MACON, Ga. – Mercer University will commemorate the 50th anniversary of its integration with events, forums, readings, and symposia to be held throughout the 2013-14 academic year. Under the theme "Looking Back & Moving Forward: Celebrating a Half Century of Integration at Mercer University," the institution will kick off the commemoration on Sept. 20 with an opening convocation featuring a speech by Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta mayor.
The 3 p.m. convocation in Willingham Auditorium on the Macon campus will be simulcast to Mercer's Atlanta and Savannah campuses, as well as its regional academic centers, and will be streamed live on the Mercer website. The program will include a performance by the Mercer Singers and a video presentation featuring Mercer's integration trailblazers.
Ambassador Young, an ordained minister and former U.S. congressman, confronted segregation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and galvanized a movement that transformed a nation through nonviolence. Ambassador Young was a key strategist and negotiator during the civil rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Seating in Willingham Auditorium is limited, so complimentary tickets will be required for admission to the Sept. 20 convocation. Mercer students, faculty and staff may pick up tickets at the University Center Box Office on Monday, Sept. 16, and Tuesday, Sept. 17, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. One ticket will be issued per valid Mercer ID, and individuals may claim up to five tickets with five valid IDs. A limited number of tickets will be available each day. If tickets remain after the distribution to students, faculty and staff, they will be made available to the general public, as well as any students, faculty and staff who did not get tickets earlier in the week, on Wednesday, Sept. 18, and Thursday, Sept. 19. Faculty, staff and students on the Atlanta campus and in the Regional Academic Centers may reserve tickets through the Office of the Senior Vice President-Atlanta, (678) 547-6397.
A primary goal of the commemoration is to look at how Mercer's integration fit into a larger, national context. This year not only marks the anniversary of the University's integration, but also the anniversary of Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (April 16) and his "I Have a Dream" speech (Aug. 28), as well as the death of civil rights activist Medgar Evers (June 12) and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. (Sept. 15).
Mercer campuses will participate in an Aug. 28 commemoration of the "I Have a Dream" speech. The University, along with other organizations across the United States, will hold a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Bells will ring on the grounds of all campuses and regional academic centers.
Dr. Marilyn Mindingall, senior vice provost for administration and special programs, co-chairs the planning committee for the commemoration and said she hopes the events will inspire Mercer's student body, faculty and staff to reflect and remember.
"We are looking for an opportunity to reflect on our past, but I think we also have to keep in mind the importance of Mercer during the present," she said. "It would be a disservice to sit back and think we can pat ourselves on the back and not look at Mercer square in the eye in terms of race and differences among people – not just at Mercer but nationwide."
Dr. Richard Swindle, senior vice president for the Atlanta campus and the other planning committee co-chair, said the commemoration is first and foremost an educational opportunity. "One of the real focal points is students," he said. "We want to help them understand the institution, where they are, how it used to be, and how we're moving forward."
Other 50th anniversary planning committee members include:
- Dr. Donald E. Baxter, alumnus and former Mercer trustee
- Laura Botts, head of Mercer Special Collections
- Larry D. Brumley, Mercer senior vice president for marketing communications and chief of staff
- Dr. Michelle Currie, director of Mercer TRIO programs
- Mollie Davis, Mercer student
- Dr. John Dunaway, professor of foreign languages and literature, Mercer College of Liberal Arts
- Dr. Chester Fontenot, Baptist professor of English and director of African Studies, Mercer College of Liberal Arts
- Sarah Gerwig-Moore, associate professor, Walter F. George School of Law
- Dr. Allison Gilmore, associate dean and professor, Tift College of Education
- Dr. Anthony J. Harris, professor of educational leadership, Tift College of Education
- Dr. J. Colin Harris, professor emeritus of religious studies, Mercer College of Continuing and Professional Studies
- Brandon Harris-Williams, Mercer student
- Dr. Spencer B. King, alumnus and Mercer trustee
- Dr. Laurie Lankin, professor of counseling and human services, Mercer College of Continuing and Professional Studies
- Jaleel Menifee, Mercer student
- Eli Morgan, Mercer alumnus
- Sam Oni, Mercer alumnus
- Dr. Charles Roberts, associate professor of mathematics, Mercer College of Continuing and Professional Studies
- Dr. Andrew Silver, Page Morton Hunter Associate Professor of English, Mercer College of Liberal Arts
- Robert L. Steed, Mercer alumnus and Mercer life trustee
- Pearlie Toliver, Mercer alumna
- Tommy Day Wilcox, alumnus and former Mercer trustee
- Dr. Mary Wilder, professor emerita of English, Mercer College of Liberal Arts
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 12 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing, health professions, and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center, launched July 1, 2012, includes the University's medical, nursing, health sciences and pharmacy schools. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals – Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu