Students embark on pilgrimage to Penfield

Students traveled to the original site of Mercer University in Penfield, Ga., during this year’s Pilgrimage to Penfield. The Student Government Association‘s Heritage Life Committee sponsored this event, which has been a tradition for Mercer students since the early 1900’s. Freshmen are encouraged to make the trip to Mercer’s original campus in order to learn more about their school’s heritage.

“I expected us to learn a lot of history and more reasons to come to Mercer,” said Branson Cosby, a freshman Biomedical Engineering major. “[My expectations] were definitely met.”

Although freshmen tend to be the target demographic for the event, more sophomores, juniors and seniors have started to come to the Pilgrimage than in previous years.

“A lot of people consider it a freshman experience, but it is really a Mercer experience,” said SGA vice president Melina Hettiaratchi. “A lot more upperclassmen came than have been before.”

In addition to students from the Macon campus, several students from the Atlanta campus as well as international students made the journey as well.

As part of Mercer’s look into the past, students had the opportunity to tour the cemetery where notable Mercer figures are buried, including founder Jesse Mercer and the first president, Billington Sanders.

“The foundation of your education started in Penfield,” said Hettiaratchi. “If this place did not exist, Mercer would not exist.”

Although the focus of Pilgrimage to Penfield is looking at Mercer University’s past, there is also emphasis on the future for Mercerians and making new friends, even if just on the bus ride to and from Penfield.

“You form friendships that will last,” said Hettiaratchi. “It is a really good bonding experience.”

This year’s guest speaker during the chapel service was Center for Collaborative Journalism professor and Mercer University alum Dr. Jay Black. He spoke not only of his college career, but his professional experiences as well, encouraging the students in attendance to take advantage of the opportunities Mercer University will provide them and so they can affect the greater community.

“My favorite part was listening to Dr. Black,” said Cosby. “The story he told about the kids and the tsunami touched me.”

In addition to the more informative portions of Pilgrimage to Penfield, there was a barbecue dinner, Mercer trivia and a spectacular fireworks display to cap the night off. Although those are popular events, the history, culture and community appeal most to those who make the journey. For students like Cosby, Penfield itself is an important location, regardless of any official gathering, and should be visited by those who missed Pilgrimage this year.

“They definitely missed out on an experience. If they have the opportunity to visit Penfield with Mercer or by themselves, they need to do so. It is an experience you need to take,” said Cosby.

Even those who have made the journey are encouraged to attend the Pilgrimage yearly. Cosby will have no qualms about making the trip next year.

“I will definitely come again,” said Cosby on the bus ride back to Macon.