Conyers resident Dr. Harry S. Downs, the first president of Clayton State University, will receive an honorary doctorate from the university he helped found and opened in 1969.
Downs will be honored during the noon Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 8, in the Clayton State Athletics & Fitness Center.
The founding president of Clayton State is a native of, and still a resident of, Conyers, Ga. He graduated from Conyers High School in 1942 and earned his Associate's Degree from North Georgia College in 1943. He holds both a B.S.Ed. (major in Mathematics - 1949) and a M.Ed. (major in Guidance - 1950) from the University of Georgia. In 1962, he earned his doctorate from Michigan State University, an Ed.D., with a major in Student Personnel.
Starting in September 1960, Downs began a 34-year tenure with the University System of Georgia (USG), originally as associate director of Testing and Guidance and director of Junior Colleges for the Board of Regents. His first assignment for the USG was to work with the institutions to improve their use of tests for purposes of admissions and for purposes of improving instruction and learning. After two years with the USG, he was given the additional assignment of opening Brunswick Junior College. He then opened three additional new junior colleges prior to 1966, when he was assigned the responsibility of planning the campuses and buildings for new junior colleges. His first institution under this new assignment was Macon Junior College. His second was Clayton Junior College.
By February of 1969, when construction of the Clayton State campus was well underway, Chancellor George Simpson and the chair of the Boards of Regents asked Downs if he would consider assuming the presidency of the new college. On Mar. 1, 1969, he set up a temporary office in Forest Park and officially began a quarter century as president of the institution.
Downs would later oversee Clayton State's transition to a four-year college in 1986, finally retiring in January 1994, whereupon he became acting chancellor of the University System of Georgia. He served in that role for six months, until the appointment of Dr. Stephen Portch. He is currently president emeritus of Clayton State and chancellor emeritus of the University System.
A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.