GMC News

School given $1 million donation from alumnus

GMC military tattoo
School given $1 million donation from alumnus

Scott Teague
The Union-Recorder

One of Georgia Military College’s most famous alumni donated $1 million to his alma mater Friday night for the construction of a new prep school.

W.J. “Bill” Usery, former U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Gerald Ford and member of the Class of ‘40, announced the generous donation following the college’s seventh annual military tattoo.

“I had the honor to attend this school, and walked out of its gates some 68 years ago. I’ve had a love affair with it ever since,” Usery said. “I never thought I would be able [to earn $1 million], and that if I had it that I would be able to give it away.”

The new prep school, about $20 million for which was included in the budget passed by the Georgia General Assembly, will stand three stories tall and occupy nearly 80,000 square feet, according to a press release. Students in grades six through 12 will attend classes in the school’s 36 classrooms and laboratories, with the most modern technology at their disposal.

The new high school will be built along Greene Street where Main Barracks and Vinson Hall currently stand.

“GMC’s new prep school building is being designed to last a century. It will be located on the capital square and will, therefore, have a Gothic exterior design that will be consistent with the Old Capitol Building,” GMC President Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Peter J. Boylan said in a press release.

Workers will break ground on the building’s construction in
October, and the building will open for classes in August 2010, the release states.

Currently, students attend classes in five different buildings, but are centered in Jenkins Hall which was built in 1926. The current building is too small and old to accommodate the school’s 500 students.

In honor of Usery’s donation, and in light of his lifetime of service to the United States, GMC administrators announced that the new prep school will be named after him.

“I don’t know of any greater honor than to have my name on a building at GMC,” Usery said.

Usery grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Hardwick, he said, his parents working hard to provide for him and saving money for him to attend GMC.

It was at GMC that he discovered the equality that had for so long been denied him.

“When I first got that uniform, it made me equal in this town,” Usery said. “The first thing this school did for me was make me a part of the town.”

But the school’s teachers and leaders provided him with much more during his time at GMC. The former labor secretary learned discipline and integrity at the military prep school, and he hopes a new generation of students learn similar values in the new GMC Prep school building, he said.

“I was taught honesty and integrity. Honesty means don’t be dishonest, [but] we all hedge at times with each other,” Usery said. “But you can’t cross over and be dishonest. You should be honorable. I would want these students to learn as I learned honesty, integrity and being kind to people.”

He drew heavily on those lessons when he served in the U.S. Navy on a repair ship in the Pacific Theater of War during World War II, and later as assistant labor secretary under President Richard Nixon and during mediations in every major labor-management dispute in the latter portion of the 20th century.

The prep school seeks about $1.4 million from naming opportunities, 35 of which already have been secured out of 50 classrooms and offices, according to information provided by Georgia Military College Foundation.
Campaign committee chair Georgia Echols echoed Usery’s sentiments, that the donations are much more than simple monetary contributions to the school.

“These are investments in our country’s future, and the children who will enter as students,” Echols said. “We don’t look at it as a simple contribution, but truly as an investment.”