Mercer to dedicate Freedom Plaza and Kicklighter Hall during Homecoming 

a grassy field in front of a building.
Mercer University will dedicate Freedom Plaza and Kicklighter Hall at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

Mercer University will dedicate the new Freedom Plaza and celebrate the renaming of Penfield Annex during Homecoming Nov. 10-11 in Macon. 

The dedication ceremony is planned for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Freedom Plaza, adjacent to Penfield Hall. Penfield Annex, home to Mercer’s ROTC program, is being renamed Kicklighter Hall in recognition of University alumnus and retired Lt. Gen. Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter. 

An open house will take place at Kicklighter Hall following the dedication. 

Freedom Plaza is the new hardscape area in front of the newly named Kicklighter Hall. It will eventually connect the College Street project to Cruz Plaza. College Street is undergoing construction to transform it into a pedestrian-friendly, attractive green space.

The plaza also ties in with the bronze “Bill of Rights Eagle” statue in front of Tarver Library. Kicklighter facilitated the gift of the statue, which was sculpted by Greg Wyatt.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this very special dedication of Kicklighter Hall and Freedom Plaza, two remarkable additions to our campus that are a testament to our unwavering commitment to serving our students, our community, and those who serve our country,” Mercer Executive Vice President Dr. Penny L. Elkins said. “These places are where future leaders and scholars will continue to gather, to learn, to grow, and to be inspired not only by our Mercer values but also by the values that Gen. Kicklighter embodies.”

headshot of Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter
Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter

Kicklighter earned his bachelor’s degree from Mercer in 1955. He went on to have a career spanning more than 50 years in public service, first as an Army officer, and since his retirement, in positions in the Department of State, Department of Defense and Veterans Administration. 

His last Senate-approved appointment was inspector general of the Department of Defense. He retired from that office in 2008. In his 35-year Army career, he commanded units at every level from platoon through an Army Division to commander of U.S Army Pacific. 

Kicklighter has served as director of the George Mason University School of Law’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, as well as chairman of the board of directors of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and chairman of the board for Habitat for Humanity International. 

He is a recipient of the Presidential Citizen Medal, the Eisenhower Liberation Medal, the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, and a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. 

In addition to his Mercer degree, Kicklighter holds a master’s degree from George Washington University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. 

In 2011, Kicklighter received the Mercer University Distinguished Alumnus Award. He has served two terms on the Mercer Board of Trustees and serves as co-director of Mercer’s Center for Leadership and Ethics.

He is married to Betty Exley Kicklighter, a 1957 graduate of Mercer. They have three children and five grandchildren. Other Mercer alumni in the family include sons Claude Milton “Mickey” Kicklighter Jr., CLAS ’79 and Law ’82, and Richard Van Kicklighter, CLAS ’80, and granddaughters Addie Kicklighter Eckles, EGR ’18, and Kelsey Kicklighter Bartlett, CLAS ’15 and Law ’18.

The couple will be named Life Members of The President’s Club in 2024. 

Erin Lones contributed to this report.


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Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.