Dr. Cathryn Futral served Tift College and Mercer University for nearly 50 years, working through the merger of the Georgia Baptist women’s college with the University. Although she served both institutions in various capacities, her heart always belonged to teaching. Here’s how she became a Mercer Legend.

Dr. Cathryn Futral

Mercer connection: Tift College alumna and professor of nearly 50 years

Years at Mercer: Graduated from Tift College in 1949; served as faculty and staff at Tift College and Mercer University from 1953-2000; currently professor emerita

What she did: After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Tift College in 1949, Dr. Futral went on to earn her Master of Religious Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1951. Two years later, she joined the Tift College faculty, serving as an assistant professor of religion, an associate professor of English, dean of continuing education, and vice president for advancement until 1986. That year, Tift merged with Mercer, and Dr. Futral first served the University as a professor of English. She was appointed associate dean of the newly formed College of Education in 1995. In 1997, she returned to the classroom to do what she loved most — teaching students as a professor of English. She retired in 2000 and now is professor emerita. Dr. Futral earned her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1962 and 1980, respectively.

a smiling woman seated at a table holds the hand of a woman standing
Dr. Cathryn Futral mingles with other Tift College alumni at the Tift College Alumnae Association brunch on Oct. 8, 2022. Photo by Leah Yetter

Why she’s a legend: Dr. Futral was known for her commitment to teaching, passion for Shakespeare, and deep-rooted love for Tift College and Mercer. She first developed her love for the English playwright at Tift, and after earning her Ph.D. in Shakespeare’s works, she became the college’s resident expert.

The 1965 Chiaroscuro, the Tift College yearbook, was dedicated to Dr. Cathryn Futral. Photo courtesy Mercer Archives

Beloved by students, the 1965 Chiaroscuro — the Tift College yearbook — was dedicated to her. It noted her ability to find something praiseworthy in term papers that were graded and returned to students “bleeding and mutilated,” as well as other “never-to-be-forgotten” moments in the classroom. At her retirement ceremony, colleagues recalled her “infectious laughter” and “willingness to do whatever needed to be done.” Dr. Futral was the 1983 recipient of the Tift College Alumnae Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award. Just prior to her retirement in 2000, a former student endowed the Cathryn Futral Shakespeare Scholarship, which benefits Tift College of Education students.

Finally, Dr. Futral was integral in the creation and continuation of the Tift College Alumnae Association and Tift Scholars Program, through which she continues to impact generations today.

Quotable: “Dr. Futral is that rare individual who with every encounter elevates our confidence in ourselves to accomplish great things, elevates our sense of belongingness in fractured world, and elevates our expectations for discovering beauty through language, excellence and friendship. She teaches us to respectfully honor the past, stride purposefully into the future, and tenaciously be in the present moment. Dr. Futral continues to be the single point of connection for Tift women; she is our Tift College bridge, connecting alumnae across generations, geographies and dreams, holding us together with friendship and love.” — Cathy Callaway Adams, Tift College graduate and Mercer University trustee 

Mercer Legends is a series that highlights iconic figures who left a lasting impact on the University and its faculty, staff and students, as well as the community.


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