Mercer History

Mercer University was founded in 1833 in Penfield by Georgia Baptists. The school, under the leadership of Baptist minister and spiritual father Adiel Sherwood, was named for Jesse Mercer, a prominent Baptist leader and the first chair of the Mercer Board of Trustees.

Josiah Penfield gave the $2,500 that prompted the Georgia Baptist Convention to begin plans to open a school. Many Georgia Baptists gave matching funds for Penfield’s gift. The school opened under principal Billington Sanders.

Initially a boys' preparatory school named "Mercer Institute," the school at its founding consisted of a red clay farm and two hewed log cabins, valued at approximately $1,935. Enrollment for the first term was 39 students although, when the school opened, there were considerably fewer and others came over the first few weeks. Tuition was $35 for the year. Board was provided at $8 per month, and each student was required to supply his own bedding, candles and furniture.

From its humble beginnings in Penfield, Mercer today is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has more than 8,300 students; 12 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, health professions, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers around the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program.

The institution’s reputation for exceptional academics in an engaged learning environment continues to grow. For almost two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Mercer among the leading universities in the South. The Princeton Review repeatedly ranks it in the top 10 percent of all colleges and universities in North America. The University has been named a “College with a Conscience” by The Princeton Review and College Compact and has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for distinguished community service. Mercer has also earned a Community Engagement classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Historical Highlights

Penfield Porch1833

Mercer Institute, the forerunner of Mercer University, is founded by Georgia Baptists in Penfield as a manual labor school for boys.


Mercer’s first Board of Trustees is elected and Mercer Institute becomes known as Mercer University.


First college classes begin.

Penfield Female SeminaryFemale Seminary is approved by the Mercer Board of Trustees.


First college class is graduated.


Principal college building at Penfield is destroyed by fire.

Early 1860s

Mercer is one of the few colleges in the South and the only one in Georgia to remain open during the War Between the States. When war was declared, students and graduates of Mercer responded “to defend their constitutional rights and sacred honor.” Most of the senior classes of 1861 and 1862 joined the Confederacy together.

1866Letter of Award to General Lee

Mercer awards General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., the honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Mercer is the only university to grant an honorary degree to General Lee.


During the April 1870 Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) meeting, the decision is made to move Mercer away from Penfield. In August, the commission, appointed by the GBC to find a new location, votes to approve Macon. In September, President David E. Butler tells Macon Mayor George S. Obear and the City Council that Macon has been chosen and “that the proposition on their part to pay you the sum of $125,000…in bonds of the city of Macon, and a site to cost not over $25,000…was accepted.” On Oct. 28, President H.H. Tucker reports that a six-acre site, adjoining Tatnall Square, has been selected. On Nov. 2, Mayor Obear presents $125,000 in bonds and the title deed to the land; a written contract has been entered into between the Trustees and the city. The end of the year marks the closing of the school at Penfield and the University moved.


Mercer relocates to Macon.


A law school is organized and classes begin in February 1874. The first classes are held in the courthouse and in law offices.


Construction of the Administration Building is completed at a cost of $100,000.


The cornerstone of the new chapel building (current-day Willingham) is in place. The chapel is dedicated in 1881, debt-free.

1892Mercer football team

Mercer plays the University of Georgia in Athens in the first college football game in the state of Georgia and one of the first in the Southeast. The game, scheduled for Thanksgiving Day 1891, is postponed until January 1892. Georgia triumphed, 50-0.

In the fall, Mercer would record its first win in football, beating Georgia Tech, 12-6, in Macon, in the Yellow Jackets’ first game ever.


Mercer opens the School of Pharmacy.


The School of Pharmacy closes.

Soldiers on Mercer’s campus

During World War I, the Mercer Board of Trustees authorized President Rufus W. Weaver to tender to the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of war the buildings and equipment of the University that they might be used effectively in service of the nation. The Student Army Training Corps is established at Mercer on Oct. 1, 1918, and continues until the following spring. Following the war, Mercer discontinues systematic military training. Altogether, Mercer’s war dead numbers 14.


Mrs. W. E. Jackson is the first woman to receive a degree from Mercer. Mrs. Jackson, who later becomes Mrs. Joseph Seth Weekly, is awarded the LL.B. degree.


WMAZ Radio

WMAZ Radio, with call letters standing for “Watch Mercer Attain Zenith,” goes on the air, located in the tower of the chapel building.


Mercer turns the fledgling radio station over to the Macon Junior Chamber of Commerce.


Macon Baptist Pastors Union requests an investigation of the character of teaching in some of Mercer’s classrooms. After a 10-hour hearing held in Roberts Chapel on March 30, the Board of Trustees accepts the action of the special committee disposing of the charges.


Willingham Chapel Building is rededicated and a new organ is installed.


Mercer sets apart the Law Building and Roberts Hall for use by the War Training Service during World War II.


Mercer aviation instruction

The Navy V-12 School is established on July 1 and continues until October 1945. Mercer is one of nine institutions in the Southeast selected to give aviation instruction in the Navy War Training Service. During this period, 731 trainees receive basic aviation instruction in the Mercer V-12 program.


In ceremonies held in Willingham Chapel and Ryals Law Building, the Walter F. George School of Law is named for Georgia’s U.S. Senator Walter F. George.


Penfield Chapel

Mercer dedicates the restored Mercer Chapel at Penfield with Dr. Louie D. Newton as speaker.


Construction is completed on the George B. Connell Student Center.


The Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta merges with Mercer University.


In 1963 Sam Jerry Oni became the first black to enter Mercer.

Sam Jerry Oni of Ghana, Africa, becomes the first black student to enter Mercer. On April 18, Mercer Trustees vote to admit qualified students without regard to race, and Mercer becomes one of the few private colleges in the South to do this before being required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


Mercer dedicates the Eugene W. Stetson Memorial Library.


Mercer dedicates Knight Hall of Humanities.


The Hugh M. Willet Science Center is dedicated.


Mercer dedicates the new School of Pharmacy building in Atlanta. Atlanta Baptist College merges with Mercer University and becomes known as Mercer University in Atlanta. Today it is known as the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus.


Law School

The Law School’s centennial is celebrated and Mercer graduate and U.S. Congressman Carl Vinson’s 90th birthday is observed.


Construction of the Ida B. Patterson Infirmary is completed.


Mercer acquires the Insurance Company of North America Building on Coleman Hill in Macon as the home of the Walter F. George School of Law under a gift-purchase agreement for $1 million. The property is valued at more than $4 million.


The former Tatnall Square Baptist Church on the Macon campus is rededicated as Newton Hall in honor of Dr. Louie D. Newton.

Mercer acquires the Overlook Mansion on Coleman Hill, now known as the Woodruff House. Later in the year, Mercer gives the mansion to the City of Macon, and after restoring the exterior, the City of Macon returns the mansion to Mercer in November 1981.


Griffin B. Bell

Mercer dedicates the Law School building with U.S. Attorney General and Mercer alumnus Griffin B. Bell on the program and Chief Justice Warren Burger as guest speaker.


Mercer dedicates the restored Administration Building.

Inauguration ceremonies for Mercer’s 17th president, Raleigh Kirby Godsey, are held at the Macon City Auditorium.

Mercer dedicates the A.T. Davis Administration Building, College of Arts and Sciences, in Atlanta.

Mercer dedicates the Sheffield Building, College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta.


Mercer dedicates the School of Medicine’s Education Building in Macon.


Mercer University School of Medicine admits its charter class of students in the fall.


Mercer establishes the School of Business and Economics in Atlanta. The dedication of the Woodruff House, formerly known as Overlook Mansion, takes place.

Mercer dedicates the W.G. Lee Alumni House in Macon.

Mercer dedicates the Monroe F. Swilley Jr. Library in Atlanta.

The Plunkett-Sewell family commissions a Holtkamp pipe organ, specially designed for Newton Chapel. The 52-rank Tracker instrument is one of the largest organs of its kind on the eastern seaboard, establishing Mercer as a center for organ performance and teaching.


The Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics is established in Macon.

The School of Engineering is established in Macon.

The Walter F. George School of Law becomes the home of the National Criminal Defense College.

The College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta becomes the Cecil B. Day College of Arts and Sciences.


The charter class of the School of Engineering begins its studies and construction on a new building for Engineering is begun.


Tift College, a Georgia Baptist women’s institution in Forsyth, merges with Mercer University.

The new School of Engineering building opens for classes in the fall and is dedicated in October.


University College, formerly the College of Continuing Education, is established, with educational centers located in Macon, Thomaston, Griffin, Eastman and Douglasville.

Nine kaolin industries in middle Georgia join together to establish the world’s first Kaolin Industry Endowed Chair at the School of Engineering.

Groundbreaking is held for a new 93,750-square-foot library building located on the main campus in Macon.

The Mercer Engineering Research Center (MERC) is established as an extension of the School of Engineering. MERC provides a broad range of customer-oriented services to commercial and government clients.


The Walter F. George School of Law receives the largest gift in the University’s history at that time — $14 million from George W. Woodruff.


The University’s Board of Trustees votes to discontinue undergraduate liberal arts education on the Atlanta campus. The mission of the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta is changed to focus on graduate and professional education.


In April, the University breaks ground on a new education and research center for the Southern School of Pharmacy on the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta.


In July, the Southern School of Pharmacy moves from downtown Atlanta to the 300-acre Cecil B. Day Campus in northeast Atlanta.


The University’s Board of Trustees, faculty, administration and staff launch the Mercer 2000: Advancing the Vision Campaign, seeking $126 million for endowment and facilities.

The Board of Trustees approves plans to establish a School of Education and a School of Theology.


In April, the University’s Board of Trustees approves plans to locate the School of Theology on the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta. During its April meeting, it also votes to transfer University College’s programs to the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics, the School of Medicine and the School of Education.

On Oct. 1, Mercer enters into a 20-year lease with Bibb County for the management and administration of The Grand Opera House in downtown Macon. 


Construction is completed on the new 32,000-square-foot School of Theology building on the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta. The School’s charter class of students is admitted in the fall.

Renovations totaling $7.6 million are completed in Boone, Dowell, Porter and Shorter residence halls on the Macon campus.

Through a gift/purchase agreement, Mercer acquires the former Georgia Natural Gas building, located on the corner of Poplar Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Macon.


In April, the Board of Trustees approves naming the School of Theology for James and Carolyn McAfee. The inaugural convocation and dedication of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology is held in October.

The former Findlay House, located next to the W. G. Lee Alumni House on Coleman Avenue in Macon, is restored and dedicated in May as the Tift College Alumnae House.

Construction is completed on a 26,557-square-foot academic facility for the Douglas County Center.

Construction is completed on a new 52,155-square-foot facility for the Mercer Engineering Research Center in Warner Robins.

The School of Medicine completes construction on a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its research wing.

The former Stetson Library is rededicated in September as Stetson Hall and converted into office and classroom space for the Stetson School of Business and Economics and the School of Education.


On Dec. 4, the University breaks ground on a 28,300-square-foot building for the Department of Music of the College of Liberal Arts.


The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology graduates its charter class in May.

Mercer breaks ground for a Greek Village in Macon and student apartment buildings in Macon and Atlanta.

Mercer completes renovations on two School of Medicine buildings in downtown Macon: a 27,000-square-foot building for the Departments of Internal Medicine and Psychiatry and Behavioral Science on the corner of First and Pine Streets, and a 5,500-square-foot facility for graduate medical education on First Street.


During a ceremony on April 20, Mercer dedicates the Jack Tarver Memorial Library.

Mercer breaks ground for an 8,500-square-foot Baptist Collegiate Ministries building, later named the Religious Life Center.

In August, Mercer opens its new police station and seven new apartment buildings on the Macon campus and two new apartment buildings on the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta.

In September, Mercer dedicates the new 18-building Greek Village.

Mercer and LaGrange College are co-recipients of a gift of property from Remer and Emily Crum valued at the time at $123 million. The 83-acre Century Center Park property is located near I-85, north of Atlanta.

Mercer and the Georgia Baptist Convention announce that the 98-year-old Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, located in downtown Atlanta, will merge with Mercer on Jan. 1, 2001.


The School of Education is renamed the Tift College of Education of Mercer University at the April Board of Trustees meeting.

Mercer announces the creation of the Center for Baptist Studies.


The McAfee School of Theology receives full membership into the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) as an accredited school of theology.

The new Georgia Baptist College of Nursing building on the Atlanta campus is dedicated during the College’s centennial celebration.


Mercer and Robins Air Force Base mark the 20th anniversary of a partnership agreement that sparked a School of Engineering on the Macon campus and an engineering research center in Warner Robins.

Mercer dedicates its state-of-the-art recital hall in the McCorkle Music Building, naming it the Neva Langley Fickling Hall.

Mercer opens the doors to its newest regional academic center in McDonough, providing opportunities for adult learners in Henry County and surrounding areas. The University’s programs in Griffin and Covington are merged into the Henry County location.

The University’s 10th academic unit, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, is established from the former Division of Extended Education. The non-education programs in the Tift College of Education are moved to the new college.

Mercer purchases the Georgia Baptist Center, which was previously owned by the Georgia Baptist Convention and is adjacent to the Atlanta campus. It becomes the Atlanta Administration and Conference Center.


The University plays its first basketball games in the new University Center Arena during Homecoming week, Jan. 27-Feb. 1. The remainder of the signature facility on the Macon campus opens March 15.

The official dedication of the University Center and the Griffin B. Bell Board Room is held in April, following the Board of Trustees meeting.


Mercer partners with Piedmont Healthcare, one of the state’s prominent hospital systems, to establish the Center for Health and Learning in Atlanta.

The Townsend-McAfee Institute is established to offer graduate programs in church music that prepare musical artists for the ministry. The institute is a collaboration between the Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts in Macon and the McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.


After 27 years as president, R. Kirby Godsey steps down from his leadership role to become chancellor, leaving office as the longest-serving president in University history. William D. Underwood, former interim president of Baylor University, former high-profile attorney and noted legal scholar and teacher, becomes the University’s 18th president on July 1.

The Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts becomes the Townsend School of Music on July 1. Trustee Carolyn McAfee, widow of James T. McAfee Jr., former chairman of Mercer's Board of Trustees, and her son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Julie McAfee, provided the founding endowment.

The Townsend-McAfee Institute and Mercer University Press announce they will develop a new hymnal for Baptists and other Christian fellowships, slated for release in 2009. In early 2007, the name of the new hymnal is unveiled: Celebrating Grace: Hymnal for Baptist Worship.

The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings is established on the Macon campus, offering conservatory-quality music training in a comprehensive university setting. Under the leadership of internationally renowned violinist Robert McDuffie, the center is designed to provide highly talented string students the opportunity to learn with some of the nation's renowned string musicians.

Tift College of Education’s Educational Leadership Program offers a Doctor of Philosophy in P-12 School Leadership on the Macon and Atlanta campuses.

The 103-year-old Southern School of Pharmacy changes its name to the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on July 1. The name change reflects additional health science programs, including a new physician assistant program.

The American Baptist Historical Society, with the largest and most diverse collection of Baptist historical materials and archives in the world, announces it will relocate to Mercer’s Atlanta campus. The ABHS consolidated holdings from facilities in Valley Forge, PA and Rochester, NY.

Radio station WMUM-FM (Mercer University Macon), formerly WDCO-FM, opens on the Macon campus. A partnership between Mercer and Georgia Public Broadcasting, the station provides local content to central Georgia public radio listeners from its broadcast studio on the Macon campus.


The Baptist History and Heritage Society, founded in 1938 as the Southern Baptist Historical Society, relocates from Brentwood, TN., to the Atlanta campus. An independent organization with historic ties to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Tift College of Education adds a higher education leadership track to its Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.

Three teams of students and faculty inaugurate the Mercer On Mission program over the summer in Kenya, Brazil and Guatemala. The program combines academic credit with service-learning opportunities.

The School of Medicine, as it celebrates its 25th year, announces it will open a second, four-year doctor of medicine program in Savannah in fall 2008. The program will be based at Memorial University Medical Center, where Mercer has had a clinical relationship since 1996 to provide instruction for part of the school’s third- and fourth-year medical students. 

The Mercer Athletic Foundation is established to raise funds for intercollegiate athletics.

The University completes a new gateway entrance to the Macon campus on Mercer University Drive, near Interstate 75, and a new Hilton Garden Inn opens on that side of the campus.

The building housing the Douglas County Regional Academic Center is dedicated to longtime benefactors Fred and Aileen Borrish.

The new Science and Engineering Building is dedicated, and the University celebrates the School of Engineering’s 22-year partnership with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.


The New Baptist Covenant is held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, drawing on some of the most prominent figures in Baptist life. The New Baptist Covenant traces its roots to April 10, 2006, when Jimmy Carter and Mercer President William D. Underwood convened at The Carter Center in Atlanta a group of 18 Baptist leaders representing more than 20 million Baptists across North America.
Celebrating its 175th year, Mercer marked the anniversary with special Founders’ Day activities, including the traditional convocation on the Macon campus, as well as a Feb. 26 event on the Atlanta campus and an event featuring a discussion with five “Mercer Legends” on the Macon campus.

Mercer Trustees endorse a new vision statement and an ambitious 10-year strategic plan for the University that calls for more than $1.2 billion in new investments in the institution’s endowment, faculty and staff, facilities and technology, and academic and co-curricular programs over the next decade. Titled “Charting Mercer’s Future: Aspirations for the Decade Ahead,” the strategic plan was developed over the prior 18 months under the leadership of the University Planning Council and with the input of trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, students, community leaders, parents of current students, and other stakeholders.

Economics icon Arthur B. Laffer Sr. and long-time educator Horace W. Fleming are named to the positions of Distinguished University Professors. Laffer was named as Distinguished University Professor of Economics and Fleming as Distinguished University Professor of Educational Leadership.

Redevelopment efforts in downtown Macon and the neighborhoods surrounding Mercer’s Macon campus received a major boost from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Mercer was awarded a $250,000 planning grant from Knight Foundation to facilitate a voluntary alliance of redevelopment partners to coordinate plans and leverage new investments.

Thirty first-year medical students receive their white coats and begin their education as members of the inaugural class in Mercer’s new four-year medical program in Savannah.

The School of Medicine is awarded the largest one-time grant in the history of the school. The National Institutes of Health provided the Department of Family Medicine at the School of Medicine with $3.1 million to conduct a five-year study of the Church-Based Diabetes Prevention and Translation program.

Promising a “sober speech,” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called on the next administration of the United States to restore human rights as a national priority. Carter made his remarks during the second annual President’s Lecture Series on the Macon campus.

Moving its Homecoming to the fall under the theme, “Reconnect, Reunite, Rediscover,” scores of Mercerians and their families came back to campus Nov. 21-23. In recent years, the University’s Homecoming was held in the winter at the end of the basketball season.

Mercer Trustees approved new Ph.D. programs in nursing and curriculum and instruction. The new doctoral programs – Mercer’s third and fourth – fulfill objectives in the University’s recently-adopted 10-year strategic plan to expand Ph.D. offerings.
Mercer earns national recognition from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its commitment to community engagement. Mercer is the only college in Georgia, and one of just 119 in the United States, to be selected by the foundation for its 2008 Community Engagement Classification.


Griffin Boyette Bell, one of Mercer's most distinguished graduates and the 72nd Attorney General of the United States, succumbs to cancer at the age of 90 on Jan. 5 in Atlanta.

Mercer earns the highest federal recognition for community engagement according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. For the University’s exemplary service efforts and service to the community, the corporation named Mercer to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for 2008.

The Clinton Global Initiative University recognizes Mercer’s efforts to help amputees in Vietnam and other developing nations as “as an exemplary approach to addressing a specific global challenge” during the organization’s annual conference in Austin, Texas.

The University’s Mercer On Mission project was one of only four “commitments” by universities around the country to be recognized by President Bill Clinton during the conference’s opening plenary session.

The Atlantic Sun Conference announces that Mercer will host the 2010 and 2011 General Shale Brick Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships at the University Center. Mercer, one of the conference’s charter members, will host the tournament for the first time in the university’s history.

An announcement is made that a $10 million mixed-use development on the Macon campus will feature loft-style apartments and retail space for the Mercer Bookstore and other businesses that cater to the Mercer community and residents in the College Hill Corridor. Called “The Lofts at Mercer Village,” the development will be located on Montpelier Avenue across from Ingleside Village Pizza and Jittery Joe’s Coffee. It has been designed to create a vibrant streetscape, enhancing the recent retail development in Mercer Village, which in addition to Ingleside Village Pizza and Jittery Joe’s Coffee, is home to Francar’s Buffalo Wings, Georgia Public Broadcasting studios and College Hill Alliance offices.


A Mercer On Mission project that provides low-cost prosthetics to amputees in developing countries received two substantial grants to help with those efforts. The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance awarded Dr. Ha Van Vo, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, with a Sustainable Vision Grant of $37,275 to help him perfect his design and set up a prosthetic lab and clinic in Vietnam. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship awarded the University a $50,000 grant to replicate the Vietnam program in Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake left thousands of Haitians without limbs.

Mercer celebrated its new Newnan Regional Academic Center on Sept. 21 with an opening ceremony and ribbon cutting. The center began classes in August with three degree programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Education in early care and education and early childhood/special education from the Tift College of Education and the Bachelor of Science in Social Science in Public Safety from the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.

The sights and sounds of intercollegiate football will return to the Mercer University campus after a 70-year absence. The University’s Board of Trustees on Nov. 19 unanimously approved a plan to resume competition in football in the fall of 2013. Mercer currently fields 15 men’s and women’s sports and is the only private university in Georgia to compete in NCAA Division I athletics.

The Board also elected two new Life Trustees, Thomas B. Black of Columbus and James Cowart of Norcross. Black is a retired administrator with the Bradley-Turner Foundation, a top-10 private foundation in Georgia that has helped to fund several projects at Mercer, including the University Center and the Science and Engineering Building. Cowart is president and owner of Jim Cowart Inc., a Dunwoody-based land development firm.


Mercer Distinguished Alumnus and former Trustee Nathan Deal was inaugurated in January as Georgia’s 82nd governor. He became the 11th Mercer alumnus to hold that office. Seven Mercerians have led the State of Georgia, and four others have served as governors of the states of Alabama, Texas, New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Mercer’s first outdoor commencement was held May 14 on the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta. More than 6,000 guests witnessed the largest 2012 ceremony, held on the upper fields of the campus.

A grand opening was held in August for the Lofts at Mercer Village, a multi-million dollar development located on Montpelier Avenue in the College Hill Corridor. The highly anticipated opening of the Lofts, which also houses Barnes and Noble/Mercer University Bookstore and apartments for 117 students, culminates the collaboration between the University and Sierra Development. The ceremony also served as the official opening for three of the Lofts retailers – Designer Tan, Fountain of Juice and Margaritas at Mercer Village.

For the fifth straight year, Mercer enrolled a record number of students for fall 2011. The University-wide student population increased 1.2 percent with 8,336 students enrolled, topping 8,300 for the first time.


Mercer joined 24 institutions across the country as a participant in the prestigious Stamps Scholars Program, funded by the Stamps Charitable Foundation Inc. Initially, five entering freshmen will be designated as Stamps Scholars and receive the full cost of attendance, plus a $16,000 stipend over four years for enrichment activities, such as study abroad or undergraduate research. When the program is fully implemented, 10 members of each Mercer freshman class will be designated as Stamps Scholars.

Longtime Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Dr. Daniel Vestal was named to lead the University’s new Eula Mae and John Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership, which is being endowed with a $2.5 million grant from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. The Baugh Center will foster research and learning in Baptist history, theology, ethics and missiology, partnering with the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the American Baptist Historical Society, as well as Mercer’s Center for Theology and Public Life and other organizations and programs.

The University announced in February plans to partner with The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital to establish a Columbus campus for its School of Medicine. Columbus joins Macon – where the School was established in 1982 to prepare physicians for rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia – and Savannah in hosting campuses for the medical school. The Mercer School of Medicine will place up to 80 third- and fourth-year medical students at the Columbus Campus, beginning in the summer of 2012.

A landmark season for the men’s basketball team resulted in the Championship in a hard-fought 70-67 win at Utah State. Mercer’s victory secured the team’s spot in history as the Atlantic Sun Conference’s first team to capture a post-season crown. The 2011-2012 team rewrote several school records including wins (27), points scored and blocks. Mercer’s first basketball team to win a post-season non-conference win earned home victories over Tennessee State and Georgia State before hitting the road to finish the historic run with wins at Old Dominion and Fairfield before the electrifying championship battle at Utah State.

In April, the University lost a prominent alumna with the passing of Dr. Leila H. Denmark at the age of 114. She was the world’s oldest practicing pediatrician until her retirement in 2001 at the age of 103. At her death, she was the world’s fourth-oldest verified living person in the world.

A $1 million gift from Macon cardiologist Dr. Chuck Hawkins and his wife, Kathy, to benefit the Mercer basketball program was recognized later that month with the arena housed within the University Center renamed “Hawkins Arena.” 

The Board of Trustees authorized establishment of the Mercer University Health Sciences Center, a multi-campus academic health center encompassing the School of Medicine, College of Pharmacy and Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, as well as the creation in July 2013 of a new College of Health Professions. The Health Sciences Center will enroll more than 1,700 students, employ more than 400 full-time faculty and staff, and graduate more than 500 physicians, nurses and nurse educators, physician assistants, pharmacists, physical therapists, family therapists, public health professionals and biomedical scientists each year. Dr. Hewitt W. (Ted) Matthews, longtime dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, was named senior vice president for health sciences and will oversee the new Center


The first School of Medicine commencement on the Savannah Campus was held May 5 with 38 graduates earning their M.D. degrees.


The first five Stamps Leadership Scholars, funded by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, were announced. Mercer is one of only 25 universities in the country to participate in the program.

A $1 million grant from Macon’s Peyton Anderson Foundation was announced to fund an innovative newsroom in Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, a partnership involving the University’s Journalism and Media Studies Department, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting. The Telegraph’s editorial staff moved into the newly-named Peyton Anderson Newsroom.


The University dedicated the Emily Parker Myers Admissions and Welcome Center at the corner of Winship Street and Montpelier Drive. The building is named in honor of Myers, who was one of the longest serving administrators in University history, serving as senior vice president for university advancement and external affairs when she retired in 2008.

The Board of Trustees, at its November meeting, gave the green light for construction to begin on Cruz Plaza, to transform the appearance of the central part of the Macon Campus from the University Center to the Historic Quad and from the Greek Village past Tarver Library. Milton L. Cruz, his wife Aileen, father Juan L. Cruz Rosario and sister Zoraida Cruz Torres provided the lead gift for the project. An official groundbreaking was held Dec. 11, 2012.



One of Mercer’s most accomplished graduates, the man known by many as “Sambo,” died at the age of 90. Dr. Ferrol A. Sams. Jr. penned eight books, including a trilogy of works featuring Porter Osborne Jr., a character largely based on Dr. Sams’ own boyhood in Fayette County. Generations of Mercerians have been inspired by the accounts of his exploits while at Mercer in The Whisper of the River.


Mercer earned the highest recognition for community engagement when it was name to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction. Mercer was one of only 113 higher education institutions – and one of only two in Georgia – named to the President’s Honor Roll with Distinction.


A "groundbreaking" ceremony was held at the historic Beall House, on College Street in Macon, now the home of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Woodruff Foundation. For many years, the house has had significant historic value as the location where the Allman Brothers once shot a famous album cover. The McDuffie Center's growth and development created the need for a separate facility to house the program.

A $425,000 grant from ArtPlace America will support Mercer’s effort to revitalize the former Tattnall Square Presbyterian Church into the Tattnall Square Center for the Arts. The Center will serve as a community theatre and arts venue, as well as home to the University’s Theatre Department..

The University announced the acceptance of an invitation to join the Southern Conference, affiliating Mercer Athletics with the nation’s fifth-oldest NCAA Division I athletic association. Mercer, who will officially join the SoCon on July 1, 2014, will be aligned with Samford University, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Western Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, Virginia Military Institute, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Wofford College and The Citadel.


More than 12,000 fans overflowed the Mercer Football Stadium on Aug. 31 to watch the Bears field their first football team in more than 70 years. Mercer would proceed to break the NCAA record for most wins ever by a start-up program, sporting a 10-2 record and finishing unbeaten at home with an unblemished 8-0 campaign.

Mercer Medicine officially opened its new Sports Medicine Clinic inside Drake Field House. The Sports Medicine Clinic offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment of non-surgical, sports-related injuries and conditions to athletes and physically active persons of all ages, including pediatric and adolescent patients.


Former U.S. Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young kicked off Mercer’s yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the institution’s integration during a convocation in Willingham Auditorium.


Mercer, Brandenburg Productions and Georgia Public Broadcasting teamed up to produce “A Grand Mercer Christmas,” a one-hour long television special that aired on PBS stations across the nation during the holiday season.



Former President Jimmy Carter, who serves on the Mercer University Board of Trustees, recorded a series of short videos that highlight some of the institution’s major distinctions. Carter is believed to be the first former U.S. president in modern times to serve on a university governing board.

The men's basketball team turned the attention of the entire country - and beyond - to the University when the 14th-seeded Bears topped the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils, the winningest program in NCAA Tournament play, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in NCAA history. The 78-71 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21 led to an unprecedented amount of exposure for the University as national and international media played and replayed the highlights of the victory.


The College of Continuing and Professional Studies, established in 2003 and whose roots date back to Tift College’s merger with Mercer in the late 1980s, is renamed Penfield College of Mercer University. The Board of Trustees authorized the name change to better reflect the breadth of its academic offerings – which range from certificate programs to a Ph.D. program –and its emerging status as a national leader in meeting the educational needs of adult learners from all walks of life.

Mercer acquired the license to WRWR-LD, a Warner Robins-based television station that was donated to the University by State Sen. Cecil P. Staton and Macon neurosurgeon Dr. Joe Sam Robinson. The station’s call letters were changed to WMUB and will be integrated with Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.


On the strength of its growing research profile, Mercer was admitted as a member of the Georgia Research Alliance, whose mission is to expand research and commercialization capacity in Georgia's universities to launch new companies, create high-value jobs and transform lives. Mercer became the first Georgia institution south of the Interstate 20 corridor to join GRA. Its other members include the University of Georgia, Georgia Regents University, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Morehouse School of Medicine and Georgia State University.Mercer broke ground on an $18 million expansion of School of Medicine (MUSM) facilities on its Savannah campus at Memorial University Medical Center. This endeavor will include renovation of the William and Iffath Hoskins Center for Biomedical Research as well as construction of an addition to the Hoskins Center to serve as a medical education and research facility for the University.

Mercer kicked off Homecoming festivities with the dedication of the M. Diane Owens Garden, named to honor the Mercer alumna, trustee and former board chair. The garden is part of a project that was designed to enhance the south campus between Stadium Drive and Claude Smith Field. Previously a detention pond, the garden is now both a more environmentally friendly solution to filter runoff and a more aesthetically pleasing gathering place.


President William D. Underwood used the opening night of Homecoming weekend to announce a $400 million capital campaign for the University. "Aspire, The Campaign for Mercer University, seeks to provide financial resources that will empower Mercer, already emerging among the Southeast's elite private research universities, to become an international leader in applying its intellectual capital to better serve the needs of humankind," President Underwood told more than 1,000 alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends assembled in Cruz Plaza Friday night.



Mercer's two-year-old, 10,000-seat stadium, home of Mercer Bears football and lacrosse, was renamed Five Star Stadium in recognition of a multi-million dollar commitment, the largest-ever for Mercer athletics and one of the largest in the University's history. The financial commitment came from Five Star Automotive Group, owned by Charlie Cantrell and Dick Pope.


A large multi-million dollar commitment from a Macon resident and devoted friend of the University established the Jo Phelps Fabian Center for Musical Excellence in Mercer University's Townsend School of Music. The commitment by Fabian is the largest ever, along with the gift that founded the School of Music, to support the arts at Mercer.


Mercer Theatre's first performance in the newly completed Tattnall Square Center for the Arts featured William Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Tattnall Square Center for the Arts, formerly the Tattnall Square Presbyterian Church, was extensively renovated to serve as the new home of Mercer's theatre department as well as a community performing arts center in the heart of the College Hill Corridor.


Mercer student and reigning Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell was crowned Miss America in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Cantrell, a native of Warner Robins, was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in voice in Mercer’s Townsend School of Music before putting her studies on hold to focus on the Miss Georgia pageant..


The nation’s most prestigious academic honor society – Phi Beta Kappa – approved the granting of a chapter to Mercer during the organization’s 44th Triennial Council in Denver. Mercer becomes just the third Georgia research university – joining Emory and the University of Georgia – and one of only 286 nationally to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.


President Underwood announced establishment of a new center designed to advance a culture of innovation and develop a thriving community of entrepreneurs, with a focus on utilizing technology to foster economic growth, create 21st century jobs and attract and retain talent. The Mercer Innovation Center will provide physical space, programming, technology resources and tools, and access to talent that will help people with good ideas turn them into commercially successful businesses that create 21st century jobs for Middle Georgia. Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said that the Mercer Innovation Center can be "an economic engine not just for Middle Georgia, but for the entire state of Georgia."



Mercer debuted in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s national universities rankings, joining Emory, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia as the only institutions in the state to be included in the annual ranking’s top 150. Mercer’s No. 135 ranking places the institution among the top 75 private universities in the country. Additionally, Mercer is ranked by the magazine as the No. 24 best value among the 310 national universities, coming in one spot ahead of the University of Notre Dame. Mercer and Emory are the only two Georgia institutions ranked among the top 50 best values in this category. For the previous 17 years, the University had been featured in the publication as a top 10 regional university in the South. A near doubling in research expenditures and a significant increase in the number of doctoral programs over the past decade resulted in Mercer being reclassified in 2015 as a “doctoral university with moderate research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


Mercer was one of the most decorated institutions in the nation on the recently released 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Mercer was named one of only four finalists nationally for the Presidential Award in one category and received Honor Roll with Distinction in two others. The Honor Roll, compiled by the Corporation for National and Community Service, recognizes higher education institutions whose community service achieves meaningful impact in their communities. It is the highest federal recognition that colleges and universities can receive for service-learning and community service.



The School of Medicine recognized the first 25 students to receive inaugural Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarships, which cover 85 to 100 percent of tuition for up to four years in the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program. The University funded the scholarship program with the entirety of a one-time infusion of $35 million from the state of Georgia as a result of a settlement agreement offer from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February 2016. President William D. Underwood announced that current and future recipients of the scholarship will be called Nathan Deal Scholars in recognition of Georgia's 82nd governor who is a graduate of both the University's College of Liberal Arts and School of Law.


Mercer was been named a participating institution for the Churchill Scholarship, a prestigious and highly selective award for American students to engage in a year of master's-level study in science, mathematics and engineering at the University of Cambridge. Mercer joins Emory, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia as the only institutions in the state to participate in the scholarship program, and is the only participating institution in the Southern Conference.



The first day of class in the Spearman C. Godsey Science Center was Jan. 8, the first day of spring semester. The largest academic facility project in the University’s history in terms of cost at $44 million and size at 143,410 square feet is named in honor of Mercer Chancellor Dr. R. Kirby Godsey’s father and in recognition of Dr. Godsey’s multi-million dollar naming gift. The Godsey Science Center includes 60 teaching and research labs, three medium classrooms, four small classrooms and 46 offices.