Seniors graduating from UGA 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 the 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.
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. She received a master’s in music education in May 1962 and 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 chair of the music department at Clark Atlanta University. She retired in 2005.