Campus News

Mary Frances Early will speak at BFSO Founders’ Luncheon

Mary Frances Early poses in front of UGA’s Arch in 2012. (Photo by Nancy Evelyn/UGA)

The Black Faculty and Staff Organization at the University of Georgia will host its 17th annual Founders’ Luncheon on Sept. 25 from noon-1:30 p.m. in Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center.

This year’s luncheon will be an intimate conversation with Mary Frances Early, who in 1962 became the first African American to graduate from UGA.

Individual tickets are $55. Tables, which seat eight people, are available for sponsors starting at $500. Proceeds from the luncheon will be used for BFSO activities and the scholarship program, which awards scholarships to outstanding undergraduate, graduate and professional students at UGA. If interested in purchasing tickets or sponsorship opportunities, contact Deborah Elder,  BFSO treasurer, at dlstrong@uga.edu.

BFSO is honored to have Early as the speaker for this year’s luncheon, according to Susan M. Williams, BFSO president.

“Mary Frances Early’s legacy as UGA’s first black graduate is a monumental act of determination and perseverance from which the UGA and Athens communities can receive valuable nuggets of courage, social justice and community,” said Williams, who also is a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Her quiet determination in difficult and turbulent times serve as inspirations to the work of BFSO. We are excited and thrilled she has accepted our invitation to inspire our luncheon guests.”

A native of Atlanta, Early came to UGA in the summer of 1961. Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African American students to enroll at UGA. Early had started postgraduate work at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA to complete her studies. She became the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia when she graduated on Aug. 16, 1962, with a master’s degree in music education. She returned in 1964 to continue her education, earning a Specialist in Education degree in 1967.

Early, who was class valedictorian at Henry McNeal Turner High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Clark Atlanta University in 1957, became a music teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools and was eventually promoted to music director of the entire school system. Early worked with teachers in the system’s 100-plus schools and was in charge of the music curriculum, budget, textbooks and more.

Early retired in 1994 after working for 37 years in public schools. She has since taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.