Gordon State College is a four-year state college in Barnesville, fifty-five miles south of Atlanta and thirty-five miles northwest of Macon. Part of the University System of Georgia, Gordon offers bachelor and associate degrees in specific areas, prepares students for transfer to other four-year institutions, and provides educational and cultural opportunities for the local community.

History

In 1852 the Barnesville Male and Female High School opened as a private school. In 1872 the name changed to Gordon Institute in honor of General John B. Gordon, and its scope was extended to the elementary grades. In 1875 Alice Wooten of Monroe County became Gordon Institute’s first graduate. Students, faculty, family, and friends attended the first commencement exercises, as did General Gordon, who commented that schools shouldn’t be named after living men.

John B. Gordon
John B. Gordon

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society.

Gordon has ties to both North Georgia College and State University and Woodward Academy in Atlanta through one individual—J. C. Woodward. An alumnus of North Georgia Agricultural College, Woodward was hired in 1890 to start the first military program at Gordon Institute. A few years later he started his own military school, Georgia Military Academy, now known as Woodward Academy. Gordon Institute cadets often went on to other colleges or to military academies like the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Cadets at Gordon Institute
Cadets at Gordon Institute

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Gordon Institute’s name officially changed to Gordon College in 1907. In 1916 the U.S. Department of War named Gordon College a junior military unit, and during World War I (1917-18), 450 Gordon alumni served, 160 of them as commissioned officers. Gordon suffered eighteen casualties during World War I.

In 1928 Gordon added the first two years of college to its program and five years later was named an honor military school. One advantage of this designation was that a cadet, after completing the course work of the junior college department, could enter the military with the rank of a commissioned officer. In 1933 the state of Georgia offered the former Georgia Industrial College campus to Gordon College. The high school and junior college departments moved to the new campus, while the elementary school moved into the former high school building. Gordon College was unofficially known as Gordon Military College from the mid-1930s until 1972.

Gordon Military College
Gordon Military College

Courtesy of Gordon State College

World War II (1941-45) saw numerous Gordon alumni serving in Europe and in the Pacific. After World War II, Gordon Military College experienced a growth in student enrollment that required the addition of five new buildings, including two dormitories. However, with no endowments or public funds and increasing competition for student enrollment, the school began to have financial problems in the 1960s. A fund-raiser for Gordon Military College raised $70,000, but that was not enough for the college to pay its $1.8 million debt; the trustees approached the state in 1970 about making the college part of the university system. The Board of Regents was in favor, and on July 2, 1972, Gordon Military College officially became part of the University System of Georgia as Gordon Junior College. After joining the university system with 425 students and no endowment, Gordon College grew to 3,703 students and an endowment of nearly $7 million by 2007.

Gordon College Mess Hall
Gordon College Mess Hall

Courtesy of Gordon State College

In 1986 “junior” was dropped from the school’s name. Gordon became a four-year state college in 2007 with the addition of a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and in 2012 its name changed to Gordon State College.

Twenty-first Century Growth

The  student body—more than 5,000 students were enrolled by 2011—comes primarily from Lamar County and the surrounding counties but also draws people from out of state as well as from around the world. Most students begin at Gordon immediately after high school, but a growing percentage of students are older people who have decided to return to school, thereby contributing their wide range of experiences to a diverse student body.

Gordon College Graduation Ceremony
Gordon College Graduation Ceremony

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Two of Gordon’s strengths are the nursing and prepharmacy programs. In 2002 Gordon College led the state’s two-year nursing programs with a 100 percent passing rate on the national licensing exam. Gordon offers a wide variety of associate degree programs as well as several bachelor’s degree programs, including biology, education, English, history, mathematics, and nursing.

Notable alumni of Gordon College include U.S. senator Richard B. Russell Jr.; Rufus C. Harris, president of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Prentice Miller, dean of alumni at Emory University.

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Cadets at Gordon Institute

Cadets at Gordon Institute

This group of cadets attended Gordon Institute circa 1902-3. The first military program at the school began in 1890 under the direction of J. C. Woodward, who later founded what is now Woodward Academy.

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Fine Arts Building

Fine Arts Building

Part of the University System of Georgia since 1972, Gordon State College (earlier Gordon College) is a four-year institution located in Barnesville, fifty-five miles south of Atlanta.

John B. Gordon

John B. Gordon

General John B. Gordon, for whom Gordon State College is named, was a Confederate officer during the Civil War and later served as governor of Georgia and as a U.S. senator.

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society, Georgia Historical Society Collection of Photographs, 1870-1960, #1361PH-24-09-4694.

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Gordon Military College

Gordon Military College

Cadets gather on the campus of Gordon Military College in the 1960s. Both high school and junior college students attended class on this campus from the mid-1930s until 1972.

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Gordon College Mess Hall

Gordon College Mess Hall

Cadets eat in the mess hall at Gordon Military College in the 1960s. After World War II, five new buildings were constructed on campus to accomodate the growing number of students.

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Gordon College Graduation Ceremony

Gordon College Graduation Ceremony

Gordon College students receive their diplomas at a 2004 graduation ceremony.

Courtesy of Gordon State College

Gordon Institute

Gordon Institute

Cadets stand in formation outside the auditorium of Gordon Institute in Barnesville in 1906. The following year the school changed its name to Gordon College.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
lam007.

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