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Georgia Military College Remembers the Life of Alumnus, Dr. George Echols
Georgia Military College is deeply saddened by the passing of GMC Alumnus, Dr. George Echols. GMC has been a part of the lives of Dr. Echols and his wife, Polly, for more than five decades. It was at Georgia Military College where he met Polly at the GMC Canteen when she was just 12 years old. Polly’s mother, Bettie Zachary Farr, taught at GMC for 40 years. Dr. Echols graduated from GMC Prep School in 1948 and then graduated two years later from the Junior College in 1950. Dr. Echols and Polly married after she graduated from college. Dr. Echols has been associated with Georgia Military College as a student and an alumnus for over half the life of the school. His lifetime and service to the institution is part of what makes GMC so successful today.
“George and his family have held a deep commitment to GMC, the school, the foundation, and the success of students for many years,” Dudley Rowe, Chairman of the GMC Foundation, said. “Through the funding of family endowments, his leadership on the foundation, particularly the Executive and various committees where he was a member of the tremendous effort he put forward in the various capital campaigns – Dr. Echols demonstrated a love and commitment to the mission of the institution.”
Dr. Echols and Polly’s full life together has included a 45-year span of medical practice, four children, and many beloved grandchildren. But before all of that, Dr. Echols entered the military as an infantry officer during the Korean War, and then served three years as a weapons instructor. Following his military service, Dr. Echols’ career as a pediatrician began as an intern in Asheville, North Carolina. He later returned to Milledgeville to practice for five years, and then returned to Augusta, Georgia for additional training. There he established a thriving private practice. He served as chairman of pediatrics at University and St. Joseph’s hospitals and was appointed Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia.
He and Polly returned to Milledgeville in 1991 where he served as a medical director at Central State Hospital. After retirement, he continued to work with children and adolescents. He was a recipient of the President’s Award from the Medical College of Georgia and was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics.
The couple remained active in the Milledgeville community following retirement, and they have both returned their talents and treasure to GMC over the years. Dr. Echols was a member of the Georgia Military College Foundation and was Annual Fund Chair for 2004-2005. He was also an active member and past president of the GMC Alumni Association. Dr. Echols and his wife also provided financial support to the college in many areas, including dedicating a GMC classroom to Polly’s mother, who taught at GMC for 40 years. To honor Mrs. Farr’s legacy, Dr. Echols and Polly also established the Bettie Zachary Farr Endowed Scholarship to provide financial assistance to a rising GMC Preparatory junior or senior.
“I’ve never known a person to be more committed to an institution, than Dr. Echols was to GMC,” Chairman of the GMC Board of Trustees, Randy New, said. “If you grabbed the dictionary and looked up the definition of a ‘southern gentleman,’ Dr. Echols’ picture would be right there with a big smile on his face. He was a great friend, a great mentor, and he will be sorely missed by everyone at Georgia Military College.”
Dr. Echols was also close with Georgia Military College’s 19th President, Major General Bill Acker. They grew up together and were classmates at GMC. General Acker called Dr. Echols a friend, and says he will be truly missed by the entire GMC community.
“George and I were in the same class at GMC sixty-eight years ago,” General Acker said. “He was a "Town Cadet" like me. I will always remember George with a great big smile on his face. Everyone who knew George will sorely miss him. His family, GMC, and the city of Milledgeville have suffered a great loss with his passing.”
Dr. Echols received a number of accolades for his work and dedication to GMC. He was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award in 2006, designated for an alumnus who has attained notable success in his chosen field or profession, and whose achievement might serve as an inspiration to anyone considering entering that chosen field or profession, or might serve as an inspiration to anyone to excel in his chosen field or profession because of the example set by the recipient of the award.
Dr. Echols received the President’s Award in 2012. The award is presented to an alumnus or friend of Georgia Military College who has rendered exceptional service to Georgia Military College, to the community and to the nation. The recipient will have demonstrated excellence in character and exemplary leadership, serving as an inspiration to others and exerting a positive influence over their lives. In 2017, Dr. Echols was also presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his constant efforts of service to humanity and dedication to his profession and to GMC.
In 2015, the Echols family also added another milestone to its GMC history with the establishment of the Dr. George L. Echols Endowed Scholarship. His son Lee Echols, Vice President of Marketing for Atlanta’s Northside Hospital, established the scholarship in his father’s name for his nearly 80-year connection and commitment to Georgia Military College. The scholarship is awarded to a rising GMC Prep School freshman, and gives financial assistance to a student who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity for a GMC education.
Dr. Echols loved gardening, travel, and music, but those at GMC knew him best for his love of Georgia Military College, evidenced by his unfailing support and allegiance to accomplishing the school’s mission. Dr. Echols will be terribly missed by everyone at Georgia Military College, but his legacy will live on at the institution forever.