Mercer University is one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning, offering rigorous programs that span the undergraduate liberal arts to doctoral level degrees. Founded by early 19th century Baptists, Mercer — while no longer formally denominationally affiliated — remains committed to an educational environment that embraces the historic Baptist principles of intellectual and religious freedom, while affirming values that arise from a Judeo-Christian understanding of the world.
With more than 8,500 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at three Regional Academic Centers around the state, Mercer is consistently ranked among the nation’s leading institutions by such publications as U.S. News & World Report, which in 2014 named Mercer as the No. 1 Best Value in the South. Our more than 76,000 alumni are making important contributions to their professions and communities throughout Georgia, the Southeast and the world.
Mercer University was founded in 1833 in Penfield by Georgia Baptists. The school, under the leadership of Baptist minister and spiritual father Adiel Sherwood, was named for Jesse Mercer, a prominent Baptist leader and the first chair of the Mercer Board of Trustees.
Josiah Penfield gave the $2,500 that prompted the Georgia Baptist Convention to begin plans to open a school. Many Georgia Baptists gave matching funds for Penfield’s gift. The school opened under principal Billington Sanders.
Initially a boys’ preparatory school named “Mercer Institute,” the school at its founding consisted of a red clay farm and two hewed log cabins, valued at approximately $1,935. Enrollment for the first term was 39 students although, when the school opened, there were considerably fewer and others came over the first few weeks. Tuition was $35 for the year. Board was provided at $8 per month, and each student was required to supply his own bedding, candles and furniture.
From its humble beginnings in Penfield, Mercer today is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has more than 8,300 students; 12 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, health professions, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers around the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program.
2013 Net Assets