Young Harris College President and former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox has been appointed dean of Mercer University’s School of Law, effective July 1. She will succeed Daisy Hurst Floyd, who has served as dean since 2014, after serving in the position from 2004 to 2010.
Cox, a 1986 magna cum laude graduate of Mercer Law School, becomes the first alum to lead the School – other than on an interim basis – since William Augustus Bootle, who was dean from 1933 to 1937. Bootle was later appointed to the federal bench and ordered the integration of the University of Georgia.
“Cathy Cox brings to the Mercer Law deanship an uncommon breadth and depth of experience in higher education, public service and the practice of law,” said Mercer Provost Dr. D. Scott Davis. “We could not be more excited about her accepting this opportunity to return to her alma mater and provide leadership for the state’s oldest ABA-accredited law school.”
Cox has served as the 21st president of Young Harris since 2007, leading its transition from a two-year college to a four-year institution and overseeing unprecedented growth. Student enrollment has doubled, as has the size of its faculty, and nearly $100 million in new facilities have been added to the North Georgia campus.
“I am very excited about building on the deep foundation and rich heritage at Mercer’s School of Law to educate practice-ready lawyers who want to make a genuine difference for their clients and have a positive impact in their communities,” Cox said. “The opportunity to do this at my alma mater makes it even more meaningful.
“I have loved working with phenomenal trustees, faculty and staff during the past 10 years to transform Young Harris College into a thriving liberal arts college,” she added, “and I hope YHC will continue to send some of its strongest graduates to Mercer’s Law School, just like the three who are enrolled there now.”
Prior to assuming the Young Harris presidency, Cox served two terms as Georgia’s secretary of state, and was the first woman in the state’s history to be elected to the post, first in 1998 and again in 2002. As secretary of state, she moved the largest division of her office from Atlanta to Macon and instituted a universal electronic voting system, making Georgia the first American state to do so.
“I am very pleased that Cathy Cox has accepted our invitation to serve as the next dean of Mercer Law School,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “She has provided extraordinary leadership at Young Harris College over the past decade, is well-known and highly respected throughout the State of Georgia, and has a deep affinity for our School of Law and Mercer University. We look forward to great things from Mercer Law School under her leadership.”
A native of Bainbridge, Cox began her political career as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, where from 1993 to 1996 she represented Miller, Seminole, Early and Decatur counties. Before being elected secretary of state, she served for two years as assistant secretary of state.
After graduating from Mercer Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Mercer Law Review and a member of the Brainerd Currie Honor Society, Cox practiced law full-time for 10 years in Atlanta and Bainbridge. She has remained an active member of the State Bar of Georgia, and, in 2011, was presented with the Traditions of Excellence Award for General Practice by the State Bar’s General Practice and Trial Section.
Cox was a newspaper reporter for three years before entering law school, working for The Times in Gainesville and The Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge. She earned a degree in journalism, summa cum laude, from the University of Georgia in 1980 and is a 2013 inductee to the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Grady Fellowship. Cox also holds an associate’s degree in agriculture from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.
A former member of the Mercer Board of Trustees, the Mercer Law School’s Board of Visitors, and the Wesleyan College Board of Trustees, Cox was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Mercer in 2007. From January to May of 2007, she held the Carl E. Sanders Political Leadership Chair at the University of Georgia School of Law.
“President Underwood's charge to the Law Dean Search Committee was clear and direct: ‘Find a great dean for the Law School,’” said Senior U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands, chair of the search committee, member of the Board of Trustees and Mercer alum. “The makeup of the Committee was broad, diverse, and most importantly, focused on meeting the unique needs of the Law School family at a time critical to legal education and the legal profession. Today, the committee is enthusiastic and unanimous in its support of the appointment of President Cox as the next dean of Mercer’s Law School. Her broad and extensive experience as a lawyer, elected official, public servant, leader and administrator in the private and public sectors, and higher education make her well-suited to effectively and successfully lead the Law School as it approaches its 150th year. She will be a great dean.”
“I am thrilled that Cathy Cox will be the next dean of Mercer Law School and am excited about the future of the Law School under her leadership. She brings extraordinary experience, talent and skill to the position,” said Dean Floyd. “I, and the other members of the Law School community, look forward to working with her to continue to provide the distinctive Mercer legal education that prepares our students for lives of service and meaning as lawyers.”
Cox is a 1990 graduate of Leadership Georgia, is active in the United Methodist Church and is a member of numerous philanthropic and civic organizations. She also serves on the Board of Directors of United Community Banks Inc.
She is married to attorney Mark Dehler.