GC celebrated the 35th anniversary of Dr. Mary Jean Land’s GC tenure on Feb. 8 during the State of the University ceremony.
Land, who is chair of the Department of Communication, has watched GC transform before her eyes, remaining constant as presidents, students, faculty and friends have changed over the years. She remembers when GC was once a school that seemed to have an open door policy in terms of admittance and watching it blossom into the competitive academic institution it is currently.
Land plans to retire in July. However, she will continue working part-time for another year, until the re-opening of Terrell Hall.
“It’s going to be hard to imagine my life without GC,” Land said. “A lot of my good friends are here; my mental stimulation is here. It’s just truly a great job.”
Land came to GC at the age of 23 with an undergraduate degree in English education from Tift College. While living on Lake Sinclair with her husband and pursuing her master’s at the University of Georgia in journalism, Land saw that GC had an opening for a part-time position.
Entering the department when journalism was only offered as a minor, she saw a need. Within months, GC established a journalism major, led by Land herself.
Land has come along way since her days of student teaching, growing the mass communications department, which graduated six students its first year in 1984, to now include around 350 mass communications majors.
“The first time I student taught, I had to leave the room to get ushered into another room where I was instructed to put my head between my legs because I was about to pass out,” Land said.
Being only 25-years-old when in charge of The Colonnade, Land has continued to be an instrumental part of several student media organizations over the past 35 years. She has been the adviser to the radio station and started GC360, which was called Milledgeville Update at the time.
“Mary Jean makes me stop and remember a question she always asked me in college: ‘What are you in such a hurry for?’ said GC alumnus Keith Resseau. “Slow down and take advantage of the opportunities you have instead of rushing through them. I use what I learned from her every single day. She had confidence in my talent when I didn’t, and her encouragement and friendship extended well beyond the years I spent at GC.”
Land spoke with endearment for the students she has had the privileged to teach and encourage over the past several years. She recalled memories of taking students to Atlanta and New York and said she continues to tell stories about connecting with past students on Facebook and bumping into them in person, always thrilled to hear about the people they have become.
“It breaks my heart that Dr. Land is retiring,” said junior Maddie Hughes, a mass communications major. “I admire her advocacy for her students and how such a little lady carries a lot of fight. She will be missed by all of us, and I wish her the best.”
Land plans to spend her retirement learning how to fish, going on trips to Vegas with her four sisters and soaking in every last minute with her beautiful grandchildren, while still having GC in the back of her mind.