Applicants had to demonstrate financial need to be accepted. Students had to work on campus to pay off their $30 annual tuition.
“These kids were given an opportunity that no one in the world was getting at that moment,” Brown said. “They were able to go to school without debt.”
Today, Berry students are guaranteed a paid, on-campus job through the college’s Work Experience Program. Though this does not offset tuition completely, more than 90 percent of students participate for at least one semester, according to its website (berry.edu).
As her schools grew, Berry sought financial support and received aid from philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, Emily Vanderbilt Hammond and Ellen Axson Wilson, the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Henry Ford hired stone masons from Italy to construct eight of the Gothic-style buildings on campus, including Clara Hall, which remains a dormitory.
At a White House luncheon in 1908, Berry met President Teddy Roosevelt, who suggested she open a girls’ school. She had always intended to do so, but her trustees disagreed. When she returned to Rome, she advertised that a Berry girls’ school was accepting applications. By the time Roosevelt visited in 1910, the Martha Berry School for Girls was open.
In 1926, she established Berry Junior College, which became a four-year institution in 1930. After her death in 1942, the high schools struggled. The girls’ school closed in 1955, and the boys’ school, renamed Berry Academy, became coeducational in 1971, before closing in 1983.
Though Berry never attended college, she received eight honorary doctorates, including from the University of Georgia, and of course, from Berry College.
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