BPC Student Activities Center named for Snooks family, gymnasium for Gillis brothers

By Bill Glass
BPC Public Relations

The name of the Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center at Brewton-Parker College is unveiled during a ceremony April 28 on the campus in Mount Vernon. The Gillis Gymnasium also was officially named during the ceremony, which took place during BPC Centennial Celebration festivities. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)
Betty Snooks Moses speaks on behalf of her parents and family after the Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center at Brewton-Parker College is officially named during an April 28 ceremony at the center on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. (Photo by Charles Conkin)

A south Georgia family affair on the Brewton-Parker College campus on April 28 prevailed over the official naming of Brewton-Parker's Student Activities Center and its centerpiece gymnasium.

The Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center was named to honor the longtime support to the college by the family of Bartow Snooks of Ailey, who graduated from the Brewton-Parker Institute's high school in 1935.

Snooks died on Feb. 8 at age 84, shortly after the BPC Board of Trustees elected to award him an honorary doctorate. That honor will be presented to the Snooks family during commencement on Saturday, May 8, in the building that now carries the family name.

Bartow and Jean Snooks -- who were married for more than 56 years before his passing -- were selected as Brewton-Parker's Alumni of the Year for 1993.

Also during the naming ceremony, the Hon. Jim L. Gillis Jr. of Soperton and his brother, longtime state Senator Hugh M. Gillis, were honored with the official naming of the Snooks Student Activities Center's gymnasium in their honor in recognition for their significant gift contributions toward the center's completion.

The center has served as a centerpiece for the college's athletic and recreational programs since its opening in 2002.

Dr. David R. Smith, Brewton-Parker's president, praised the generosity of the Snooks and Gillis families in making the ceremony's opening remarks, which were preceded with Scottish bagpipe music by the Centerville Fire Department Pipes and Drums, Inc.

Smith noted: "In our first year of operating the new facility we brought some 30,000 people through. These people expended money in Mount Vernon, Ailey and Vidalia for meals, gasoline and overnight accommodations, so this facility is not just important to Brewton-Parker but to our region as well."

Smith then introduced Dr. Allen Hughes, chairman of the BPC Board of Trustees and administrative pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, who expressed the board's appreciation to the Snooks and Gillis families.

Hughes also noted that the center would serve to bring the entire community together.

"This demonstrates very clearly what can happen when college and community come together to work toward a common goal," he said.

The naming ceremony then continued with Jay Orr, Brewton-Parker's vice president for college advancement, calling attention to the prominent lettering on the gym's south exterior wall -- Gillis Gymnasium -- and introduced Sen. Hugh Gillis and the Hon. Jim L. Gillis.

Sen. Gillis spoke of his family's long history with Brewton-Parker College, naming the many family members who had graduated from BPC and who had served as trustees for the college going back to the 1920s. Listening to Sen. Gillis reminisce proved a very special moment for all in attendance.

Sen. Gillis was particularly proud of his first cousin Jack Walker, who played three sports for BPC and whose picture now hangs in the Hall of Fame Room.

Sen. Gillis also noted that Jack Walker's sister Annette had graduated from BPC, majoring in music, and had gone on to further her education at Florida State University then pursued a career as a music teacher locally before becoming postmistress for the town of Soperton.

The senator also mentioned that he was a second-generation member of the Board of Trustees, as his father had also served on the Brewton-Parker board.

In following his brother to the podium, Jim L. Gillis opened his remarks with a humorous overtone: "When it comes to speaking the one thing I have learned is never compete with a politician."

Jim L. Gillis went on to pledge his ongoing support to Brewton-Parker in eloquent terms. "Anytime I can be of service to anyone connected to Brewton-Parker it will be my privilege."

President Smith next introduced the center's namesake family, whom he described as "a family that has lots of energy, lots of goodness and lots of involvement around here."

Smith then formally revealed the name -- the Bartow and Jean Snooks Student Activities Center -- and asked Betty Moses, a daughter of Bartow and Jean Snooks, to come to the podium and assist in unveiling the sign, which is located over the entrance to the building.

In her comments following the unveiling, Moses said: "Daddy was so proud to see what Brewton-Parker has accomplished. He was an alumnus, a friend and a faithful supporter of the college." Around her neck as she spoke Moses was wearing her father's 1935 Brewton-Parker Institute class ring.

"We are all humbled by the gifts that have been given to make this facility a reality among us." Smith said. "I am blessed daily as I walk through this facility and see it being utilized by students enjoying the game room, the weight areas, the aerobics center and the many other opportunities for activities that are here."

A reception honoring the Snooks family and the Gillis brothers followed in the center's Hall of Fame Room.

"The naming ceremony was really well attended," Orr said. "Many people were touched by what the speakers had to say.