President Named Top CEO


WASHINGTON, D.C., – District III of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) names Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey the recipient of the 2002 Chief Executive Leadership Award for extraordinary service and leadership in advancement and education.

“Among all of the powerful and influential leaders I have worked for and worked with, President Godsey is unmatched in his ability to articulate eloquently and passionately a fundamental vision for change and progress and then follow through on that vision,” said former U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, a 1948 Mercer Law School graduate, in his nomination of Dr. Godsey for the award. “He is a leader without peer in higher education.”

The Chief Executive Leadership Award recognizes CASE member institution chief executive officers for their outstanding efforts in promoting and supporting education. Winners are selected within CASE’s eight districts by a panel of judges based on the nominee’s ability to meet the following criteria: actively support advancement; create a vision and inspire others; establish a positive image for his or her institution, while leading it to higher levels of success; increase his or her institution’s stature in the community, and encourage innovation and risk-taking among employees.

“Dr. Godsey is recognized around the state for his leadership and his ability to position Mercer as a significant influence in Georgia’s economic and educational success,” said Gov. Roy Barnes, who wrote a letter in support of the nomination. “During his tenure, Mercer’s economic impact on the state has increased from $21.35 million to more than half a billion dollars. Additionally, the number of graduates working throughout the state grows yearly.”

In addition to economic growth, Dr. Godsey has presided over unprecedented growth in both the enrollment and endowment of the University. During his 23-year tenure, enrollment has increased from 3,800 to 7,300, making Mercer one of the largest Baptist universities in the world. The endowment has increased from $16.5 million to $226 million, placing Mercer among the top five percent of the nation’s 3,400 colleges and universities.

Dr. Godsey led the University to establish Mercer University Press and the Executive Forum business enrichment speaker series in 1979, the School of Medicine in 1982, the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics in 1984, the School of Engineering in 1985, Mercer Engineering Research Center in 1987, the School of Education in 1995 (renamed Tift College of Education in 2001) and the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology in 1996. In 2001, Georgia Baptist College of Nursing merged into Mercer under Dr. Godsey’s leadership.

“From the state Capitol, I watched some 20 years ago as Kirby recognized a need for doctors to treat the medically under served areas in Georgia,” said U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Zell Miller, who also offered support for the nomination. “The Mercer School of Medicine was created and, to this day, exists to fulfill that mission. Within that same concept of service to others, Kirby has provided visionary leadership as Mercer daily prepares doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, engineers, business leaders and nurses.”

In April 2001, Mercer University completed Phase I and Phase II of the Mercer 2000: Advancing the Vision Campaign, raising $208 million, an all-time record for the University. This campaign has allowed the University to implement a five-year, $100 million campus improvement program of new construction and of renovation of existing buildings on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses. The University is already positioned to begin Phase III of the Campaign, with a goal of raising $135 million and an emphasis on scholarships.

Dr. Godsey’s academic leadership is matched only by his track record of community leadership. He led the University in 1995 to sign an agreement with county government to manage the historic Grand Opera House in Macon, restoring the vitality and beauty to a vacant and deteriorating local landmark. In 1998 he established the Mercer Center for Community Development to revitalize historic Macon neighborhoods, and he has been instrumental in the creation of a private partnership of local business leaders called NewTown Macon with the express purpose of revitalizing Macon’s central business district and renewing downtown.

“Macon is fortunate to have Mercer University and Kirby Godsey to provide expertise and leadership in the community,” wrote Robert Hatcher, president of BB&T Georgia, chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Mercer’s Board of Trustees, in his support of the nomination. “Mercer now has an economic impact of more than half a billion dollars on the state, but Kirby Godsey’s impact cannot be measured in dollars and cents, nor can it be limited to a specific time. Macon’s future success will be attributed to visionary leaders like Kirby Godsey.”

A native of Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Godsey and his wife, Joan, have four children and five grandchildren.

“While narrowing our field of 29 remarkable candidates to just one recipient was a difficult process, Dr. Godsey’s extraordinary accomplishments in each of the five criteria for the award, coupled with his longevity in the position of CEO, made him this year’s compelling choice,” said Jan Pruitt Duvall, chair of CASE III and director of marketing communications at The University of Alabama.

Founded in 1833 in Penfield, Ga., Mercer is the only independent university of its size in the country to offer programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, pharmacy, law, theology and nursing. Mercer has been ranked among the leading colleges and universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report for 12 consecutive years.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., CASE is the largest nonprofit education association in terms of institutional membership, serving more than 38,000 advancement professionals on the staffs of member institutions and more than 23,500 professional members.