ELECTION AS CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.
At the Commencement exercises of the University of Georgia, in 1878, without his solicitation or knowledge, Dr. Mell was elected Chancellor. At first he declined the position because the responsibilities were so great and the work was so hard he feared his strength was not equal to the task. Besides this the University at that time was not in a flourishing condition, and in order to bring it up to a high standard and revive the interest sustained in it a few years before, the Chancellor would be compelled to exhibit marked skill in planning and in marshaling his forces. Moreover he would be subjected to harsh criticism for the condition of the University at that time, for which he was in no manner responsible. A committee from the Board waited on him, however, and urged him to reconsider his declination because his election was unanimous and the University needed his wise direction. This action of the Board was strongly supported by the unanimous request of the Faculty that he accept the position; the Alumni Society passed resolutions and waited upon him by committee with the same urgent request; and appeals came from citizens of Athens, that he accede to the wishes of the Board of Trustees. He was unable to resist this pressure and withdrew his objections and accepted the Chancellorship. The task thus placed on him was so great that it required all his time, and he was therefore forced to resign his pastorates. This action brought forth the following resolutions from Antioch church:
“ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH,
Sept. 14th, 1878.
At a called meeting of the church, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted.
Whereas, a communication addressed this church by Elder P. H. Mell, D. D., notifying us that circumstances beyond his control, necessitated the painful duty of tendering and asking the immediate acceptance of his resignation of the pastorate of the same, Therefore,
Resolved. 1stThat trusting that He who does all things well, and according to the council of His own will, is directing in wisdom the course of this event, we accept the resignation with minds and hearts shrouded in sadness as we part with one whom we have learned to love so muchwho has been so faithful and kind as pastor, brother and friend.
Resolved. 2ndThat our hearts swell with gratitude at the signal honor of his ministry in our midst, for, truly, God has given wonderful success to his efforts in building up and establishing His Kingdom on the earth; and we doubt not many a gem will deck his crown of victory in that day when the Master shall gather His jewels.
Resolved. 3rdThat it is no cold or formal farewell that we give him, but that this church and community, follow him wherever his lot be cast, with the warmest, best, and most sincere wishes of our hearts; praying that his life and health may be precious in the sight of the Master, and that he may be spared long to his dear family and friends, and be instrumental in accomplishing much good for coming generations.
Resolved. 4thThat being impressed with his wonderful usefulness to our church and community, and of the very endearing relations existing as pastor and people, it is with sorrow and regret that we sever these ties; and though we may never have the privilege to greet him again as pastor, yet we hope to meet him on the shores of spiritual deliverance where these sad farewells are unknown and where the bonds of union are so strong as never to be broken.
Resolved. 5thThis preamble and resolutions be spread upon our minutes and a copy of the same be forwarded to Brother Mell.
By order of the church, September 14th, 1878.
M. W. EDWARDS,
C. J. LANDRUM, Moderator.
At the time he assumed the Chancellorship, as already stated, the University had suffered materially in patronage. The number of students had decreased from 344 in 1869 and 312 in 1873, to 161 in 1877 and 116 in 1878. The attendance at once began to improve and by 1884 Dr. Mell had succeeded in counteracting the downward tendency and the number of students in that year increased to 203. Before he was elected Chancellor the Board of Trustees passed a law abolishing secret fraternities in the University, because it was asserted by the authorities that these organizations were detrimental to the Literary Societies and in some other respects injured the University. Stringent measures were adopted to enforce the law and a war was immediately declared between the Faculty and the Secret Fraternities. Not being local, but extending all over the United States, these Societies received sympathy and support from outside influences that were by no means insignificant. These antagonisms could only result in great injury to the University and accomplish no good.
The rule as printed in the catalogue of 1877 reads as follows:
By the act of matriculation every student pledges himself to join no secret society other than the Demosthenian or Phi Kappa Societies, during his stay in the college.”
Before Dr. Mell would accept the position of Chancellor, he stipulated, among other things, that the above rule must be rescinded and the secret fraternities allowed to open chapters at the University. He believed it was unwise to fight these organizations on account of their non-local features, and for the same reason they could be made powerful influences for the Universitys good. His conservative management of these matters brought back confidence and the number of students gradually increased until it went above the two hundred mark.