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Rachel Gabara Named Brinning Professor


Professor Rachel Gabara has been named the first Nancy Gillespie Brinning Professor in French.  The Department of Romance Languages is delighted to congratulate Professor Gabara and to celebrate Mrs. Brinning's legacy.  Brinning was a French major who graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia in 1948 and enjoyed a highly distinguished, path-breaking career at Piedmont Natural Gas Company in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She was one of the first women to hold an executive position in the natural gas industry.  Gabara’s innovative research and teaching on Francophone European and African film and literature truly honor the spirit of this visionary donor.  Gabara is the author of the award-winning From Split to Screened Selves, Stanford University Press, and the forthcoming book, Reclaiming Realism: From Documentary Film in Africa to African Documentary Film, Indiana University Press. 

Nancy Brinning made provisions to endow a professorship in the Department of Romance Languages over twenty years ago.  In May of 2003, she spoke to the Department of Romance Languages about how she applied skills she acquired as a French major and a Spanish minor to excel in business. Her insights about how to make life-long connections between language study and career goals continue to be valuable for students and graduates who wish to use advanced foreign-language study to prepare themselves for professional careers. 

As a student, Brinning connected a French major to a Spanish minor, with courses that included Enlightenment Philosophy, Spanish Drama of the Romantic Era and Advanced French Linguistics.  Several years after graduating from UGA, she began to work for the Piedmont Natural Gas Company in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Brinning drew upon the writing and editorial skills she sharpened at UGA to improve communications within her company and those between the company and its shareholders. She notes that she constantly rewrote pamphlets and insisted, as early as the 1960s, on eliminating sexist language from company policies.  Her ability to process and organize complex information led to steadily increasing responsibilities in the office of the president.  Recognizing her importance to the company, the board of directors elected her to the position of Board Secretary and eventually, Vice President.  As such, she was the first woman elected to a board of directors in the natural gas industry. 

Brinning strongly recommended that students who wish to pursue professional careers after graduation prepare themselves with programs of study in the liberal arts.  She also had these words of inspiration for today’s students in Romance Languages as they think about jobs after graduation: “Know your value and skills, take the initiative to use them, and then speak up to gain recognition for them.”

Gabara's work honors Brinning's vision and legacy. Recently she secured a French in Higher Education with project "Global Georgia, Global French" to enrich the French undergraduate program during 2024-26.  Her research has been awarded two National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowships and an American Philosophical Society grant. At UGA, her recognitions have included the M.G. Michael Award for Excellence in Research from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Virginia Mary Macagnoni Prize for Innovative Research from the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and the Albert Christ-Janer Creative Research Award from the Office of the Provost. 

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Personnel in this Article

Associate Professor of French, Undergraduate Coordinator

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