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The History of Georgia College

Georgia College was founded in 1889 as Georgia Normal & Industrial College (GN&IC) and the first president was Dr. J. Harris Chappell. The early mission of the college was to provide an education for women in Georgia so they could earn money to support themselves. The college trained women in dressmaking, cooking, stenography, typewriting, telegraphy, bookkeeping and industrial drawing. The college was also a teaching school for women. In order to supplement teacher education, the college opened Peabody Model School in 1891. The college, in its earliest years, was in line with similar women's colleges across the country in that it valued a strong honor code, strict rules and a conservative dress code.
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The Main Building was the
first building on campus.
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Winter Uniform 1908
Dr. Marvin Parks (doc) began serving as the college's second president in 1905 when President Chappell fell ill. Student activities expanded under the Parks presidency. The newspaper, the Colonnade; the yearbook, the Spectrum; and the literary magazine, the Corinthian, all began publishing in the Parks' years. Parks also strengthened academics by offering degrees for graduates in 1917, and by granting four-year degrees in 1922. Along with these changes, the college changed its name for the first time from Georgia Normal & Industrial College to Georgia State College for Women (GSCW).

In 1924 the college began to experience circumstances that might have closed a school with less devoted students and community members. The first tragedy struck the community in December of 1924 when the Main Building on campus burned to the ground. Dr. Parks, the community and devoted alumni pulled together to rebuild the campus physically and spiritually. Due in large part to the efforts of President Parks, the college successfully recovered from the fire and was rejuvenated despite the tragedy. Another startling blow came to the campus in December 1926 when President Parks was struck by a car while attending a convention in Florida. After Parks' death, Dr. Jasper Luther Beeson (doc) was named acting president. While the college attempted to hire another president, the search eventually ended with Dr. Beeson, who was officially named president in July 1928.

 

In 1932 the college became part of the University System of Georgia. While the Great Depression was difficult for the college, Dr. Beeson was able to secure funds for several buildings on campus including Parks Memorial Hospital, Bell Hall, and the Ina Dillard Russell Library. While Dr. Beeson successfully guided the college through difficult financial times, he was forced to leave in 1934 after being involved in what was deemed to be a conflict of interest with the construction of the new library and a business Beeson owned. There was, however, never any evidence of wrong-doing.

Guy Herbert Wells (doc) was quickly named the new president of the school and served the college for nineteen years. Enrollment continued to grow during Wells' early years as president. Living space on campus became cramped, and the campus began to fall in to disrepair due to lack of funds for improvement. In order to provide the college with more money during these lean times, Wells invited the WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service) to use a portion of the campus for their training between 1943-1945. The money GSCW secured during the WAVES' stay allowed the campus to conduct much-needed repairs. Also, with assistance from the PWA (Public Works Administration) the college was able to fund the building of Beeson Hall and Sanford Hall. The PWA also financed the construction of the Health and Physical Education Building, Peabody Laboratory School building, and Porter Hall.

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Front Campus
During World War II, enrollment at the college began to decline, and GSCW was hit with bad publicity when the Board of Regents discovered Wells had invited three African Americans to attend a University System meeting on the GSCW campus. Amid controversy, Wells resigned as president in 1953.

Henry King Stanford (doc) was named president that same year and served for the relatively short time of three years. Stanford inherited a college suffering from low enrollment and a campus that was physically falling into disrepair. Stanford, during his short tenure, managed to raise morale and stop the declining enrollment before he resigned as president in 1956.

Dr. Robert E. "Buzz" Lee (doc) was named GSCW President after Stanford's departure. While Stanford had stopped the falling enrollment, Lee continued to fight to increase enrollment. In order to attract more students, the college began its first graduate program in 1959 when the Masters in Education was offered to students. In 1961 GSCW's name was official changed to The Woman's College of Georgia as part of Lee's belief that the college should emphasize women and remain an all women's school. Under Lee's presidency, the dilapidated Chappell Hall was demolished to make room for the "New Chappell Hall." The campus also received two new dorms under Lee's presidency, Wells and Adams Halls. Lee and his wife also worked during his administration to remodel the Old Governor's Mansion, which had been neglected for many years. The first African-American student also entered WCG in 1964 with little controversy.

After Lee's tireless battle to keep WCG an all women's college, the new University System Chancellor announced that the college would begin admitting male students in the fall of 1967. In order to reflect the new mission of the college the name was changed yet again, to Georgia College at Milledgeville. In July of that same year Lee submitted his resignation.

The admission of men initiated more changes than just coeducational learning. The college quickly began to change from a strictly residential campus serving all of Georgia, to a campus that served residence living in Baldwin County and the Middle Georgia region. In order to expand services to people living in Middle Georgia, Georgia College opened satellite campuses in Warner Robins, Macon, and Dublin. The college also began offering more masters degrees in the fields of business administration, history, management, public administration, home economics, social administration, psychology and biology. In 1971 the college endured another name change, when the name was shortened to Georgia College.

After Lee's departure, Dr. J. Whitney Bunting was named president of college in 1968 and the college enrollment, with the admission of men, began to grow to its pre-Depression heights. With the growth in enrollment, the Board of Regents began to fund more projects on the Milledgeville campus. The library was renovated and Napier Hall was built. Bunting was also able to secure money from the Board of Regents to build a new student union on the front campus. Under Bunting's presidency, athletics were expanded and development of West Campus began.

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Georgia College Cheerleaders
Due to Bunting's failing health, the college began a search for a new president and hired Edwin Speir in 1981. During Speir's presidency the enrollment on the main campus and the satellite campuses in Middle Georgia continued to grow.

During the 1980's the campus revised and revitalized many degree programs and started the Department of Nursing, which opened in 1987. In conjunction with the new and improved courses, Atkinson Hall received much needed renovation; Porter Hall was remodeled; and the Arts & Science building and the Centennial Center were constructed.

Despite the thriving atmosphere of the 1980's, commuting students and low entrance standards set for students were a dramatic change from the college's former years when students were required to stay on campus, wear uniforms, and participate in collegiate events. In 1996 the Board of Regent's offered Georgia College the chance to return to its former mission and the standards it once claimed for its students. The Board of Regents gave Georgia College the statewide mission of becoming a liberal arts university providing a high standard of education for Georgia College students. The new mission required a new president and a new name. Dr. Rosemary DePaolo became the university's first woman president in 1997 and worked systematically to turn the newly named Georgia College & State University into Georgia's premier public liberal arts university until her departure in June 2003.

 

Following Dr. DePaolo's term, Dr. David G. Brown, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville and founder of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, was named the interim President of GC. He held that position from July 2003 until the following December. Dr. Dorothy Leland assumed presidency in January 2004, becoming the second woman President of the former all women's college.

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President Leland
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