Athens, Ga. – Seniors graduating from the University of Georgia this spring will hear from the chancellor of Georgia’s university system and students receiving graduate degrees will hear a commencement message from the first African American to receive a degree from UGA.
Erroll B. Davis Jr., chancellor of the University System of Georgia, will speak at UGA’s undergraduate spring commencement May 12. That afternoon, Mary Frances Early, who became the university’s first African-American alumnus when she received a master’s degree in music education in 1962, will speak at commencement for students receiving master’s, doctoral and education specialist degrees.
The undergraduate ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. in Sanford Stadium. In case of bad weather, the ceremony will be moved to Stegeman Coliseum and split into two sessions, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. The graduate ceremony will be in Stegeman Coliseum at 2:30 p.m.
“Erroll Davis is an experienced and accomplished leader who is guiding the university system with vision, innovation and a commitment to excellence,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “Mary Frances Early courageously overcame adversity to earn degrees that enabled her to enjoy a highly successful career in education and become one of our most esteemed alumni. Our graduating students are very fortunate to benefit from the wisdom and inspiration of these exceptional speakers.”
Davis, who became chancellor in February, 2006, oversees Georgia’s 35 public colleges and universities that collectively have 253,500 students, 35,000 faculty and staff and a $5 billion annual budget. The University of Georgia is the oldest and largest institution in the system.
Davis came to the university system from private industry where he was chair of the board of Alliant Energy Corp., an energy holding company. He previously was president and CEO of the firm and before that was president and CEO of WPL Holdings, an energy company in Wisconsin.
A member of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.B.A. degree, Davis is a former chair of the trustees of Carnegie Mellon University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He was a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents prior to coming to Georgia.
He is on the U.S. Olympic Committee Board where he chairs the audit committee. He was chosen one of the “75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America” by Fortune magazine.
Early was working toward a master’s degree in music at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA in the summer of 1961, several months after Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes enrolled as UGA’s first African-American students.
Despite taunts and sometimes threats, she completed her studies and became UGA’s first African-American graduate when she received a master’s in music education in May of 1962, a year before Hunter and Holmes received their bachelor’s degrees. She also earned a specialist in education degree in music from UGA in 1967.
After graduating, Early studied in Brazil and Africa and was a music teacher, supervisor and coordinator in Atlanta public schools for 37 years. In 1997, she became chairman of the music department at Clark Atlanta University, where she had received her bachelor’s degree. She also has been an adjunct professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges. She retired in 2005.
Early was the first African-American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association and has served on the boards of the Atlanta Symphony Associates, the Atlanta Music Club and the National Black Music Caucus. Her numerous honors include the GMEA Distinguished Educator Award and the Clark College Pioneer in Equal Education Award.
UGA’s College of Education has created an endowed professorship named for her and the university presents the annual Mary Frances Early Lecture that brings noted speakers to campus.
She serves on the university’s Graduate School Advancement Board and the board of directors of the UGA Alumni Association.
Additional information about spring commencement will be announced later, and details of both the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will be available at http://www.reg.uga.edu/or.nsf/html/commencement.