), a teacher and ceramic artist, credited the “push” the program provides with helping students graduate with a “deeper under-standing of who they are, what they want and what makes them tick that just really propels them well into the workforce.”

For Derrell Mims (19C, FS), the Gate Scholarship made all the difference in his ability to remain in school at a time when he “was ready to drop out of Berry and just go back home because the weight of everything I was walking through seemed impossible to carry.”

News that he had been awarded a Gate of Opportunity Scholarship offered hope that Mims – then a sophomore – could overcome the obstacles in his life while also relieving the stress on his mother by making his college education affordable. Continuing at Berry, he wound up giving his life to Christ through the same Campus Outreach ministry he now directs.

“Thank you, Audrey Morgan and all of the Gate supporters,” Mims said, speaking for himself and other Gate Scholars. “The money you donated for me to be able to go to school at Berry not only gave me a good education and a great community, but it also kept me from going down a hopeless path. It kept me from throwing in the towel and giving up on myself. But even deeper than that, it brought me a hope that would drastically change my eternity forever. I’m not sure if I can ever say thank you enough for the support to help me attend the great Berry College, but I want you to know I am forever grateful.”  

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