Georgia College and State University
Georgia College and State University, Georgia's public liberal arts university, in Milledgeville was created by an act of the legislature on November 8, 1889. Georgia Normal and Industrial College, the institution's original name, was founded to provide a practical higher education for women that would enable them to enter business and industry or teaching.
The principal catalyst behind this "New South" educational experiment was a young journalist at the Augusta Chronicle named Julia Flisch.
Georgia Normal and Industrial College was given the Old Governor's Mansion as a dormitory and presidential residence as well as a sixteen-acre square filled with rubble
In 1905 Chappell was succeeded as president by the energetic and charismatic Marvin M. Parks. The Neoclassical appearance of the campus took shape during Parks's twenty-one-year tenure, and
On January 1, 1932, GSCW became part of the University System of Georgia, and two years later Guy H. Wells, a stout, nervously energetic, rather rustic native of Carroll County, assumed the presidency. Whatever his cultural deficiencies, Wells was a gifted administrator, and despite depression-era shoestring budgets, the college flourished under his guidance, with enrollment peaking at 1,500 in 1938. Wells encouraged student participation in governance decisions and, together with Dean Ethel Adams, created enduring traditions at GSCW. The most cherished of these was the Golden Slipper, a competition between classes to produce the best skits and dances, which soon came to symbolize the sisterhood of the Jessies (the name for GSCW students).
The campus was transformed during World War II (1941-45) when, through the efforts of Congressman Carl Vinson, a Milledgeville resident, the college became a training center for the Navy WAVES. From 1943 to 1945, 15,000 WAVES passed through GSCW. The regular students felt a bit crowded, and their occasional resentment was expressed in cartoons drawn for the college newspaper and yearbook by Flannery O'Connor. O'Connor, who graduated from GSCW in 1945, went on to become a major American writer and remains the college's most distinguished graduate.
Enrollment declined precipitously in the postwar years, reaching a low of 585 students in 1953. Many young women considered the very concept of a woman's college confining and rather old-fashioned.
During the presidency of Bunting's successor, Edwin G. Speir (1981-96), Georgia College began positioning itself for regional university status. Then, in 1995, the college's mission changed abruptly. The new chancellor of the university system, Stephen R. Portch, impressed with the college's high admission standards and its handsome red-brick buildings and white Corinthian columns, suggested that the college might become the public liberal arts college of Georgia, a state institution that would provide the kind of educational experience normally available only at private colleges. Speir readily embraced the new mission in 1996. In that year of dramatic change Georgia College, which had served as a regional college for thirty years, now began recruiting students from all over the state—by 2003, 75 percent of students came from outside central Georgia—and began recovering its liberal arts heritage. In addition, because of a new statewide Board of Regents policy, the college adopted its sixth name, Georgia College and State University. This radical shift in direction was presided over first by Speir and his successor, acting president Ralph W. Hemphill (1997) and then by the institution's first female president, Rosemary DePaolo.
Beginning with her arrival in August 1997, DePaolo, whose energy and drive was comparable to that of Parks, worked to effect an intellectual and demographic transformation at Georgia College and State University. By 2002 she presided over a university with approximately 5,500 students, 700 faculty and staff, and a budget of $60 million. From 2001 to 2003, sixty-eight new faculty members were hired, the library building was tripled in size, eight new residence halls were under construction, and the university was accepted into membership in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. The graduate program, which numbers more than 1,050 students, includes a master's degree in music therapy and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. DePaolo resigned in 2003, and interim president David G. Brown took over July 1, 2003. President Dorothy Leland began her position on January 1, 2004.
William Ivy Hair, with James C. Bonner and Edward B. Dawson, A History of Georgia College (Milledgeville: Georgia College, 1979).
Robin O. Harris, "'To Illustrate the Genius of Southern Womanhood': Julia Flisch and Her Campaign for the Higher Education of Georgia Women," Georgia Historical Quarterly 80 (fall 1996).
Robert C. McMath Jr., et al., Engineering the New South: Georgia Tech, 1885-1985 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985).
Robert J. Wilson III, Georgia College and State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.