John H. Bennett Jr. (left) and Reinhardt President Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood unveil the plaque naming the theatre in the Bennett History Museum on Oct. 21, 2008, for the late Estelle Bennett Hughes. Bennett family members and friends from across north Georgia joined the Funk Center Advisory Board and Reinhardt staff to celebrate a gift from Hughes’ estate for the theatre in the Bennett History Museum in Reinhardt’s Funk Heritage Center. The gift will help upgrade the theatre, a central component of the museum.
From the opening prayer to the closing dedication, the theatre dedication in the Bennett History Museum on Oct. 21, 2008, remembered a truly special lady, the late Estelle Bennett Hughes. Bennett family members and friends from across north Georgia joined the Funk Center Advisory Board and Reinhardt staff to celebrate a gift from Hughes’ estate for the theatre in the Bennett History Museum on the campus of Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga. The gift will help upgrade the theatre, a central component of the museum. During the event, a dedicatory plaque was unveiled that named the theater in Hughes’ honor.
Hughes, described as a dedicated Christian who loved her family, her church, her community and Reinhardt College, passed away on Aug. 17, 2007. The Bennett History Museum, part of the Funk Heritage Center complex, is named for Hughes’ late brother, John H. Bennett, Sr. of Waleska, Ga., who gave a sizable gift to Reinhardt in the 1990s. The gift was used to help construct the museum, which opened in 1999.
The Rev. Jimmy Hogan, former pastor of Hughes’ home church, Goshen Baptist in Salacoa Valley, opened the event with prayer. “The Lord gave her many gifts.. the one that is foremost in my mind is the gift of giving. Paul quoted Jesus in Acts, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Certainly Sister Estelle was a follower of that command. Thank you, Father for the… spiritual impact that she had not only on me but on everyone she met… We remember… the example she was to all of us.”
|The HDTV Theatre is the first section of the Bennett History Museum that most visitors see. They are greeted with an award-winning film, "The Southeastern Indians" co-produced by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Film and Video Division and Reinhardt College. The theatre includes a giant 9 foot high by 16 foot wide screen and Dolby surround sound.|
Hughes’ nephew, John H. Bennett Jr. of Waleska, Ga., spoke for the family and described his Aunt Estelle “as a special lady. We could all stand to benefit from her life. She was… one of 11 descendents. She was the last one to remain living; she outlived her husband, all three of her children and all her brothers and sisters. She was tremendous lady, always had a positive attitude. You could stop by to see Estelle to cheer her up, and you would be the one cheered up before you left the house. She really loved her family, she loved Goshen Baptist Church, she had a very strong feeling for Reinhardt. A lot of family has had connections to the College, and she wanted to do something to remember the College in her will. She would be very pleased with this, knowing that her name was mentioned here at Reinhardt.”
Dr. Floyd A. Falany, President Emeritus of Reinhardt College and a member of the Funk Center Advisory Board, closed the event with a dedication. He described Hughes as someone who was so positive that she “seemed young and made you feel young. She had a tremendous faith that life was going to be even better tomorrow than it is today. She… was a giver. I hope every time we go into that theatre we will revisit her spirit of giving, caring and faith. She lived that way every day.”
Estelle Bennett Hughes was a member of Reinhardt’s Class of 1928. She and her 10 siblings all attended Reinhardt at one point or another. Although at least one later earned an associate degree at Reinhardt, most only attended Reinhardt Academy [which included elementary and high school grades in those years]. Some moved to Waleksa or “bunked” with relatives who lived in town because the trip between Salacoa Valley and Waleska was too arduous for regular commuting.
Bennett family members who attended Reinhardt College in more recent years include Joy Bennett ’90 (front, l – r), Estelle Bennett Hughes ’28, Yeteva Bourn Frye ’53, Robin Bourn Rogers ’97; (back, l- r) Angie Holbrook Bennett ’88, John H. Bennett III ’88, Angie Bennett Ulm ’90, John H. Bennett Jr. ’65, Amy Bennett Cox ’99 and Kristin Rogers Travis ’02.
Dr. Joseph H. Kitchens, Funk Heritage Center director, said the facility has now welcomed 105,000 visitors, and he was glad to dedicate the theatre to Mrs. Hughes. “Museums run upon the generosity of others, and so not surprisingly I’m excited and delighted that we have had a gift made to us, and that we can dedicate the theatre to the memory of Estelle Bennett Hughes,” Kitchens said.
Reinhardt President Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood noted that Hughes’ generosity would impact every museum visitor who watches the film. “Because the film is the first thing most museum visitors see, it plays an important role in the programming provided by the Funk Heritage Center,” he said. “Her kind gift will impact visitors for generations to come. What a wonderful legacy.”
The Bennett Family’s connections with Reinhardt stretches back generations. Estelle Bennett Hughes ’28 (back row, third from right) played on the 1927-28 Ladies’ Basketball Team.
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