Bryan celebrates T.C. Mercer Day
March 14, 2005
The strains of “Faith of our Fathers” opened Heritage Week’s first chapel on March 14, praising God for His faithfulness as Bryan College honored its longest-serving president.
That theme, the faith of Bryan’s leaders, traced its way through the program, with a special emphasis on Dr. Theodore C. Mercer, the fourth president who served from 1956 to 1986. Highlight of the service was current President Dr. Stephen D. Livesay’s announcement that the college Administration Building would from now on be known as Mercer Hall in Dr. Mercer’s honor.
“This is most appropriate, a great tribute to Dr. Mercer and his family,” Dr. Livesay said. He likened naming Mercer Hall to the festivals, pillars and stones of remembrance mentioned in Scripture commemorating special individuals or events.
While the focus was on Dr. Mercer, a PowerPoint presentation with recorded comments about Bryan’s other six presidents reminded those present of the heritage of faith and trust in God that has marked Bryan’s 75-year history.
Speaking of Dr. Mercer, alumnus Dr. Ronald Zartman, pointed out that the name “Theodore” comes from two Greek words that mean “gift from God.”
Speaking to Mrs. Mercer, Dr. Zartman said, “It was a tough ministry your husband had. The Administration Building was unfinished; the furnace was coal-driven. Times were tough. There were unpaid food bills he inherited. We needed a gifted man – that’s what we got in your husband. On behalf of the students from 1956 to 1986, our deepest appreciation for his years of service.”
Dr. Jack Traylor, a faculty member who came to Bryan in 1979, remembered Dr. Mercer’s willingness to spend time with and encourage people. “My positive impression of Dr. and Mrs. Mercer came from their encouraging my interest in the lovely dean of women, Karin DeRosset,” now his wife. This interest in romance extended to the annual freshman reception where freshmen men and women were paired up for an evening as the school year began.
“My lasting memory is his friendliness and almost-always smiling face. I believe the friendliness of Bryan College is in large part a result of his efforts,” Dr. Traylor said.
Dr. John Mercer, Dr. Ted Mercer’s second son and a Bryan graduate of 1974, said, “My family is gratified for the college honoring my father in naming Mercer Hall, but he would say that there would be no Mercer Hall if not for the hundreds of people from 1956 to 1986, the faculty, staff, trustees, and thousands of students, alumni and parents. Let’s dedicate Mercer Hall to all those who contributed to Bryan’s success.
“When we came to Bryan, my father was coming back home. He was born and raised in Spring City, and lived all but 17 of his 65 years in Rhea County.
“My mother’s ceaseless work was indispensable to my father’s success. In the summer, she painted dorm furniture. She taught English, edited copy for Bryan Life, designed the floor plan for Rhea House and founded the Bryan Women’s Auxiliary. Her trustee luncheons and student receptions have passed into legend. Both my parents enjoyed their roles as official hosts for the college.”
He recalled two of his father’s best-known traits: a love for taking pictures at college events, and his prodigious memory for names. “To this day, the closets in my mother’s house are filled with carousels of slides,” he said. “He could greet students on campus by name, and would know where they were from, what church they attended, who their parents were, and which were alumni.”
Bryan Trustee Glenn Stophel said, “Ted Mercer was always in a hurry, absent-minded, down-to-earth. He was steady of character without being stuffy. He was soft-hearted without being soft-headed. He loved to introduce himself as Dr. Ted Mercer of Bryan College.”
Dr. Livesay invited Mrs. Alice Mercer and her sons, Ted, John and David, to join him at the front of Rudd Auditorium – the building John said his father was most proud of – as he unveiled a portrait of Dr. Mercer and a plaque highlighting his life, both of which will hang in the main lobby of Mercer Hall.
Following the chapel program, the Mercer family was honored at a luncheon with trustees, faculty from the Mercer era, alumni, college retirees and family friends. Click here for more photos.