Young Harris College
Methodist circuit minister Artemus Lester gave the school its start in 1886 and named it after a benefactor, Judge Young L. G. Harris of Athens. Then, as now, the college adheres to Methodism's educational principles of putting beliefs into action. As former Young Harris president W. Stephen Gunter says, "There is no separation between faith and works."
Young Harris's student body was and is largely drawn from the small towns surrounding the school. As in its beginning, many students are the first generation of their families to attend college. The faculty and administration pride themselves on providing individual attention to students and often note that "the average student" blossoms—socially and academically—at Young Harris. Planning for where students will complete their degrees begins at enrollment, and the small college boasts a number of Ivy League alumni among its "persisters," as Gunter calls them.
Two presidents served short terms during Sharp's absence: George L. King (1916-17) and John L. Hall (1917-22). Sharp resumed his duties as president upon his return to Young Harris in 1922 and served until his death in 1930. His wife, Ella Standard Sharp, assumed the position for the rest of that school year. T. Jack Lance (father of Bert Lance) served from 1930 until 1942, when J. Worth Sharp, the son of Joseph and Ella Sharp, began a five-year tenure. The presidents that followed served relatively short terms: Walter L. Downs (1947-50), Charles R. Clegg (1950-63), Robert P. Andress (1963-64), Raymond A. Cook (1964-66), and Douglas Reid Sasser (1966-71). In 1971 Ray Farley began a twenty-year stint as president, the longest since the death of Joseph Sharp in 1930. Farley was followed by Thomas S. Yow III (1991-2003), Clay Dotson (2003-4), and W. Stephen Gunter (2004-6). In 2006 John Wilson Wells served as interim president, and in March 2007 former Georgia secretary of state Cathy Cox became president.
Athletic endeavors are popular, with a large percentage of students playing a variety of sports. National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) teams include baseball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, and tennis, in addition to intramural leagues. One former Young Harris student, baseball-player Nick Markakis, was a first-round draft choice who signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 2003, later winning the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award. The women's soccer team placed third in the NJCAA's national tournament in 2005. Fine arts performances
Former aviation commissioner George Berry, who graduated from Young Harris in 1957, says that "it was natural to think about public service" as a career in the school's atmosphere of retreat and spiritual focus. Many of Berry's classmates became ministers, but Young Harris has also produced many other career public servants, including Georgia governor Zell Miller. In all, Young Harris counts among its alumni two governors, a U.S. senator, several congressmen, mayors, and a host of state legislators. The college has also turned out a number of notable performing artists, including silent movie actor Oliver Hardy, television actress Amanda Bearse, and country music artists Ronnie Milsap and Trisha Yearwood.
Krista Reese, Decatur
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