Former OU president Dr. Manning Pattillo passes away at 104 years of age

Dr. Manning Pattillo, Oglethorpe University’s 13th president, died June 2, 2024, in Atlanta. He was one of Oglethorpe’s most important presidents, earning the distinction of University Chancellor and President Emeritus from the Oglethorpe Board of Trustees.

Dr. Pattillo led the university at a key time in its history, serving from 1975-1988 and was instrumental in helping Oglethorpe achieve national recognition and enhancing its academic reputation. The average SAT score of incoming students rose 250 points during his tenure, and credentials and qualifications of faculty were a strategic priority.

Black and white photo of former President Manning Pattillo and his wife, Martha.

Former President Manning Pattillo with his wife, Martha.

Dr. Pattillo remained active in higher education, Atlanta and the Oglethorpe campus community after his retirement, including attending 47 Oglethorpe commencement ceremonies from 1976 to 2022.

“Oglethorpe University is the university it is today because of the leadership of Manning Pattillo,” said Dr. Kathryn McClymond, Oglethorpe’s current president. “It warmed my heart to see him at commencement in 2022, my first at Oglethorpe, and I am mindful of his legacy as I seek to lead Oglethorpe to become Atlanta’s premier undergraduate learning experience during this chapter of our important and ongoing story.”

Born in Charlottesville, Va., on October 11, 1919, Dr. Pattillo received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Eight colleges and universities conferred honorary degrees on him, including the degrees Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Humane Letters, Doctor of Laws, and Doctor of Civil Law. Oglethorpe honored him with an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1994. Over the years he served as a trustee of seven colleges and two private schools. He was a frequent keynote and commencement speaker at colleges, universities, and educational meetings. He also served as a consultant to the U.S. Air Force in the founding of the Air Force Academy.

Before his tenure at Oglethorpe, Dr. Pattillo was a professor of Higher Education at the University of Chicago for seven years, served as an Associate Secretary of the Commission on Colleges and Universities of the North Central Association, and worked for numerous foundations including the Lilly Endowment, Danforth Foundation and the Foundation Center in New York.

He came to Oglethorpe directly from serving as director of special projects at the University of Rochester in New York, and he had previously served as chancellor of St. Mary’s College in Maryland.

“Dr. Pattillo held a strong commitment to maintaining Oglethorpe as an undergraduate liberal arts college,” said Oglethorpe University Librarian Eli Arnold. “The Pattillo years would see the establishment of the Freshman Seminar, something only recently resurrected in 2022; a change in Oglethorpe Athletics, making it more competitive and stable compared to its previous years; building improvements, such as Hearst Hall; and other budgetary and accreditation changes.”

The university’s current Alma Mater also dates back to his time as president, and he led in the creation of the popular dual degree programs for engineering students. Both the Dr. Manning Pattillo, Jr. Scholarship, and the Manning M. Pattillo, Jr. Professor of Liberal Arts professorship were named in his honor.

He served as a board member for multiple foundations, such as the Woodruff Arts Center and Phi Beta Kappa Association, and his work and achievements at Oglethorpe and beyond were recognized by such awards as the Profile of Positive Aging from LeadingAge Georgia in 2013 and the Talmage Award from Oglethorpe University in 2010.

Dr. Pattillo was a significant contributor to the field of education, writing numerous books and serving as consultant.

“Manning made OU what it is today,” said Dr. Glenn Sharfman, professor of history and former provost. “Before he arrived, OU was struggling with academics—standards, direction, focus. He was determined to make Oglethorpe an excellent academic institution by focusing on high standards for students, faculty and staff.  He believed until his last breath that a liberal arts education would set students for a life where they could make a life, living, and difference. He was truly one of a kind. I will miss him.”

His obituary is posted at and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m., June 15, at Lenbrook-Atlanta, 3747 Peachtree Road, Atlanta.

Dr. Pattillo was married to Martha Aileen Crawford Pattillo for 56 years before she passed away in 2003. He is survived by his daughter, Martha Crawford Pattillo; his younger son, John Landrum Pattillo; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers the family requests that contributions be made to Oglethorpe University through an online contribution or by mail to 4484 Peachtree Road, Atlanta 30319, or gifts can also be made to Lenbrook Square Foundation, Inc., for support of the Friends of the Arts Program, 3747 Peachtree Road, Atlanta 30319.

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