On the evening of Friday, Jan. 26, former Piedmont College president Emeritus W. Ray Cleere passed away at the age of 81 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cleere served as Piedmont’s 12th president from 1995 to 2011. During his time as president, he oversaw a massive growth of the college, developing the small, 850-student school into a comprehensive institution of nearly 3,000 students. One of Cleere’s greatest endeavors as president was establishing Piedmont’s second campus in Athens, which has since grown into a sprawling campus and has served over 6,000 students.

Cleere also oversaw the construction of nine new buildings during his time as president, including five residence halls and the Swanson Center for Performing Arts and Communications. This academic center serves as the home-base for Piedmont’s departments of theatre and mass communications.

Because of Cleere’s work on the Swanson Center, theater students have access to three main venues, including the Arrendale Amphitheatre, the Blackbox Theatre and the W.R. Cleere Mainstage Theatre, named in honor of Cleere.

Mass communications students are able to work in a state-of-the-art video production studio, an audio recording and broadcasting studio, a Mac lab and a newsroom, where this publication is produced.

“The mass communications department exists at Piedmont College because of the vision and leadership of Ray Cleere,” said Dale Van Cantfort, chair of the mass communications department. “He was the driving force that brought the Swanson family to make the financial commitment that led to the development of the Swanson Center. All the many theatre and mass communication students who have benefited from the use of the Swanson Center over the past decade owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Cleere. He will be missed.”

Cleere also led the vast expansion of Piedmont’s academic curriculum, including the addition of master’s, specialist and doctoral programs in education, and three master of business administration (MBA) programs. Piedmont’s Daniel School of Nursing also opened under Cleere’s leadership.

President James Mellichamp was one of the first to recognize the positive impact that Cleere had on Piedmont. “His passing brings to a close one of the most storied chapters in Piedmont College history,” he said. “We have lost a visionary leader, remarkable educator and close friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and extended family.”

Ray Cleere is survived by his wife and former Chaplain of Piedmont College, the Rev. Ashley C. Cleere and his daughter, Jennifer Cherry Cleere.

To read President Cleere’s full obituary and information about the memorial service, click here.