MACON – Mercer Chancellor Dr. R. Kirby Godsey will deliver the University's 2016 Founders' Day address, titled “Looking Backward, Living Forward,” Feb. 3, 10 a.m., in Willingham Auditorium on the Macon campus.
Each year on Founders' Day, a prominent Mercerian returns to campus to share how the University has influenced his or her life. The Heritage Life Committee of the Student Government Association (SGA) coordinates the annual convocation, which first took place at Mercer in 1891.
“So much of what makes the Mercer experience great is because of the hard work and influence of Chancellor Godsey, who sought to challenge and expand our beloved institution,” said Bekah Fulton, a junior ethics major from Houston, Texas, who serves as chair of the Heritage Life Committee. “It is an honor to have him share with us what our school has meant for him. It is my hope that the student body will be inspired on Founders' Day to take advantage of the opportunities that surround them as well as learn from Chancellor Godsey's wisdom and experiences.”
Dr. Godsey served as Mercer's 17th president and CEO from July 1, 1979, until June 30, 2006, the longest presidential term in the University's history.
Under his leadership, Mercer grew to be among the largest Baptist-affiliated universities in the world and the only college or university of its size in the country to offer such diverse programs as liberal arts, business, education, engineering, pharmacy, law, theology, nursing, medicine and music.
At the time of his retirement as president, the University enrolled more than 7,300 students, employed more than 1,300 faculty and staff, and had an operating budget of more than $175 million.
In addition to the existing Walter F. George School of Law, the College of Liberal Arts and Southern School of Pharmacy, Dr. Godsey worked to establish the School of Medicine, Stetson School of Business and Economics, School of Engineering, Tift College of Education, James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, Townsend School of Music, Mercer University Press, the Executive Forum and Mercer Engineering Research Center (MERC), as well as lead the merger with Georgia Baptist College of Nursing. He also led the University to form partnerships with Piedmont Healthcare of Atlanta, Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center, Navicent Health, in Macon, as well as the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.
Prior to his presidency, Dr. Godsey served as executive vice president and was dean of the Mercer's College of Liberal Arts. He previously served as vice president and dean of Averett University in Virginia, was a Danforth Associate with the Danforth Foundation and served as professor of philosophy and religion at Judson College in Alabama.
He earned his bachelor's degree in history and religion from Samford University, his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, his Master of Arts in philosophy from the University of Alabama and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Tulane University. He holds honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from the University of South Carolina, Samford University and Campbell University, and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Averett University.
Dr. Godsey is the author of When We Talk About God, Let's Be Honest, The Courage Factor, Centering Our Souls and Is God a Christian? and has written numerous articles for professional journals. He is a frequent lecturer and a consultant on leadership and higher education administration and serves on a number of civic and professional boards and committees.
In April 2006, the University's Board of Trustees voted to name the historic administration building on the Macon campus as the R. Kirby Godsey Administration Building. At that same meeting, the Trustees named Dr. Godsey as chancellor and university professor.
In April 2014, Mercer President William D. Underwood announced that Dr. Godsey had made a $1.5 million gift to establish the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies in the School of Music in honor of his wife.
Dr. Godsey is a member of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon. He and Joan have four adult children, Raleigh, Hunter, Erica and Stephanie; and five grandchildren.