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Today@YHC January 2012

Alumni Spotlight: Britt McAfee


Young Harris College is not just an alma mater for Blairsville native Britt McAfee, ’91—it’s also a family tradition. His parents, Jim, ’67, and Linda, ’67, uncle Ron Rabun, ’74, and younger brother Brannon, ’94, all attended YHC, and McAfee’s grandmother, Carol Rabun, worked as comptroller in the College’s Business Office for more than 30 years.

“I was always around the College from an early age,” McAfee recalled. “I can remember going to The Little Store for candy and video games, attending plays with my family and cheering on the baseball team when I was a kid. Since my family lived so close to the College, I also got to attend several summer athletic camps when I was younger.”

When it came time to choose a college after graduating from Union County High School, McAfee didn’t have to look very far; his decision to attend Young Harris College had been made long ago.

While at YHC, McAfee got involved in many student organizations on campus. He was a member of the Student Government Association and Zeta Pi, played on many intramural teams and wrote sports-related articles for the College’s newspaper.

“While I enjoyed all of my classes at YHC, history with Dr. David Franklin and astronomy with Jimmy Westlake were my favorites,” said McAfee. “Dr. Franklin’s teaching style was very engaging—he was so enthusiastic and really made history come alive. Professor Westlake’s class was always fascinating. The planetarium is such a great facility and we were so lucky to be able to utilize it.”

McAfee went on to earn a B.S. from Georgia Southern University and J.D. from the University of Tennessee’s College of Law, where he met his wife, Jennifer, who currently serves as Director of Development and Planned Giving at YHC. A member of the State Bar of Georgia, McAfee moved back to Blairsville and founded J. Britt McAfee Law Firm, LLC.

Along with practicing law for the last decade, McAfee has been active in many local civic organizations. He is the immediate past president for the Union County Rotary Club, a former board member for the Union County Anti-Drug Coalition and a member of the inaugural class for the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Union program. 

McAfee also remains committed to advancing his alma mater by serving as a member of the YHC Board of Associates, a group of local business and civic leaders who raise money for the College’s Local Scholarship Campaign that provides financial assistance to students from seven nearby counties.  

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart, especially because I grew up so close to the College and know what a wonderful education students receive here,” McAfee said.“YHC was a great place for me to start my education, and I owe much of my success to the education and life lessons I got at YHC.”

McAfee also enjoys attending athletics and fine arts events at the College, along with special events such as Homecoming, Alumni Weekend, the Clay Dotson Open golf tournament and the Big Dance.

“Most of my favorite memories from Young Harris are times spent with my friends. I’m still very close with many of my classmates and see them regularly,” McAfee said. “We are all looking forward to attending the Big Dance on March 10—it’s a really fun way to spend the evening with friends while enjoying great food and music.”

Proceeds from the new annual fundraiser benefit the Local Scholarship Campaign.

By staying involved on campus, McAfee has had the opportunity to witness the growth and expansion that has taken place at the College over the years.

“I am proud of the changes and the direction the College is taking, and I feel lucky to have been involved with the College for most of my life in one way or another,” said McAfee, who is also busy preparing the next generation of YHC alumni. “While I really enjoy my work and involvements in the community here, my most fulfilling work comes from raising my daughter and future Mountain Lion Jemma.”

5 Questions for… Dick Aunspaugh


The Office of Alumni Services recently posed five questions to Dick Aunspaugh, who served as chair of the art department at Young Harris College for nearly three decades, laying the foundation for a program that has grown to include a bachelor’s degree in art and an impressive new facility, the YHC Fine Arts Annex. Aunspaugh is an avid traveler, adventurer and artist who laid down roots in the Enchanted Valley in 1973 and has called Young Harris home ever since. Find out some of Aunspaugh’s fondest memories at YHC, what it’s been like to watch Young Harris College grow during the last 40 years and why he can’t wait to attend Alumni Weekend this April.

What are you up to these days?

After 33 years of teaching, I retired from YHC six years ago, and have been busy in a “relaxed, lazy sort of way.” I built a small art studio and a work shed. I took a number of classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in wood-fired pottery and blacksmithing of knives and tomahawks. I thoroughly enjoyed a class offered by the Institute for Continuing Learning (ICL) at YHC on writing poetry taught by YHC Vice President for Planning and Assessment and Instructor of English Rosemary Royston, ’89. My wife, Marcia, worked in the Office of Admissions for 24 years as an assistant to Brenda Garrett, doing data entry and mailings. When she retired in 2008, we went to Alaska to fish on the Kenai River and enjoy camping with my sister and her husband. Marcia and I purchased a Roadtrek camper van and took two trips west. The first trip was up the “Great Mississippi River Road” to Lake Superior and North Dakota. The second trip was to Gunnison, Colo., Phoenix, Ariz., and the “Four Corners” area to see Arches, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon. I have paddled my kayak several hundred miles on southern rivers while taking part in Paddle Georgia and Paddle Florida events.

This past year, we took a 12-day trip to Spain. Marcia and I traveled with our friends, Bud and Woodie Dyer. (Bud is the former Director of Admissions and KTO fraternity advisor at YHC.) All of us enjoyed seeing the great paintings in the Prado Museum in Madrid, El Greco's city of Toledo, “The Great Mosque” in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada, and the Picasso and Miro Museums in Barcelona.

If someone asked me if I like retirement, I could answer a big “YES” with a smile on my face. 

What brought you to the Enchanted Valley in 1973 and what are some of your fondest memories during your time at YHC?

In the fall of 1973, I arrived at YHC to teach in the art department with my mentor and friend, Ezra Sellers, my professor at LaGrange College where I earned my bachelor’s degree. I had gone on to New York University for my master’s degree in art education, served two years in the United States Marine Corps, and returned to LaGrange as a carpet and towel designer for Deering Milliken. I designed carpet and made art for five years, then had a show of my work in LaGrange. When Ezra saw my work and offered me a teaching position at YHC, I did not hesitate because I had always wanted to teach art. It was wonderful to work with him—he taught me by example how to be an effective teacher. When he retired in 1977, I became the person to keep the art department going. During my years of teaching, I have shared the responsibilities of the art department with some excellent art educators like Vee Brown, Marcia Langham, Dale Cochran, Anita Butler, Robert Cox and Dawn Dickins. They are all fine artists and excellent teachers.

My fondest memories are the close friendships that were formed with other faculty colleagues and their families. We had many meals, parties and good times together. I also remember many adventurous art trips to Savannah to make drawings at Tybee Island and Thunderbolt shrimp docks. I also went on many camping trips with the Quantrec outdoor club for YHC students. The group’s advisor, Bob Richardson (who served as librarian at the time) arranged fantastic camping trips to the Cumberland and Sapelo islands, Cohutta Wilderness, Edisto Beach and Okefenokee Swamp. YHC is a perfect place for outdoor education and I am very happy to hear about the good work that Rob Dussler is doing with the outdoor leadership program at YHC.

You have impacted the lives of many YHC alumni over the years. What is the impact these students have made on your life and what lessons do you hope to have instilled in the students you taught at YHC?

I have continued to stay in contact with many YHC alumni, and I still take pride and joy in their accomplishments. A number of art alumni have returned to YHC to have exhibitions of their art at the Campus Gate Art Gallery. Many alumni are my “Facebook friends,” and I love hearing news of their families and activities. I have a Facebook page, Dick Aunspaugh - Artist/Craftsman, where I post my art and share news with alumni friends. My one hope is that I have instilled in my students a love and appreciation of visual art in all its forms. One might be creative and make art, or one can just enjoy looking at and thinking about art. Art has given me a lifetime of pleasure, and I hope it has for my students as well.

You taught art at YHC for more than three decades and also served as the chair of the department. This fall, YHC began offering the bachelor of arts degree in art. How would you describe the changes you have seen in the Division of Fine Arts—and YHC as a whole—since your time working at the College?

The changes going on at YHC are dramatic and wonderful to witness. The new space for the art department in the Fine Arts Annex (the old Young Harris Elementary School) across the street from the campus is an excellent space for classrooms and studios. I visit there from time to time to see what is going on. The art students have an ideal space to work in with a lot of room to create art. The chair of the art department, Ted Whisenhunt, recently gave me a tour of his oil painting classroom to look at students painting finals. There were some very good studies of works by Lucian Freud and many very creative and well-done final painting using ideas they learned from the Lucian Freud studies. I also looked at the drawings. Dawn Dickins is a very good teacher, especially when it comes to teaching students the fundamentals of drawing.

Two big changes on the YHC campus that we have witnessed have been the removal of faculty houses where we once lived. The first house on Maple Street is now new and beautiful student housing called The Village. The second house behind Manget and where Peel Hall once stood (now Enotah Hall) is gone, and in its place is a multi-million-dollar Recreation and Fitness Center. On Family Weekend this year, I got to see our YHC Mountain Lions play basketball in this fantastic new complex. I have met many of the new faculty and am impressed with their zeal and energy. Yes, there are many dramatic changes going on at YHC, but it all seems fine to me.

You live in Young Harris and will be right here in the neighborhood as Young Harris College celebrates its first spring Alumni Weekend, April 20-22, 2012. Alumni will have the opportunity to enjoy athletic and cultural events as the YHC baseball team has home games all weekend, the Student Art Exhibition will be on display and Theatre Young Harris will present their season finale, “Sweet Charity.” You regularly attend events at YHC—what have been some of your favorites over the years, and what are you looking forward to about attending Alumni Weekend?

It is a blessing to have so many quality sports and cultural events to enjoy here on campus. I have been to all the art opening receptions at the Campus Gate Art Gallery. This is a great new space for showing art, and the gallery director, Scott Dean, has been doing a great job mounting these exhibitions. I have attended and enjoyed many of the plays, art shows, lectures and music concerts at the college. My favorites in the past have been from the Byron Herbert Reece Lecture Series by nationally known poets and writers. Some that come to mind are American Poet Laureate Billy Collins, Coleman Barks reading the poems of Rumi and other poets like R.T. Smith, Dana Gioia and David Bottoms.

I am looking forward to the first spring Alumni Weekend and I hope to see the faces of many alumni friends here on the campus. I attended the past summer alumni gathering and reconnected with folks I had not seen in 30 years. It was wonderful to see former art students and other friends. I hope this new spring Alumni Weekend goes well, and I hope many alumni and their families will plan to visit YHC on April 20-22, 2012.

Hello Mountain Lions,

I hope you had a great holiday season and that your new year is off to a great start.  I’m Beth Haggerty Odum from the Class of 1996. After leaving Young Harris College, I received my A.B.J. from the University of Georgia and now work in advertising as a creative services project manager/traffic manager. I’m married to Brannon Odum and live in Smyrna with a menagerie of pets. I’m delighted to serve on the Young Alumni Council where I can promote activities for young alumni. I often find myself spending time with the other council members at alumni events just as though they had attended school with me.

As the temperatures drop and winter is upon us, I reflect fondly on my days at YHC. The enchanted valley brought me special memories, everlasting friendships and the unique opportunity to make my own mark at YHC as the College left its own mark on me. In addition to an outstanding education, participating in the Student Government Association and writing for Enotah Echoes prepared me for future endeavors. During this time of year in 1995, I was a founding member of Gamma Psi. A Greek organization that is now a well-established, admired part of student life was just getting started, and I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of something new and special and to shape my own YHC experience. We all have such moments to reflect on—whether winter break in nearby mountains, a campus-wide snowball fight or sledding in a kayak across campus.

I look forward to attending events such as Alumni Weekend, and now Homecoming, where I can reconnect with my friends and reminisce on those days. I also enjoy meeting current students and hearing about how they are forging their own YHC experiences. I have to admit that I am a bit envious of the new residence halls, athletic facilities and four-year degrees that are now a mainstay at the College. I’ve sat in the stands at a basketball game with the current Gamma Psi members and felt right at home cheering on the Mountain Lions and spotting former professors sitting in the “Jack Nicholson” seats. Each time I visit the campus, I’m impressed with how it has evolved without losing the charm of being a small college in the mountains.

If you haven’t visited the campus lately, I hope to see you at Alumni Weekend, April 20-22, 2012. I’m looking forward to being on campus in the spring, where the landscape is as enlivened as the campus. You can always find me at Lunch on the Lawn, sipping on sweet tea and making new memories.


Beth Haggerty Odum, ’96

Young Harris College Named to Colleges of Distinction as a Leader in Educational Excellence

Young Harris College has been named to the prestigious 2011-2012 Colleges of Distinction. At its website,, the organization offers an online guide that takes a fresh look at colleges and universities appealing to students’ unique and varied interests. Based on the opinions of guidance counselors, educators and admissions professionals, Colleges of Distinction honors colleges excelling in key areas of educational quality.

“Schools selected as Colleges of Distinction create well-rounded graduates and are among the very best in the country,” Executive Editor of Colleges of Distinction Tyson Schritter said. “While each school is one of a kind, they all share a common theme: they are all a great place to get an education.”

In order to qualify, Young Harris College was required to demonstrate excellence in the four distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes. Fewer than 250 colleges and universities in the nation were named to this year’s list, and YHC joins other distinguished institutions including Agnes Scott College, Centre College, College of Charleston, Rhodes College, Sewanee: The University of the South and Southern Methodist University.

The goal of Colleges of Distinction is to provide students, counselors and parents with information about colleges and universities that excel in these four areas. Featured schools take a holistic approach to admissions, consistently excel in providing undergraduate education and have a truly national reputation.

To learn more about the online guide, visit

Mountain Lions Athletics Adds Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse and Competitive Cheerleading for 2012

Young Harris College President Cathy Cox announced in December the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse as well as competitive cheerleading as intercollegiate sports beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year, following approval granted by the Young Harris College Board of Trustees at their semi-annual meeting in November in Atlanta.

“As we continue our four-year transformation at Young Harris College, we are pleased to expand our athletics offerings to include men's and women's lacrosse and competitive cheerleading,” Cox said. “We are excited to now begin recruiting students who will kick off these programs with us next year.” 

The news follows the president's announcement in July that the Mountain Lions had been accepted into the NCAA Division II membership process and are now in Candidacy Year One. YHC currently competes at the intercollegiate level in baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer and tennis.

“Lacrosse has been the fastest growing sport in the nation over the past five years,” said Director of Athletics Randy Dunn. “YHC wants to be a leader in providing academic and athletic opportunities for high school student-athletes that want to compete at the collegiate level. Lacrosse will be attractive to many prospective student-athletes, and we believe it will enhance our entire campus." 

According to the latest participation survey by U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, the number of NCAA lacrosse programs grew from 428 to 608 from 2000 to 2010, and the growth shows few signs of slowing. Thirty-eight new varsity programs began play in 2011 and another 26 are set to come on board in 2012. Lacrosse is also the top growth sport in men (22.4 percent) and women (30.3 percent) over the past five years in the NCAA.  

Data from the National Federation of State High School Associations shows that lacrosse has the fastest percentage growth rates in the last five years in both boys’ and girls’ sports. From 2005 to 2010, a total of 1,349 varsity high school teams were added in the NFHS survey. Georgia, which currently has 75 high schools that have lacrosse teams, is one of 21 states with governing associations that sanction/recognize high school lacrosse. 

“Competitive cheerleading will give our current students and prospective student-athletes the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level against other top colleges and universities around the country,” Dunn said. “It will provide an opportunity to promote our college to broader audiences in new venues, and it will create a more enthusiastic and spirited collegiate environment.”

Students interested in playing lacrosse or competitive cheerleading for the Mountain Lions should contact Dunn at

Campus Gate Art Gallery at Young Harris College to Host Wall Drawings Exhibit by Dawn Dickins

Young Harris College’s Campus Gate Art Gallery will host “Follow and Guide: wall drawing,” an exhibit by YHC Associate Professor of Art Dawn Dickins. The exhibit opens Thursday, Jan. 19, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. in the Campus Gate Art Gallery. The exhibit will be on display through Friday, Feb. 17. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.

Since she was a child, Dickins has had a passion for drawing. She loves the sound of a graphite stick dragged across a wood panel, the scent of a warm, worn-in eraser and the smearing of dense charcoal on white paper. For this installation, her work will be drawn directly on the gallery walls, allowing the viewer to enter the work and experience drawing in a new way.

According to Dickins, “drawing large” has always been something she enjoyed so her artwork is typically measured in feet instead of inches. In 2011, she fulfilled her goal of creating a billboard-size drawing in a location that would allow passersby to view the process by completing a larger-than-life drawing at Mayors Park in Young Harris.

“Now I like the idea of letting the space determine the scale and not being limited to the size of the drawing paper or the size of frames. I really want the viewer to feel like they have entered into the drawing,” said Dickins. “As I’ve gotten older, I have become more excited about the experience of creating than to actually have a work that will exist forever. I am much more interested in creating an experience that can forever live in the viewer’s memory.”

Dickins’ artistic process begins with a concept drawn from notes scribbled in her sketchbook that include what she calls “big themes or little ideas”—everything from national news stories to amusing things her children say. After making a list of objects and images that symbolize certain elements of the piece, Dickins begins searching for and photographing reference pictures before making a rough sketch of the drawing in her sketchbook.

“When I actually begin drawing on the walls, it becomes intuitive—a lot of looking and responding, changing and shifting. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time,” Dickins said. “My drawings involve many layers of line and color, drips, smudges and scrapes. When I draw, there is a balance of me directing the line and when I must trust the line to guide me.”

The exhibition’s theme of “Follow and Guide” refers not only to Dickins’ process of creating art, but also her many roles as a wife, mother, artist and professor that define and shape her past, present and future.

“I’m ecstatic about having my students see my work and discuss my process, and I have been encouraging some of my students and colleagues to drop by the gallery while I’m working,” said Dickins. “Creating this piece and baring my soul is a bit nerve-racking, but it will allow me to open myself up to the YHC community. The true thrill for me is seeing if I can succeed and hopefully inspire my students.”

Campus Gate Art Gallery is located at 5149 College Street on the Young Harris College campus. Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information contact the Campus Gate Art Gallery at (706) 379-5114 or

“Follow and Guide: wall drawing.”

YHC Associate Professor of Art Dawn Dickins.

Faculty Notables

YHC President Cathy Cox and College of Coastal Georgia President Valerie Hepburn co-presented a concurrent session titled “Where Do Athletics Fit into an Institution’s Mission?” at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 4.

Assistant Professor of English Dr. Jennifer Hughes presented a paper she co-authored with Dr. Phil Nel regarding Moby Dick and the graphic novel Bone at the American Studies Conference in Baltimore, Md., Oct. 20-23. Dr. Hughes also recently received the Tournées Festival Grant to bring a French film festival to campus during the spring 2012 semester. Five new French comedies will be featured, including L’Illusioniste, La Cliente, Two Days in Paris, Panique au Village and El Dorado. Dates will be announced soon.

Assistant Professor of History Dr. Natalia Starostina will present a paper titled “Color in railway posters and the evolution of publicity in the French Third Republic” at the Biannual North Georgia Arts and Letters Conference held at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Feb. 25.