On Friday, July 23rd, Truett McConnell University (TMU) celebrated its 75th Anniversary since the institution’s charter was established in 1946.

The events leading to this historical day began when George W. Truett and Fernando C. McConnell, cousins for whom the college is named, started a private Christian academy in Hiawassee, Georgia in 1887. Changing economic conditions in the area led to the closing of the original academy, but Georgia Baptists soon wanted to establish a college to carry on the same higher educational standards begun by these two Baptist leaders.

First graduating class.

“On July 23rd, 1946, there was a well attended rally asking that a college be chartered in Cleveland, Georgia,” said Dr. Emir Caner, President of Truett McConnell University. “With the help of the citizens of Cleveland and the Georgia Baptist Convention, Truett McConnell Junior College was chartered.”

“Fifty-four students came into that first class in 1947, twenty-eight of whom would graduate in 1949,” added Caner. The first professor hired was Julius Spears, who would also be the Dean. The first president was Rev. Clinton Cutts, and the first donation was one dollar.”

Members of the crowd sign a Bible that will be placed in a time capsule to be opened at the 100th anniversary celebration.

“There are alumni in this room that can tell you there were incredibly blessed days and incredibly difficult days on this mountain. But in all of it, God was present.”

The charter anniversary celebration held on Friday included alumni, TMU faculty and staff, White County elected officials, and members of the Truett McConnell Board of Trustees and Board of Visitors. City of Cleveland Mayor Josh Turner presented President Caner with a 75th Anniversary Proclamation.

(l-r) Marty Carnes, Dr. Chris Childs, Mayor Josh Turner, President Emir Caner, Dr. Barry Thompson, and Dr. David Drake.

Dr. Barry Thompson (’73), Truett McConnell alum and Board of Visitors Chairman shared with guests how the college changed his life after leaving a broken home and moving to TMU. “My history with TMU is over fifty years. I came to Truett with a lot of baggage, and wanted to start my life over.”

“I was able to heal here,” he said. “This place is the foundation of who I am today.”

Dr. Chris Childs (’93), TMU Alumni Association President said, “My life is what it is today because of Truett McConnell. What I love most about this place is that the Holy Spirit lives in these halls.”

As part of Friday’s celebration, Dr. David Drake, Director of Alumni and Church Relations said they have collected items of the University’s history which will be placed in a time capsule and will be opened in 2046, the 100th anniversary.

Proclamation given by City of Cleveland.

In his final remarks, President Caner said, “We exist for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ to stand firm on scripture and win people to Jesus, and that vision hasn’t changed since the very beginning.”

The university will continue to observe its anniversary throughout the 2021-2022 academic year. All are invited to our President’s Chapel and Convocation at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 17 in the Student Wellness Center, where TMU will continue its anniversary celebration, and a presentation will be given by Dr. David Drake, Director of Alumni and Church Relations.


Jenny Gregory is the Assistant Director for TMU’s Marketing and Communications.

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