Attorneys Phillip and Lydia Sartain have established an endowment at Brenau University in Gainesville to explore and establish academic programs for addressing social justice issues and practices.
The Gainesville lawyers and civic leaders seeded the Fund for Community Engagement with a $50,000 gift that is part of the university’s ongoing $42 million ForeverGold campaign to finance extensive improvements to facilities, academics and student aid. The gift agreement leaves to the discretion of the university how Brenau will fulfill the Sartains’ desire to support students with majors from a variety of disciplines who plan to use their educations in fields like family and children services, social work or similar community service-oriented endeavors.
“Phillip and I both have been very engaged in our community for our whole lives,” said Lydia Sartain, who is a member of the Brenau University Board of Trustees. “Phillip in particular has been intensely aware of situations and conditions that adversely affect the people around us and strove to do something about it. He has always had a passion and a heart for helping folks out at a deeper level, so this is really his legacy.
“We believe that, with all that is happening in the world today, you can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated when you try to find a way to make a difference,” she added. “But, when you break it down to what is going on your street or in your town, it is much more manageable.”
Brenau President Ed Schrader said that he is “extremely grateful, but unsurprised” by the Sartain gift.
“You would not have to know the Sartains long to completely understand that this compulsion for service is woven into the fabric of their natures,” Schrader said. “It is a gentle reminder that public service should be woven into the mission of the university as well.”
Although the purpose of the fund is very specific, Schrader said, the donors’ directive leaves it to the university to engage in a “deliberative, thoughtful process in developing programs and curriculum for engaging students in preparing to address whatever social justice issues they encounter in their lives.”
Gainesville native Phillip Bond Sartain from 1986 until his 2016 retirement was a partner in The Sartain Law Offices, the practice founded in 1959 by his father, the late Joe Bond Sartain Jr. The Emory University and University of Georgia School of Law graduate specialized in workers compensation and Social Security disability claims and litigation. He actively served Hall County through his involvement with numerous charitable and civic organizations, including the Red Cross, the Gainesville Symphony, United Way, the Boys & Girls Club of Hall County, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, the Arts Council (past president) and the Organizing Committee (chairman) for the 2003 Flatwater Canoe/Kayak World Championships held on Lake Lanier.
Lydia J. Sartain, who served for nine years as district attorney of the Georgia Northeastern Judicial Circuit, is a partner at Stewart, Melvin & Frost. She also has served in the elected position of solicitor for the State Court of Hall County. She is a Blairsville native and graduate of the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. She also has extensive experience in criminal law. Prior to her initial appointment as district attorney, she was director of Georgia's Children and Youth Coordinating Council under the leadership of Gov. Zell Miller. Governor Roy Barnes in 1999 appointed Sartain to serve on the State Board of Public Safety.
Throughout her career, she has been active in civic organizations and community efforts, particularly in those on behalf of children. She is a founding member and past board chairman of Gainesville's Edmondson-Telford Center for Children. Georgia Trend magazine in 1998 listed her as one of the state's "Forty Under Forty" leaders, and in 2006 she was named one of Georgia's top trial lawyers.