Hugh M. Mills Jr. is remembered as a key pioneer in higher education following his death Thursday at age 93.
Mills helped found Gainesville Junior College and served as its first president from 1965 until his retirement in 1983. The college later became Gainesville State College, and now is the Gainesville campus of the University of North Georgia.
“Dr. Mills was an inspiring educational leader who dedicated his career to serving the students of this region,” UNG President Bonita Jacobs wrote in an email to the campus community.
The physical education complex on UNG’s Gainesville campus was named in his honor in 1998.
“Dr. Mills, a 1943 graduate of North Georgia College, was an inspiring educational leader who dedicated his career to serving the students of this region,” a statement on the UNG Facebook page read. “We extend our sincere sympathies to his friends and family.”
Mills was an Albany native who attended college and played basketball at North Georgia College from 1941-43. He was inducted into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this year. The 1943 school yearbook, the Cyclops, described him as the “wheel horse of the team, on offense and defense.” He received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2003.
After graduating from North Georgia, Mills joined the Army Air Corps. Following a medical discharge, he attended the University of Georgia and earned several degrees, including a doctorate in education. He served an educator and coach for Polk County schools.
Mills helped found Gainesville Junior College in 1965, considered then to be “the crown jewel of the junior college system.” He helped built the Oakwood campus into one of the most successful two-year colleges in the state.
After retiring from GJC, Mills served briefly as interim president of Brenau University in 1985.
Mills is survived by his three children, a brother and sister and several grandchildren. He was a member of Blackshear Place Baptist Church, where he served as a Sunday school teacher, deacon and choir member.
The family is planning a private ceremony. A memorial reception is set for 4-5:30 p.m. today in the Robinson Ballroom of the Student Center at the UNG Gainesville campus.
In addition, donations can be made in Mills’ honor to the Hugh Mills Scholarship Fund, University of North Georgia, P.O. Box 1599, Dahlonega, GA 30533.