Marion L. Brittain

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Marion Luther Brittain

Marion Luther Brittain (November 11, 1886 - July 13, 1953) served as Georgia Tech's fourth president. During his 22 years as president, Brittain contributed greatly to the size and reputation of his school. He pioneered several new policy changes that led to greater funding for Georgia Tech, secured a Guggenheim Award for Georgia Tech by establishing an aeronautical engineering program, and oversaw the construction of 22 new buildings (including the Brittain Dining Hall, which bears his name).





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Early life

Marion Luther Brittain was born on November 11, 1865 in Wilkes County Georgia. In 1888, he graduated from Emory College at Oxford. Soon after, he became principal of the Crew Street School in Atlanta. In 1890 he served as the head of the Department of Languages at Boys' High School. In 1898, he studied at the University of Chicago. After receiving his graduate degree there in 1900, he returned to Atlanta to serve as the Superintendent of the Fulton County Schools. in 1910, he became the Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. Brittain remained superintendent for 11 years, during which he was credited with a "dramatic improvement in the Georgia school system."[1]

Contributions to Georgia Tech

Photo of President Brittain in 1933

In 1922, Marion L. Brittain was elected fourth President of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1927, he embarked on a school funded trip to Europe, where he bought several pieces of art, one of which - a replica of a recumbent gladiator in Carrara marble - he had placed in the new dining hall. During his 22 years as president, Brittain managed to raise funding for 22 new buildings and increased the value of the school to $4,500,000 by the end of 1944. [2]

Brittain also helped to establish the Georgia Tech ROTC unit which was the first in the South and added a ceramics engineering department, building, and major. In 1929, Brittain's creation of the Georgia Tech School of Aeronautics won the institute a prestigious $300,000 gift from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Fight for funding

In addition to contributing to the growth of Georgia Tech's campus, Brittain is also known for improving the school's relationship with the state government. Before Brittain's involvement, each Georgia school had to "fight for funding." However, Brittain thought that a system under which a board of trustees would distribute funding to Georgia's many colleges and universities would work better. In 1930, Brittain made his first speech on the issue and gained the backing of many well-known Georgia educators. On August 28, 1931 Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr. signed an act that created the University System of Georgia and the Board of Regents to supervise it. However, there were still many problems. One of Brittain's major concerns was that there were no Georgia Tech alumni on the new Board of Regents and that the majority of the members were alumni of Georgia. In addition, in 1933 the Board moved all Engineering work to Georgia Tech and the entire Commerce Department to the University of Georgia. Since Georgia had practically no engineering majors but Georgia Tech had 447 students in the commerce department, Brittain saw this as an unfair solution. [2]

Death and legacy

Brittain was known as a sophisticated educator who knew his way around state and local politics. He drastically increased the size and national recognition of Georgia Tech. He also fought for adequate funding for the school. In 1944, at the age of 78, Brittain retired to write a history of Georgia Tech called Story of Georgia Tech. In 1953, he died at the age of 87. Two buildings still retain his name. The Dr. Marion Luther Brittain Sr. House, Brittain's home from 1911 until he moved to the Georgia Tech president's house in 1922, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 23, 1993. It is located at 1109 West Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The Brittain Dining Hall, located on the east side of campus, is the primary dining facility for Georgia Tech's east side residents. It was also the first dining hall opened on campus and was constructed during Brittains tenure.

References

  1. http://www.library.gatech.edu/archives/finding-aids/display/xsl/UA004#id503690 Georgia Tech Archives and Records Management Biographies of the Early Presidents: Dr. Marion Luther Brittain Inventory of the Early Presidents Collection, 1879-1957 [bulk 1930-1950] UA #004
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ray and Associates, "Historic Structure Report: Brittain Dining Hall," chapter 2, in Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collections, Item #5692, http://history.library.gatech.edu/exhibits/show/buildings/brittain/item/5692
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