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UA 03/008 Bennette Eugene Geer Papers, 1926-1938

Biographical Sketch

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 on the faculty from 1897 to 1911, serving as an assistant professor of Latin (1897), professor of English (1901), and dean of the faculty (1907). Geer then served as treasurer (1911-1927). He was conferred an Honorary 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 (1920-33), 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. He was the first joint president of Furman University and Greenville Woman’s College. Geer served until 1938.

His accomplishments included working with others to develop the Greenville-Furman arboretum, construct Sirrine Stadium, begin a nursing program with Greenville General Hospital, begin the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, and form the Greenville County Council for Community Development (GCCCD). He also received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award as an outstanding alumnus and friend of the university.

He married Rena McGee Rice in 1900, and they had six children. Geer died in Greenville, South Carolina on December 30, 1964 at the age of 91.