And in an effort to fulfill his goal of helping young people excel, Brannen has created the George K. Brannen English Scholar’s Award and the George K. Brannen Department of Writing and Linguistics Award for students interested in pursuing careers in English and writing.
Additionally, he established the George K. Brannen Center for Addiction Recovery Endowment for students working to obtain their degree through the University’s Center for Addiction Recovery.
“I could have waited until I passed on to endow these scholarships, but there is just a part of me that would like to see results from it,” he said. And he has, by sitting in a classroom with the students who benefit from these awards.
Brannen isn’t a professor, but a student, well on his way to completing degrees in English and writing and linguistics that he began working on at Georgia Southern 40 years ago. He is also retired after working many years in oil fields out west and in Canada. His first attempt as a student was unsuccessful after he began experimenting with alcohol and other substances, he said, which is why he felt it important to help students struggling with similar problems.
“The reason I failed out of Georgia Southern in 1973 is because of that exact problem — addiction. I think that people who really want to work to overcome that deserve a second chance,” he said. “It definitely affected me, but I came out okay, and it doesn’t mean other people can’t do that. Sometimes they just need a little help, and I see this program as a giant step forward for students here at Georgia Southern.”
The endowment is even more personal for Brannen after not only overcoming addiction, but also surviving cancer and a liver transplant. He made the award official on the 10th anniversary of his transplant.
“Ten years ago I had cancer, and that had a lot to do with 1973 because of the direction I chose to go in with certain substances. I ended up having a liver transplant, and I try to tell people maybe they don’t need to go that route,” he said.
And while helping students who struggle with addiction gain a second chance at an education is important to him, Brannen believes even more in inspiring students who are interested in English and writing to become future educators.
“I just think it’s really important to encourage students who are interested in becoming English teachers because I can’t fathom going through my life not being able to read or write. I’ve worked with people in my life that are totally illiterate — adults who can’t read or write,” he said of his decision to endow the awards in the Department of Literature and Philosophy and in the Department of Writing and Linguistics. “People do it every day, and I just don’t see how they manage. So if I can help that issue in some way, I just think that’s a good deal.
“And another reason I do this is because I know there are a lot of colleges and universities that center scholarships around sports — and that is very important,” Brannen continued. “But truth be known, nothing would get done if you didn’t have reading, writing, arithmetic, science and those basic subjects.”
But most of all, Brannen said he enjoys knowing his contribution will impact future generations.
“I think what I’m trying to do here is make my life count for something. I don’t want to come into the world and leave and not have done anything,” Brannen said. “And if I can help change someone’s life, then that’s a good deal. If that person can go on to help someone learn to read or write, that’s an even better deal.” – Crissie Elrick
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