Here’s a few facts and bits of trivia you may not know about Mercer for #MUhomecoming:
Mercer Institute, as it was first named, opened in 1833 under the auspices of Georgia Baptists with 39 students. The school was launched as manual labor school for young men and to provide an education grounded in the doctrine of the Baptist Church.
Mercer was the only college in Georgia to remain in session during the Civil War. After the Civil War ended, Mercer was the only university in or out of the South to award General Robert E. Lee an honorary degree. He was granted a Doctor of Laws diploma.
In 1939, a group of ministerial students known as the “Mercer 13” charged four professors and a student laboratory assistant with heresy over the teaching of the Theory of Evolution and its principles. One of the accusing students was John M. Birch, who went on to become a missionary, a spy during WWII, a decorated war hero, and a vocal opponent of communism.
The somewhat infamous "John Birch Society" was founded in the Mercer alum’s honor after his death by those who considered him a “martyr” and the first casualty of the cold war.
The Golden Girls might never have existed without Mercer. Barry P. Fanaro, class of 1975, went on to become a Hollywood screenwriter with credits that include Men in Black II, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and The Golden Girls.
The co-author of the G.I. Bill, Rufus Carrollton Harris, graduated from Mercer in 1917. He also went on to become dean of Mercer Law School and its president from 1960 to 1979.
Graduate George P. Oslin, class of 1920 invented the singing telegram.
Graduate Corbett H. Thigpen, class of 1946, discovered "Eve," the subject of his book (and later a movie), The Three Faces of Eve. It was the true story about a woman with multiple personalities.
Bill Yoast, the high school football coach played by Will Patton in the film Remember the Titans, graduated from Mercer in 1949.
It’s tradition for the freshmen class to begin their academic career by walking across campus led by a bagpipe player as faculty members line up on either side of their pathway. The students proceed past the statue of Jesse Mercer and into Willingham Auditorium for Convocation. For good luck, Mercer freshmen rub Jesse's head as they file past the statue.
Mercer graduate and author Ferrol Sams wrote, among other books, The Whisper of the River. The novel’s hero, college student Porter Osborne, is largely based on Sams himself and the fictional Willingham University mirrors Mercer.
Homecoming moved to the fall semester in 2008. It had previously been held in the spring.
Until 1924, Mercer’s nickname was “The Baptists.” The student body voted to change Mercer’s mascot to The Bears. #BringTheRoar
The “Bears” reference became a legend during the first football game played between Mercer and Georgia in 1892. After spotting an impressive Mercer lineman charging down the field, a spectator in the crowd was heard to remark, “Whence cometh that bear?” #BearDownMU
In a 1949 contest sponsored by the campus newspaper, students voted to give the bear mascot a name: Toby. His girlfriend was dubbed “Tot.”
Adding to the Bear mystique, professional artists were commissioned to create a Bear Trail of colorful painted and mosaic fiberglass bears. The Trail denotes an exercise and wellness campaign for the community. The bears reflect distinct Macon “themes” and cultural landmarks. They include Tattnall Park Bear, Symphony Bear, Stamp Bear, Music Bear, Ocmulgee Bear, and Missippian Bear.
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I'm Stacey, and Macon has been my home for a few years now. As a writer and former editor, it's fun to use my professional skills to personally promote what I believe is one of Georgia's greatest undiscovered jewels. Maybe it's because I'm new to scene, or maybe my background enables me to spot a pearl in the oyster, but I promise you, Macon has everything you need to live your very best life. (In partnership with Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitor Bureau, all editorial content and opinions are my own.)