CLA Faculty Members Remember Their Experiences as Mercer Undergraduates


MACON, Ga. – Several CLA faculty members spent time on campus as under graduates. Learn about their experiences as students and what has changed since they graduated.

Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Thomas
Professor of Philosophy
CLA '89

After graduating from Mercer with a B.A. in philosophy, Dr. Thomas attended graduate school at Emory University where she earned her Master's and Ph.D. in philosophy. She returned to teach at Mercer in 1994.

Interviewer: What brought you back to Mercer?

Charlie Thomas: Like so many others, I fell in love with Mercer, was thoroughly transformed by my experiences as an undergraduate, and wanted nothing more than to come back and join the faculty. I'm just one of the very, very lucky few who was able to pull it off.  So, I had the stunningly good fortune to be mentored as a junior faculty member by the same folks who had mentored me as a student: Tom Trimble, Joe Hendricks, Ted Nordenhaug, Mike Cass, Diana Stege, and Peter Brown.

I: What has changed the most on Mercer's campus since you graduated?

CT:I loved the Mercer of the 80s, but I love today's Mercer even more. All of the commitments and interests we had back then are still a part of our work today, but we're more united in those efforts. There's more collaboration and ambition and support for each other's projects now than there was back then. Mercerians are doing more good things than ever and with more scope and intensity. I think we might be living in the good old days!  

I: What is one of your fondest memories of your time as a student at Mercer?

CT:I was a student at Mercer during troubled times, and because of my roles in campus life I had a front row seat to a lot of the drama. Because I was very close with some of my teachers, I got very involved in the controversies from the faculty perspective. I was news editor of “TheCluster,” so I attended CLA faculty meetings at a time when the faculty and dean and central administration were really unhappy with each other . . . until the dean told me I couldn't come back.  I think it had something to do with me putting her picture on the front page next to a headline about Mercer's financial woes.  She was right, actually. It was a terrible layout decision, and I screwed it up completely! I also sat on Judicial Council, so I knew a lot about what was going on with the student body (that shouldn't have been going on). But, as cliché as it might sound, the difficult situations pulled folks together in a lovely and intense way.I'm not sorry I lived through those interesting times.

Dr. Garland Crawford
CLA '97
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

After graduating from Mercer, Dr. Crawford was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the ROTC department. He worked in the Army at Ft. Lewis, WA, for two months; Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, for six months; and several stations in Germany over the course of three years. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 2007 and returned to Mercer in 2011.

Interviewer: What would you say to your classmates to encourage them to return to campus for a visit?

Garland Crawford: The campus has undergone several major improvements since we left. Anytime I talk to alumni, I encourage them to take time to come out and just walk around the campus.

I:What has changed the most on campus since you graduated?

GC:The physical campus itself: the UC, the Greek Village, the Lofts, Cruz Plaza, the football stadium, the SEB building, the renovation of the old Stetson library to the business school, Mercer Hall. The campus looks much better than when I was here. And while there has been a large turnover in the faculty, they are as caring and as wonderful as when I was here.

I:What is one of your fondest memories of your time as a student at Mercer?

GC:I enjoyed my time as the student coordinator for new student orientation. I worked in the student development office for a summer with some wonderful faculty and staff members, I got to know many of the incoming students and their parents, and I had the privilege of working with a large and diverse group of upper-class students as Orientation Assistants.

Scot Mann
Assistant Professor of Communication and Theater Arts
CLA '91

After graduating from Mercer in 1991, Scot Mann worked professionally as an actor, fight director and stunt player in the entertainment industry for about 12 years before taking his first full-time teaching position at the University of Southern Mississippi. He returned to Mercer in 2006.

Interviewer: What brought you back to Mercer?

Scot Mann: Professor Paul Oppy was my mentor throughout my career. I was often back here visiting him or working as a guest artist in the theatre. Mercer Theatre has always meant a great deal to me, and I owe the professional career I have to what I learned there. I had a strong desire to return and keep that tradition going, to give back to a place that was very good to me.

I:What is one of your fondest memories of your time as a student at Mercer?

SM: Mercer Theatre's production of Macbeth in '91. Many of those folks in the cast and crew I still keep in touch with. It was a special time.

I: What has changed the most since you graduated?

SM: Of course, the addition of football and the Mercer Village are major changes that make Mercer feel like a traditional college campus, but I think the surrounding neighborhoods represent the most dramatic change. One didn't cross the street after dark when I was a student. Now, we stroll through the park at night walking our dogs and talking with our colleagues who are out for a stroll.

Eric O'Dell
Assistant Professor of Art
CLA '92

Eric O'Dell married his wife, Greta, after graduating from Mercer and moved to Tallahassee from their hometown of Panama City, Fla., so that he could begin his Master of Fine Arts degree at Florida State University. He returned to Mercer in 1994.

Interviewer: What brought you back to Mercer?

Eric O'Dell: Gary Blackburn, the sculpture professor and current department chair, was going on a sabbatical in '94, in the fall. He asked me to teach his 3-d Design course as an adjunct. My wife and I moved to Macon for that reason, and stayed.

I: What is one of your fondest memories of your time at Mercer?

EO: Easing across the quad around midnight to sneak into the administration building to surreptitiously climb the tower, which had been strategically infiltrated by my brother Brian and a couple other friends. This was before campus really knew of Whisper of the River, before anyone ever went there on purpose… before the stories of Porter Osborne were a mandatory read. In complete darkness, and darker still in the tower, pushing open a hatch, no guardrail, just the lights of all of Central Georgia, and the stars.

I: What would you say to your classmates to encourage them to return to campus for a visit?

EO: Simply to come see the place, but more importantly, your friends and professors. The facilities are great, but they are all a hill of beans compared to the folks we got to know.