In 1833, Jesse Mercer founded Mercer University. In addition to Jesse Mercer, there are many founders who helped to establish the reputation and establishment that is now Mercer University.
Founders’ Day celebrates the work of Jesse Mercer as well as the other founders who helped bring Mercer to its success.
“This celebration is important because it gives us the opportunity to reflect on our progress as an institution in moving towards a more just and tolerant society. It allows us to think about how things were and how things are. Finally, it gives us a chance to celebrate the ideals and principles by which we live as Mercerian’s,” said Student Government Association president, Raymond Partolan.
“[Founders’ Day] is a day that all of Mercer University comes together to celebrate the existence of the glue that truly unites all of us–the Mercerian Spirit,” said sophomore senator Victoria Conley, chair of SGA’s Heritage Life Committee.
Each of the keynote speakers invited to present at Founders’ Day offers insight into their time at Mercer and how Mercer has influence them in their lives after graduation.
“The tradition first began in 1891, as a celebration centered [around] Jesse Mercer’s Birthday. It continued on as a significant annual event at Mercer for the next 50 years, ranging from political rallies attended by state governors to all-day historic celebrations,” said Conely.
The tradition of Founders’ Day began to fade out in the 1960s and it was not until the 1990s that SGA took over the event where it became what it is today.
“By the end of the 1960s, though, the tradition waned. SGA revived Founders’ Day in the mid-1990s, after realizing, once again, the significant impact Mercer has upon each student,” said Conley.
SGA sponsors Founders’ Day.
This year’s keynote speaker is Robert Hurt, who at his time at Mercer was “The Cluster’s” editor-in-chief. Hurt is now a principal at a prominent government marketing and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
Hurt’s speech is titled “Desegregation: The Campus Radicals who Saved Mercer’s Soul.” Hurt’s speech relates to Mercer’s 50th anniversary of desegregation.
With the help of Mercer president William Underwood, SGA and the Heritage Life Committee chose Robert Hurt because of his work with The Cluster and his work covering Mercer’s voluntary integration in 1963.
“Bob Hurt was here when Mercer was integrated, so he witnessed all the changes and responses to this decision. In fact, he wrote about many of the reactions as editor of The Cluster,” said Conley. “He took time to meet with me and other senators last semester to discuss how campus has changed over the years and whether or not race is still an issue on Mercer’s campus.”
Hurt has worked as a staff member in both the the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Hurt helped to establish Hurt, Norton and Associates Inc. in Washington D.C. where the company works with legislative affairs, government marketing and defense community representation.
“As someone who was physically there at the time such a vital piece of Mercer’s history was occurring, we believed he would provide valuable input into how far we’ve come as an institution and how far we have left to go,” said Partolan.
“They have walked the paths and sat in the same classrooms where we sit today,” said Conely.
After serving as The Cluster’s editor while at Mercer, Hurt was a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution. During the Vietnam War, Hurt was called to service for two years as a Green Beret.
Founders’ Day presents an opportunity for Mercer students to learn from prominent alumni from the previous years.
“One day, we will be alumni ourselves. To reflect on the achievements of Mercer alumni during and after their time at Mercer allows us to explore what is possible after graduating with a Mercer degree,” said Partolan.