Mary Binns helped forge ‘permanent, lifelong’ connections | Mercer Legends

Mary Binns
Mary Binns in 1966. Mercer archives photo

When Mary Arnold Binns came to Mercer University as a student, it was just the beginning of what would become a lifelong devotion to her alma mater. Here’s why she is a Mercer Legend.

Mary Binns

Mercer connection: Mercer graduate and alumni relations director

Years at Mercer: Student, 1950-54; alumni relations director, 1971-83

What she did: Binns was born in Atlanta and lived there her entire life, except for her time on Mercer’s Macon campus for her undergraduate studies. With strong family ties to Mercer, she never planned to go anywhere but the University. Her father, attorney Carlton Binns, graduated from Mercer in 1919; her mother, Marie McLean Binns, was a former Mercer trustee; and her brother, John Binns, graduated in the class of 1957. 

As a Mercer student, Binns was active on campus and involved in The Mercer Cluster, Mary E. Porter Hall Executive Council, Future Teachers of America, Mercer Chapel Choir, Mercer Independent Co-ed Association, Baptist Student Union and Cardinal Key Leadership Sorority, among other organizations. She graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a Bachelor of Arts in 1954 and went on to earn a Master of Education at Emory University. She spent many years as an English teacher and administrator at Northside High School in Atlanta and concluded her career at Mercer. She became Mercer’s director of alumni affairs in 1971 and retired in 1983.

As an alumna, Binns was honored with the Alumni Association’s Meritorious Service Award and served as president of the alumni Teachers Chapter, vice president of the Mercer Alumni Association and a Mercer trustee. She helped with efforts to raise the profile of the University’s College of Pharmacy in Atlanta and was appointed to the President’s Council by Rufus Harris, Mercer’s 16th president. She also served on the executive committee for the Georgia Baptist Historical Society. She died in 2015 at age 82.

Mary Binns
Mary Binns in 1954. Cauldron photo

Why she’s a legend: Mercer had a huge impact on Binns as a student, and she remained loyal and dedicated to her alma mater throughout her life. When she took the reins as alumni affairs director, she came with an emphasis on “people-to-people” relationships and a desire to show Mercer graduates how their connection with the University could be a  “permanent, lifelong association,” according to the 1971 edition of The Mercerian. This philosophy guided her work as director and left a positive impact on those she encountered.

“The town as a whole meant much to me when I was a student,” Binns said in 1971. “Mercer’s greatest strength is the people who have gone out from this university and made such a tremendous contribution to society and to the life of the communities in which they have lived.”

After her death, her brother established the Mary Arnold Binns Scholarship at Mercer in her honor.

Quotable: “Mary Binns was deeply devoted to Mercer, and she would always call you by name with a gracious smile,” said Claude Smith, senior associate vice president and director of planned giving. “She was quite a character.”

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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