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Anonymous Donor Funds Endowed Chair in Honor of
Former Mercer President Dr. Rufus C. Harris

January 11, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek (478) 301-4037 or

MACON — Mercer University President William D. Underwood today announced that an anonymous donor has provided a $1.5 million gift to fund an endowed chair in the School of Medicine to honor the University’s 16th president, Dr. Rufus C. Harris.

The Rufus C. Harris Endowed Chair in Rural Health and Health Disparities will enable the School of Medicine to recruit a national leader in rural health to direct the Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities (CRHHD), which was established in the School of Medicine’s Department of Community Medicine in 2008. The mission of the CRHHD is to improve the health and well being of rural and underserved communities in Georgia and the Southeast through interdisciplinary research and collaboration.

“Recognizing Dr. Harris in this way is especially appropriate given that it was during his tenure as president that planning began toward launching a medical school committed to improving rural health – planning that led to the successful founding of the Mercer School of Medicine under the leadership of Mercer’s 17th president, Dr. R. Kirby Godsey,” Underwood said.

Dr. Harris was elected Mercer’s 16th president on Nov. 6, 1959, following a long tenure as president of Tulane University. A Mercer graduate, Dr. Harris served as professor and dean of Mercer’s Law School from 1923-1927 prior to joining Tulane as dean of its law school. The nationally known legal scholar would serve as Mercer president from 1960 to 1979, when Dr. Godsey assumed the Mercer presidency. It was during the latter part of Dr. Harris’ term as president that planning began for the School of Medicine.

A recently released study shows that the Mercer School of Medicine is one of the most successful schools in the nation at producing physicians that practice in rural areas, shortage areas, primary care, family medicine, and low-income areas. The study found that Mercer —whose mission since it was established more than 25 years ago has been to prepare primary care physicians for rural and underserved areas of the state — ranks second in the nation in the percentage of graduates practicing in low-income areas of the school’s home state.

About the Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon and Savannah):
Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. The School only accepts Georgia residents into its medical degree program. Mercer School of Medicine students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. In August 2008, the inaugural class of 30 students began study at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah at Mercer’s second full, four-year doctor of medicine program. The School also offers master’s degrees in public health, family therapy, family services and nurse anesthesia. In fall 2011, it will offer a Master of Biomedical Sciences degree on both its campuses.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit