George Connell had short but impactful term as University president | Mercer Legends

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portrait of a man
A portrait of Mercer University President George B. Connell. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

Alumnus George Boyce Connell served for six years as Mercer University‘s president before his death in 1959. Today, Mercerians may recognize his name as that which adorns the Connell Student Center. Here’s how he became a Mercer Legend.

George Boyce Connell

Mercer connection: Alumnus and former Mercer president.

Years at Mercer: Connell earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1924 and his Master of Arts in 1929. He served as vice president from 1946-1953 and president from 1953-1959.

What he did: As an undergraduate student at Mercer, Connell excelled on the debate team and played on the basketball team. Upon graduating, he became a teacher and administrator at schools in Barnesville and Waycross. He returned to his alma mater in 1946 as vice president, assuming the role of president, for which he was unanimously selected, in 1953.

In 1954, Connell received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Howard College in Birmingham, Alabama. Other honors included roles as the first president of the Georgia Foundation of Independent Colleges, vice president of the Southern Association of Baptist Colleges and Schools, secretary of the Southern Baptist Education Commission, vice president of the Association of Georgia Colleges, and president of the Macon Rotary Club.

Why he is a legend: Connell is among Mercer’s shortest-serving presidents, but his tenure was not without impact. The Macon campus saw many physical improvements while Connell was president, including a new student center, which was later named for the late president; two new academic buildings; a new annex to Mary Erin Porter Hall; renovation of Sherwood Hall; and renovation of an academic building. In addition, $1.5 million was added to the endowment fund during his tenure. Connell also raised salaries each year he was president and maintained positive relationships with alumni and the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Connell, who was known as a man of faith, was still serving as president 1959 when he died from a heart condition at the age of 54. He was buried in Penfield Cemetery, located at the site of Mercer’s founding.

connell student center facade
The Connell Student Center is named for Mercer University President George Boyce Connell. The building was constructed during his tenure. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

Quotable: “I believe in sound scholarship and solid piety. I want Mercer to be wedded to the denomination — not as another promotional agency of the Georgia Baptist Convention but as a Christian educational institution perceiving and pursuing the values basic in a Christian social order. To such a union and to such a program I shall dedicate all I am and have.” — George B. Connell, The Mercerian, October 1953

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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