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Farewell parade held for McAlexander, who is retiring from LaGrange College

By Hunter Riggall

Dozens of cars processed through the driveway in front of LaGrange College’s Lamar Dodd School of Art on Tuesday evening as part of a farewell parade for outgoing President Dan McAlexander and his wife, First Lady Celeste Myall.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the attendees mostly stayed in their cars and wore masks. For more than an hour, drivers slowly inched through the driveway, stopping to chat with McAlexander and Myall, trading jokes about retirement and thanking the couple for their service to the college.

McAlexander, who served an 11-year tenure, announced his retirement in October of last year. He has been replaced by Susanna Baxter, who most recently served as the president of the Georgia Independent College Association.

“She’s fantastic,” McAlexander said of his successor, who he has known for 20 years. “She is just incredibly knowledgeable and very, very smart, knows everything there is to know about education.”

Among the attendees were students, faculty and staff of the college, ranging from professors to the athletic director, the head librarian, head coaches of the football and baseball teams, as well as LaGrange community members.

The parade began at 4 p.m. Light rain began around 5 p.m. as the last few cars in the procession congratulated the couple. Due to the rain, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz presented McAlexander and Myall with respective proclamations from their two cities inside the art center.

Both proclamations declared June 30, 2020, as Dan McAlexander and Celeste Myall Day.

“I’m delighted to be able to honor you in your capacity as president and first lady of LaGrange College, as a former student at LaGrange College, and as an alum of the college,” Thornton said.

Among McAlexander’s accomplishments are expanding study abroad experiences, growing the college’s undergraduate research program, creating the Wilkinson Family Servant Scholars Program and LIFT (Leaders Inspired for Tomorrow), adding online classes, creating new academic programs and constructing new college buildings and renovating existing ones.

The two mayors also recognized McAlexander and Myall for their community service  – McAlexander has served as president of the LaGrange Rotary Club, as a member of the Troup County Center for Strategic Planning and as a founding member of the Racial Trustbuilding Initiative, while Myall has been involved in the community through music education and the LaGrange Youth Symphony.

McAlexander thanked the organizers of the parade for their efforts and the mayors for honoring him and his wife.

“I really never imagined that a drive-by reception would be so much fun,” McAlexander said.

McAlexander and Myall plan to stay in LaGrange. The former president said that in his retirement, he will focus on community service as co-chair of Racial Trustbuilding Initiative.

“The fact that in five years, 350 people, black and white, have learned … to come together when we have an issue and talk it through … there’s still lots to be done on the social and economic justice end,” McAlexander said.

The couple also hopes to spend more time with their two daughters and one grandson, with a granddaughter on the way. McAlexander will also work part-time with a search firm that searches for presidents and vice presidents for colleges.