Bennette Eugene Geer, 1938
Bennette Eugene Geer was born in Anderson County, South Carolina on June 9, 1873 to Soloman M. and Mary Melvina Holmes Geer. He graduated from Furman University in 1896 with a B.A., and received his M.A. in 1897. He continued at Furman to serve as an assistant professor of Latin (1897), professor of English (1901), dean of the faculty (1907), and treasurer (1911-1927). He was conferred a Doctor of Letters degree from Furman in 1916. In 1911, he began work in the cotton mill industry, and became the president and treasurer of Judson Mills in 1913. Geer served as president of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association from 1930-1931, and was a founder of the Cotton Textile Institute. He was president of the American Bank and Trust Company of Greenville, and director of the First National Bank, Peoples National Bank, Liberty Life Insurance Company, Union Bleachery, and Piedmont and Northern Railway. In World War I, he was a fuel administrator for South Carolina, and in World War II, he served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board, for the textile industry, and as a member of the Code Committee of the Textile Industry under the National Recovery Act.
As a Furman University trustee, Geer secured Furman as a beneficiary of the Duke Endowment when he was selected by Mr. James B. Duke as one of the original trustees at the establishment of the Duke Endowment in 1924. In 1933, Geer was chosen as the sixth president of Furman University, serving until 1938.
Throughout his presidency he raised funds by aggressively pursuing grants and other forms of financial support. Lauded by students for his progressive thinking and emphasis on academics, he worked to steer the university into the mainstream of modern education. He, alongside professors Laura Ebaugh and Gordon Blackwell and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, established the Greenville County Council for Community Development, which sought to make the community a laboratory through which students and faculty worked, interacted, and contributed to the improvement of the quality of life for white and African American people in Greenville.