University of West Georgia
Agricultural and Mechanical School
In 1906 the state legislature passed the Perry Act, which created an agricultural and mechanical school in each of the eleven (later twelve) congressional districts in the state. These secondary schools
The new institution opened its doors in January 1908 under the leadership of John H. Melson, the school's first principal. In 1920 Irvine S. Ingram became the principal and served as such until 1933, when the Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School became a junior college.
When the Great Depression began, in 1930, it became readily apparent that there were too many state-supported schools, each separately lobbying the General Assembly for funding. Governor Richard B. Russell Jr. led the creation of a university system to be administered by a chancellor and Board of Regents. Because the agricultural and mechanical schools were secondary schools, all those not previously converted to institutions of higher education were abolished. Even some of the existing institutions of higher education were told that they would no longer receive state funds.
The board decided that only one state-supported educational institution was needed west of Atlanta and that this would be a junior college called West Georgia College. Three former state-supported schools, the Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School at Carrollton, the Seventh District Agricultural and Mechanical School at Powder Springs, and Bowdon College at Bowdon, competed to become the location of this new junior college. Carrollton was selected, and Ingram became president of the new West Georgia College, which opened its doors in the fall of 1933 on the campus of the former Fourth District school.
During the 1950s West Georgia College attained worldwide prominence with its College in the Country, a program of adult education aimed at the many adults who, because of the depression, had been unable to continue their education. For many years the college's Delbert Clark Award was the top prize for adult educators in the United States.
The college's growth in enrollment and curriculum earned it senior college status in 1957. In 1960 Ingram retired after a remarkable tenure of forty years at the helm of the Carrollton institution, having served
William H. Row, a respected educator who had been dean at West Georgia College, took Ingram's place. He suffered a fatal heart attack after only nine months as president and was succeeded by James Emory Boyd. Boyd had been a member of the college's original faculty but after two years had gone on to the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where he had been a key person in the development of that school's nuclear program and a founder of the Scientific Atlanta corporation.
During the challenges of the 1960s, Boyd acted with a boldness uncharacteristic of many university presidents. In the summer of 1963 he invited a young black woman, Lillian Williams, to attend West Georgia College, thereby integrating the college without incident and without waiting for a court order. The following year, in May 1964, Boyd invited Robert F. Kennedy to Carrollton for the dedication of the campus chapel as Kennedy Chapel, in honor of the late U.S. president John F. Kennedy.
During the Boyd years, enrollment at the college jumped from 1,089 to 5,503. Nineteen major building projects were completed, nine of them dormitories. In 1967 the first master's degree program was added. As at other institutions of higher education, student protests, antiwar rallies, and drug busts occurred during the tumultuous years of the 1960s.
In 1975 Maurice K. Townsend became the fifth president of West Georgia College and served until his death in 1993. A political scientist with experience in government and business, as well as in education, Townsend stressed good administrative practices and sound fiscal management. He also became known as the "personal president" by virtue of his interaction with faculty and students. He often invited students into his office to discuss their concerns, and on many evenings he could be found at Student Government Association meetings and student forums. In 1981 a football program was initiated, and in 1982 the football team, the West Georgia Braves, won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III national championship.
Beheruz N. Sethna, a native of Bombay, India, became West Georgia's sixth president in 1994 and the first
On June 12, 1996, West Georgia College was granted university status as the State University of West Georgia, making Sethna the first native of India to become president of a U.S. university. Under Sethna's leadership the university has reached an enrollment of more than 10,000 students. In 1998 the university received approval for its first doctoral program and in June 2004 awarded its first doctoral degree. On January 12, 2005, the Board of Regents voted to rename the institution the University of West Georgia.
In 2004 the university completed a new master plan. The focus of the plan is the Technology-enhanced
The University of West Georgia offers a wide range of disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and professional programs at the baccalaureate level. It is also a major provider of graduate education at the master's and educational specialist's levels; further, the university offers a stand-alone doctoral program in education. In addition to being accredited as an institution of higher education, the university has earned accreditation or recognition in most undergraduate and graduate fields of specialization.
Under the tutelage of a faculty guided by the motto "educational excellence in a personal environment," West Georgia students have been very successful. The debate team has qualified for the National Debate Tournament for thirty-three consecutive years (1972-2005), the fifth longest streak in the country, and since 1999 has always finished in the top ten. For the fifth time in the past seven years, more students from the Honors College have been accepted to present research at the annual meeting of the National Collegiate Honors Council than from any other college or university in the country. From 2002 to 2005 the university coed cheerleaders won the Universal Cheerleaders Association College Cheerleading National Championship in Division II. Alumni support has been strong, and "A DAY for West Georgia" donations annually exceed $1 million.
In 2006, following a directive from the National Collegiate Athletic Association to eliminate the use of team names associated with Native Americans, the university changed its team name from the Braves to the Wolves.
J. C. Bonner, Myron W. House, and James W. Mathews, From A & M to State University: A History of the State University of West Georgia (Carrollton: State University of West Georgia Foundation, 1998).
Anne Gayle Ingram, ed., The A & M School at Carrollton, 1908-1933: Predecessor of West Georgia College: A Collection of Pictures and Readings (Carrollton: West Georgia College, 1978).
Nep S. Melson, Reminiscences of the Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School, Carrollton, Georgia (Hogansville, Ga.: privately printed, 1941).
Myron Wade House, University of West Georgia
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.