Mercer graduate elected Ga. governor

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Mercer graduate Nathan Deal was inaugurated as Georgia’s 82nd governor at a ceremony in Atlanta on Jan. 10.

Deal, a former trustee for the university, is the 7th Mercer alumnus to hold the office of Governor of Georgia and the 11th to become a governor.

Due to inclement weather brought on by the recent winter storm, all public events surrounding the inauguration were canceled, including a morning prayer service at which the Mercer University Orchestra was scheduled to perform.

About 20 students from the McDuffie Center for Strings were able to perform during a private reception at the Governor’s Mansion on Sunday morning.

Members of Mercer’s Student Government Association, Mercer Ambassadors and other students, along with current members and alumni of Deal’s fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, were signed up to work at Monday’s events before the storm blew in.

Deal, a native of Millen, Ga., graduated from Mercer in 1964 and earned his law degree from the Walter F. George School of Law in 1966. After law school, he joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of captain.

Deal was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1992. In April 1995,

Deal changed parties and became a Republican. He announced his resignation and intent to run for governor in March of 2010 but stayed in office long enough to vote against President Obama’s health care reform bill.

The first speech Deal delivered as a full-time gubernatorial candidate was given to students, faculty and staff on Mercer’s Macon campus.

Mercer alumnus Bryant Harden originally became involved in the inauguration because of his job with the Georgia Farm Bureau as the legislative intern. He was later approached by Mercer and asked to take part in the ceremony. Although the events Harden was scheduled to work were canceled, he still traveled to Atlanta with the Georgia Farm Bureau, attended the Wild Hog Dinner and watched the inauguration from his hotel room.

As a Mercer alumnus, Harden feels it is significant that a fellow Mercerian holds such a prestigious office. “This is a great achievement for any individual, and I am proud for Mercer to have reached this pinnacle once again,” he said.

Harden voted for Deal, and said he believes Deal with be a great leader in a tough time. “I believe that Governor Deal recognizes the importance of higher education and that he recognizes the importance of Mercer University to Georgia,” he said.

Although Harden is pleased with Deal’s election, there is one thing the new governor could do to further the approval of the alumnus. “I’d like him even better if he offered me a position on his staff,” Harden joked.