History of the College of Education

The history of Mercer’s Tift College of Education begins at the turn of the 20th century with the founding of a School of Pedagogy within the College of Liberal Arts on the Macon campus. The following timeline gives an overview of the merging of three separate units to form the Tift College of Education:

  • The Department of Education within the College of Liberal Arts in Macon
  • An education unit from the College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta
  • University College, which received teacher education programs from the merger of Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia, with Mercer University



Mercer President Gambrell established a School of Pedagogy to meet the needs of some 6,000 public school teachers then in Georgia. Around this time, Gambrell opens the door for women to enroll at Mercer. (Dowell, p. 206)


At a meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention in Waycross, Georgia, a resolution to admit women to other departments in addition to the School of Pedagogy was defeated. (Dowell, p. 214)


In subsequent years, the Mercer University catalogs list the School of Pedagogy under varying names ranging from the School of Pedagogy; the School of Education, separate from the College of Liberal Arts; and finally, in the 1950s, the Department of Education within the College of Liberal Arts.


William Heard Kilpatrick is appointed Acting President. During this time, Kilpatrick changes the course of his interest from mathematics to the field of teacher training and psychology.


Mr. David Denton of Stapleton, Georgia, gives a large share of his estate with “the whole to be used for the purpose of endowing in connection with Mercer University, a School of Education, intended for the training of teachers and workers in the field of education.” (Dowell, p. 307)


Increased demand for teachers of physical education in the public schools prompts offerings in the subjects of health and physical education for teacher preparation in the summer quarter for both elementary and high school teachers.


The dual system of state certification and county certification discontinues in the State of Georgia and all teachers are required to hold a state teacher’s certificate.


Mercer’s Board of Trustees consider naming proposed School of Education the Spright Dowell School of Education. Mr. H. F. Reinhardt of the firm, Ward, Wells, Dreshman, and Reinhardt, meets with the Board of Trustees and offers the availability of his firm to administer the survey and to make recommendations. (Dowell, p. 368)


Atlanta Baptist College, located on what is now the Cecil B. Day campus in Atlanta, merges with Mercer University. Education programs begin with the newly formed College of Arts and Sciences with one focus being physical education.


Tift College, a Georgia Baptist women’s institution in Forsyth, Georgia, merges with Mercer University and brings early childhood and middle grades programs to the College of Liberal Arts’ College of Continuing Education, or Evening College.


University College, formerly the College of Continuing Education, is established as a unit within the University with educational centers located in Macon, Thomaston, Griffin, Eastman, and Douglasville. Joanna Watson is appointed the Dean of University College.


The University’s Board of Trustees votes to discontinue undergraduate liberal arts education on the Atlanta campus by closing the College of Arts and Sciences. The mission of the Cecil B. Day Campus in Atlanta changes to focus on graduate and professional education.


Atlanta’s Education faculty joins the College of Liberal Arts Department of Education in Macon. Macon programs include both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Atlanta faculty delivers graduate programs.


The Board of Trustees approves plans to establish a School of Education


During its April meeting, the University’s Board of Trustees votes to transfer University College’s programs to the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics, the School of Medicine, and the School of Education.


First appointed Interim Dean in 1995, Dr. H. Anne Hathaway becomes the founding Dean of the School of Education in 1996.


The former Stetson Library on the Macon campus is rededicated in September as Stetson Hall and converted into office and classroom space for the Stetson School of Business and Economics and the School of Education.


Dr. Richard Sietsema becomes Interim Dean of the School of Education. He is appointed Dean of the School of Education in 2000.


The School of Education is renamed the Tift College of Education


College of Education faculty and students move into a new facility on the Atlanta campus.


The Holistic Child, an early childhood/general curriculum special education undergraduate program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Education, is offered on the Macon campus. An ESOL endorsement is approved as an option for students in this program.


Dr. Carl R. Martray becomes Dean of the Tift College of Education.


Mercer opens a regional academic center in McDonough, Georgia, providing opportunities for College of Education students in Henry County and surrounding areas. The College’s programs in Griffin, Georgia, and Covington, Georgia, merge into the Henry County location.


Eastman Regional Academic Center faculty and students move into new annex adjoining original structure housing programs since 1986.


The Bachelor of Science in Education – Early Childhood General Curriculum Special Education program begins in the Regional Academic Centers, including Douglas County, Eastman, Henry County, and Macon. Students seek certification-only in the areas of Early Childhood General Curriculum Special Education and Middle Grades Education.


The College of Education in Atlanta offers a Master of Arts in Teaching for Early Childhood, Middle Grades, and Secondary. Continuing M.Ed. programs include degree programs in Early Childhood, Middle Grades, Secondary, and Reading.


The College of Education’s Educational Leadership program initiates the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership as well as Add-on Certification in Educational Leadership.


The College of Education begins the Early Care in Education program for teachers of Birth through 5.


The College of Education’s Educational Leadership program offers a Doctor of Philosophy in P-12 School Leadership on the Macon and Atlanta campuses.


The Atlanta campus begins a Specialist degree (Ed.S.) in Teacher Leadership to replace the Early Childhood and Middle Grades Specialist degree programs.


The College of Education adds a Higher Education track to its Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.


The College of Education achieves national accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).


Mercer’s Board of Trustees approves a new Ph.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction on the Macon and Atlanta campuses.


The Educational Leadership program offers the Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership.


The first Mercer On Mission initiative for the College of Education begins with a partnership with Rick’s Institute in Liberia, Africa.


Mercer opens the Newnan Regional Academic Center, offering the Bachelor of Science in Education programs in Early Care and Education and in Early Childhood/General Curriculum Special Education.


Educational Leadership offers the M.Ed. in Higher Education degree program.


The Atlanta campus and Douglas County Regional Academic Center offer the Early Care and Education with Preschool Special Education Endorsement.


The M.Ed. in Independent and Charter School Leadership degree program is implemented.


Dr. Paige L. Tompkins becomes Interim Dean of the College of Education.


The College of Education’s Mercer On Mission trip to Haiti is approved.


The Macon campus offers a Secondary Master of Arts in Teaching.


The College of Education contributes to multipurpose outdoor facility at Bibb County’s Ingram-Pye Elementary School.


Mercer University and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation begin an initiative involving the collaboration among Tift College of Education and other University colleges and schools to develop a program and recruit students interested in a Master of Arts in Teaching in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The target implementation date for this program is 2016.


Dr. James Barta is named Dean of the College of Education.


The College of Education and College of Professional Advancement host the first Mercer Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Day to promote Georgia STEM Day.


The College of Education works with the Bibb County School District, Head Start, United Way of Central Georgia, and Middle Georgia Regional Education Service Agency on a three-year, $1.6 million Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant through the Georgia Department of Education.


The College of Education introduces the inaugural members of its S.E.I.L. (STEM Education Innovation Lab) Team Teacher Ambassadors Program during the College’s annual Leadership Academy.


Dr. Thomas J. Koballa Jr., is appointed Dean of the College of Education


The College of Education holds a free virtual conference on “Courageous Conversations for Educators” to provide Pre K-12 teachers with tools to engage their students and staff in discussions about racism.


The College of Education’s AgSTEM partnership with a group of schools in Gwinnett County recently adds another collaborator in Grace Hope Church that will further serve the goal of making strides in STEM education.


The College of Education collaborates with the Real Impact Center in Macon to enhance the organization’s mission to inspire young girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related fields.


The College of Education introduces The Accomplished Teacher Specialist in Education degree program with concentrations in elementary, middle grades, secondary, and P–12 education.

Timeline information was researched and provided by Dr. Margaret Morris.


  • Dowell, S. (1958). A history of Mercer University – 1833-1953. Macon, GA: Mercer University
  • Georgia Professional Standards Commission
  • Tift College of Education Faculty Meeting Minutes, 2002-2014
  • Mercer University Academic Catalogs through 2014-2015
  • The Mercerian magazine