Q: I read about the late writer Flannery O’Connor’s farm, Andalusia, being donated to Georgia College. What is their connection to her, and what is the history of the school?
A: The connection between American author Flannery O’Connor and the university in Milledgeville is strong.
O’Connor’s family moved from Savannah to Milledgeville when she was 13, and she later enrolled in the Georgia State College for Women, which would become Georgia College & State University after a number of name changes.
The university was chartered in 1889 as the Georgia Normal and Industrial College after years of urging by Julia Flisch, a journalist for the Augusta Chronicle who sought to advance higher education for women and advocated for a publicly funded women’s college in Georgia.
Georgia’s state capital had moved from Milledgeville to Atlanta 20 years earlier, so the new college was given the Old Governor’s Mansion as its first building, as well as a 16-acre plot where the Georgia State Penitentiary once stood.
In 1922, the college was renamed Georgia State College for Women and became a four-year, degree-granting institution.
O’Connor entered in 1942 and graduated in 1945. She returned permanently to Milledgeville in 1951 after being diagnosed with lupus, and spent the last 13 years of her life at her family’s farm, called Andalusia. There, she wrote one of her best-known books, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”
In 1961, the school became The Woman’s College of Georgia and then Georgia College at Milledgeville in 1967, when the school admitted its first male students. That was shortened to Georgia College in 1971, before the name was changed to Georgia College & State University in 1996 to fit its new mission as “Georgia’s public liberal arts university.” More than 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students attend the university.
In 2001, the Flannery O’Connor — Andalusia Foundation took over the farm to preserve O’Connor’s final home. It opened Andalusia to the public in 2003 and relied on donations to maintain its 500 acres.
In August, the GCSU Foundation accepted the donation of Andalusia. O’Connor is one of the school’s most distinguished alumna, said Matthew Davis, director of the Old Governor’s Mansion, an on-campus historic site.
“It’s our goal to preserve and restore the farm to the period in which Flannery lived and worked on the site,” Davis said.
The acquisition follows a $9.5 million renovation to the Old Governor’s Mansion. The mansion housed Georgia’s governors from 1839-1868 before it became a student dormitory in 1891. The Greek Revival-style building is open to the public. Events include Christmas at the Mansion with tours and candlelight events.
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