GAINESVILLE - The Brenau University Board of Trustees recently voted unanimously to name all of its graduate programs after former U.S. District Judge Sidney O. Smith, Jr.
Smith, who is a fourth generation member of the governing board of the 132-year-old Gainesville institution, received the honor in part because of his work that helped Brenau gain full university status by expanding its academic offerings into graduate studies.
It was Smith who, at that same meeting, made the motion to approve the creation of a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Brenau. Pending approval of regulatory and accreditation bodies, the university plans to admit its first students into that program next fall.
Smith or one of his ancestors have been involved with virtually every major development at Brenau since its creation in 1878.
Smith was born and raised in Gainesville, where in 1878 his great-grandfather, Reconstruction-era Congressman William Pierce Price of Dahlonega, was a member of the founding board of what is now Brenau. Price's son-in-law and Smith's grandfather, William Arthur Charters, was on the board in 1911 when Brenau became a chartered institution of higher learning. Also, Smith's father and mother, Isabelle Price Charters Smith, served simultaneously on the Brenau board.
Following service in World War II, Smith graduated cum laude from Harvard, where he played on the football team with future U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia law school. After private law practice and service as a Georgia superior court judge, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where he served for nine years, including six years as chief judge.
His service to both public and private education began as chairman of the Gainesville Board of Education. Including his service on the Brenau board, including a period as chairman, he also served on the state Board of Regents, the governing body for Georgia's public colleges and universities. Although he offered to step down from the Brenau board to remove possible conflict of interest questions, members of both bodies collectively dissuaded him.