The University of Georgia has announced that the official naming of the College of Education to honor Mary Frances Early – UGA’s first African American graduate and a pioneering educator – will take place at a ceremony at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in the Performing Arts Center.
Albany State University President Marion Ross Fedrick will deliver the 20th annual Mary Frances Early lecture on the day of the naming ceremony, UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. Fedrick earned two degrees from the University of Georgia: a bachelor’s degree in adult education with a concentration in organizational development, and a master’s degree in public administration.
“As a fellow educator and UGA alumna, President Fedrick is the ideal choice to honor Mary Frances Early’s life and legacy,” Morehead said. “Her leadership of one of the state’s outstanding HBCUs, as well as her successful tenure as a vice chancellor of the University System of Georgia, demonstrate her accomplishments as a senior administrator and her strong commitment to creating opportunities through access to higher education.”
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia gave final approval in October for UGA to name the College of Education in honor of Early, who was a central figure in the desegregation of UGA.
“We look forward to celebrating the indelible mark Ms. Early has left on this institution and the field of music education in K-12 and higher education,” said Denise Spangler, dean of the College of Education. “The students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters of the College of Education and I are honored that our college will bear Ms. Early’s name in perpetuity.”
Early 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 later returned to UGA to earn a Specialist in Education degree.
Early was class valedictorian at Henry McNeal Turner High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1957, also as valedictorian. She later became a music teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools and was eventually promoted to music director of the entire school system. During her career Ms. 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 later taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.