MACON, Ga. – The annual observance of Mercer University's Founders' Day next month will tie into the University's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its integration. A campuswide convocation, sponsored by the Student Government Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 10 a.m., in Willingham Auditorium, will feature an address by noted alumnus Bob Hurt. The title of his Founders' Day speech is “Desegregation: The Campus Radicals Who Saved Mercer's Soul.”
Hurt, a 1965 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who earned his B.A. in history, was editor of The Cluster, the campus newspaper, during the 1963-64 academic year, when the University enrolled its first black students.
“Founders' Day is one of those special annual events during which our university brings back a notable alum and provides students with a glimpse of Mercer's past,” said Sophomore Senator Victoria Conley, from Savannah, chair of SGA's Heritage Life Committee. “In my eyes, Founders' Day is a day of discovery: a day to find and realize the significance of Mercer, a day to experience Mercer through another's eyes, and a day to unite students.
“In order to continue this year's celebration of Mercer's integration, the Heritage Life Committee brought back someone who had attended Mercer during that time. We are beyond excited to have Bob Hurt enlighten us all with his reflections, and truly look forward to hearing his many stories on Founders' Day.”
Hurt now serves as principal of the Washington, D.C., government marketing and lobbying firm Hurt, Norton and Associates Inc., following a 24-year career as a congressional staff assistant, including stints as chief of staff to U.S. Reps. Bo Ginn and Lindsay Thomas and U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.
He worked on The Cluster all four years at Mercer, and spent his final two summers at the University as an intern for the Atlanta Constitution. Upon his graduation, Hurt was hired as a reporter by the newspaper.
Having been commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army through the University's ROTC, Hurt's journalism career was interrupted when he was called to serve active duty for two years in Vietnam as an Army Infantry and Military Intelligence Officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and with the 5th Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets.
Hurt returned to Atlanta, where he covered various beats for the Constitution, before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1970 as a correspondent for the newspaper.
In February, he comes back to Mercer to speak at Founders' Day, an annual celebration that honors the University's early pioneers and offers an opportunity for reflection upon Mercer's rich traditions and history. This year, such reflection places special emphasis upon the University's integration, a half-century after Cecil Dewberry and Bennie Stephens, of Macon, and Sam Oni, of Ghana, became the first black students to enroll.
A planning committee, co-chaired by Senior Vice Provost for Administration and Special Programs Marilyn Mindingall and Senior Vice President for the Atlanta Campus Richard Swindle, has organized a number of events, forums, readings and symposia throughout the 2013-14 academic year under the theme “Looking Back & Moving Forward: Celebrating a Half-Century of Integration at Mercer University.”
More information about the yearlong commemoration is available at 50th.mercer.edu, including a detailed timeline of key events in Mercer's integration, educational resources, videos, photos and a comprehensive listing of events.