As we enter the season of giving, a new symbol has a prominent place on campus. A bell with special meaning now greets anyone who enters the Fred H. and Mozelle Bates Tarpley Education Center.
The bell was donated by Reinhardt Nurse Gwen Chambers and her sisters, Dr. Sharon Pappas and Gina Mitchell, in honor of Cora Belle Tarpley Holcombe, their mother, and Fred’s sister. It rang for the first time at a dedication ceremony on November 10th. “It makes me very proud of where I came from and the values instilled in all of us to pursue our goals and not give up,” explains Gwen. “I hope that message touches each student that rings that bell from here on out, that nothing is impossible. Don't look back, don't look down, look up and forward, and let that guide your steps. And always remember to have a heart of service. It's about whoever you're teaching and helping and giving.”
New traditions are already being established, thanks to this heartwarming gift. November 28, this semester’s graduates of the Cauble School of Nursing plan to ring the bell following their pinning ceremony. Gwen is honored, “It’s the ending of one chapter and the starting of another. Sending that sound out is an echoing reminder of the trickle effect of touching others in your career.”
Inscribed with Belle Academy, it was named after Gwen’s mother and originally intended in 2010 to be at their home place in Waleska where new owners planned a daycare learning center. The center never opened. It wasn’t until Gwen started working at Reinhardt last year that she realized the true purpose of the bell and how to honor her mother, a local educator for over three decades, a community member, and a Reinhardt alumna, “It represents her style of teaching and giving, which is selflessness, perseverance, and faithfulness to God. She was a person who not only helped the child but helped the whole family. It also models one of Reinhardt's missions, which is to ‘educate the whole person with challenge and care.’”
Family ties to Reinhardt and to serving the community stretch even further. Gwen’s grandfather (Cora Belle and Fred’s father) was a local farmer and a carpenter. He helped build some of the older buildings on campus, so his children could get an education at Reinhardt. In all, eight members of the family have attended Reinhardt, including Gwen. They all went on to touch countless lives as nurses, teachers, and in other giving professions.
A legacy herself in so many ways, Gwen worked for Cherokee County Schools for 31 years and transformed the school nurse program from one nurse to 42, one on each campus. She wrote the protocols, guidelines, and job descriptions for the nursing program. In 2015, Gwen was awarded Georgia’s School Nurse Administrator of the Year. After a brief retirement, she came to Reinhardt to create a place for students to be heard and healed. She truly cares for and treats their mental state, as well as any physical ailments. It’s a testament to Gwen that the number of students coming to the health center has doubled since she arrived. She’s also already written a comprehensive health center manual, and in early 2024, Gwen is paving the way for Reinhardt to become certified as a Heart Safe School.
The next time a bell rings, perhaps it will be a pleasant reminder of serving and giving, as it does for the Tarpley family.