Irvin’s Gift to support School of Education at Piedmont College
A $240,000 gift from the Thomas T. and Bernice F. Irvin Foundation will help fund a new home for Piedmont College’s School of Education. The $2.5 million project is underway and includes the complete renovation of Nielsen Hall, a long-standing 17,000-square-foot building located on the college’s historic quad. When completed, the structure will include eight classrooms, four seminar rooms, a technology classroom, and administrative offices. An architectural centerpiece of the building will be the Tommy and Bernice Irvin Atrium, which will be located in the center of the building and named in honor of the couple. A native of Hall County and a long-time resident of Habersham County, Thomas Irvin was a public servant who was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1962. He served as Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 1969 to 2011. No one in Georgia has held a state-wide office longer. A champion of education, Irvin served as a trustee for several colleges, Piedmont among them. The Irvin Foundation was incorporated in 1997 to support the couple’s charitable causes. Thomas and Bernice Frady Irvin died in 2017 and 2014, respectively. “Both of my parents were advocates of education, and they had a lot of affection for Piedmont College,” said James Irvin, the couple’s oldest son, a Toccoa attorney and trustee of the foundation. “This gift aligns perfectly with their values.” The School of Education, the college’s largest single academic unit, includes almost 1,400 majors and is currently housed on the ground floor of the Arrendale Library. It offers the largest graduate program for teacher education in the state and is the second-highest producer of new teachers annually among all colleges and universities in Georgia. “Since our founding in 1897, Piedmont has been known for training teachers,” said Piedmont College President James F. Mellichamp. “Education is our signature program, and now it will have a home that reflects its prestige and history. We offer our enduring thanks to the Irvin Family for helping with this important project.” When completed this fall, the building will be dedicated as the Charles and Catherine Sewell Center for Teacher Education.