JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Millennium Centre will be named for longtime East Tennessee State University (ETSU) philanthropists James and Nellie Brinkley, ETSU’s trustee board decided Friday.

The board approved a proposal to name the complex for the couple, who met while students at the K-12 University School on ETSU’s campus, both graduated from ETSU and have given more than $8 million to the university.

ETSU bought the Millennium Centre, which sits across State of Franklin Road from the main campus, from the city of Johnson City in 2018 for $5.8 million. It will become the James and Nellie Brinkley Center, complete with signage.

James Brinkley’s schooling at the then East Tennessee State College was interrupted by service in the Navy, but he graduated with a business administration degree in 1960, according to a written proposal for the naming.

James Brinkley, who died at the age of 85 in March 2021, worked 25 years with the Social Security Administration while Nellie Brinkley practiced real estate. By 2010, the couple had given sufficiently to ETSU to earn a Tennessee Board of Regents award for excellence in philanthropy.

James Brinkley was also named an outstanding alumnus of ETSU in 2012 and is in the College of Business and Technology Hall (CBAT) of Fame.

ETSU Vice President for University Advancement Pam Ritter met James Brinkley shortly after she arrived in Johnson City seven years ago.

“We just kept working on the relationship,” Ritter said. “He decided 20 years ago he was going to do something for the university.”

She described Brinkley as “a very nice gentleman” whom she initially met in Florida when she and the CBAT dean went there to present him with his Hall of Fame award.

The Brinkleys focused on providing scholarship opportunities for ETSU students, “particularly those who struggle to meet their educational costs,” the release says.

“As soon as it was voted on I quickly sent a text to his son and I said ‘Jimmy, I’m so tickled this is what happened.'”

The Millennium Centre houses a number of programs offered by the College of Business and Technology.