Founder’s Day: Alum Kirk Nooks to share life lessons as 2021 speaker

Each February, the Mercer community is invited to take part in Founder’s Day. This year, “double Bear” and President of Gordon State College Kirk Nooks will deliver an address at the 130th annual celebration of Founder’s Day Feb. 17.

Founder’s Day began in 1891 as a way for Mercer students to celebrate founder Jesse Mercer’s birthday and honor his life. Alumni come back to Mercer, share their stories and talk about how Mercer has impacted their lives. This year, students will gather in Hawkins Arena at 10:25 a.m. to hear Nooks share his Mercer story.

“The purpose of the day is to reconnect with the past and to hear first-hand from alumni about their undergraduate experiences at Mercer,” Vice President and Dean of Students Doug Pearson said in an email.

Nooks has previously been a guest speaker at other Mercer events, and the Student Government Association felt it would be a good idea to invite him back for a bigger event.

“Last year, he spoke at an event called ‘Living the Dream.’ It was an event kind of centered around (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s) legacy. He spoke there and he was a wonderful speaker,” said Heritage Life Committee Member Rylan Allen.

Things will be different from last year in more ways than one. With COVID-19 concerns higher than ever, SGA is enforcing social distancing and hygiene guidelines. All attendees will be required to wear masks and sit socially-distanced from each other in Hawkins Arena. Seating will be limited in order to meet these guidelines.

“We just want to try and keep everybody safe so they can enjoy the event,” Allen said.

Allen said there will not be an opportunity or need for pre-registering, but SGA will cut off attendance when Hawkins Arena is full to its socially-distanced capacity, so it would be a good idea to show up early.

During the Feb. 1 SGA meeting, Mary-Angel Ekezie, chair of the Heritage Life Committee, reminded everyone that the dress code for the event will be business formal.

Last year’s Founder’s Day speaker was Senior Magistrate U.S. District Judge Willie Louis Sands, the senior U.S. judge for the Middle District of Georgia. Sands was also a “double Bear,” receiving both his undergraduate and law degrees from Mercer.

Allen said events such as Founder’s Day are important so that students can see first-hand how alumni have embodied Mercer’s motto, “major in changing the world.”

“We want students to look at how Mercer is a very prominent institution that provides many opportunities for students in the future when they choose their career path,” Allen said. “It shows that Mercer does major in changing the world and that these people can go on and make a huge difference outside of the state of Georgia.”