Marvin S. Pittman: A Historical Inquiry of His Life, Legacy, and Leadership

Pamela Frost Altman, Georgia Southern University


This dissertation is an inquiry into the educational leadership style of Marvin Summers Pittman, April 12, 1882 - February 27, 1954. Pittman was a transformational leader with a vision to set goals that sometimes appeared to be 'outside the box' during his time as an educational leader.

Pittman introduced new and innovative programs in education, including his zone plan for teacher training, and theories for the consolidation of schools. Pittman understood that education was the tool needed to give power back to the people, and to enable them to be productive citizens. Education was Pittman's tool to bring the poor farm boy from the cotton fields into the classroom.

This inquiry illustrates how Pittman proved himself to be an exceptional educational leader and administrator. Pittman transformed the campus at South Georgia Teachers College (SGTC) when he became President in 1934, by introducing 'faculty organization,' schools of instruction, and an expanded curriculum. Pittman's legacy as an educational leader reflects his knowledge that college students needed more than just academics. He brought intellectual and cultural entertainment to enhance their educational experience.

Pittman was fired during his administration as president at Georgia Teachers College (GTC), formerly SGTC, and now Georgia Southern University. Pittman struggled as an educational leader to ensure that all people had an equal opportunity to be educated in rural areas of South Georgia. His service to GTC was during the difficult years of the Depression and World War II, and the time when segregationist, Eugene Talmadge was governor of Georgia. Talmadge fired Pittman because of political differences.

This inquiry into the life of Marvin Summers Pittman reveals him as an ethical, moral, scholarly and forthright individual. Former students provided testimony on how this man of unusual foresight and vision inspired them. Pittman was an authority on rural education, and an educational consultant in many countries.