The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development – a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia – is dedicated to strengthening communities, organizations, and individuals through leadership development, training, and education. Founded in 1982, the Institute is named for UGA's first Vice President for Services, Dr. J.W. Fanning. His legacy of leadership development is embodied in the Institute's dedication to developing leaders of all ages, in every community, from all walks of life. A variety of clients call on the Institute's multi-disciplinary faculty for their expertise in community, non-profit, organizational, and youth leadership development.
About J.W. (John William) Fanning (1905-1997)
The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development is a living legacy to the spirit, vision, and faith in humanity that characterized the life of Dr. J.W. Fanning, the first vice president for services of the University of Georgia.
Born in 1905, Fanning grew up as a farmer’s son in Wilkes and Taliaferro Counties. His love of farming stayed with him all of his life, even as his career took him far from the chores of plowing and working with livestock.
As a young man, Fanning pursued a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Georgia, and he graduated with a master’s degree in 1928. Shortly thereafter, Fanning became an assistant county agent in Clarke County, where he began his work fostering leadership and development in rural communities. He continued his work in the Agricultural Extension Service, ultimately serving in Macon, Perry, and Tifton.
In the mid-50s, Fanning resigned from the Extension Service to begin what would remain a life-long focus on community development, taking on leadership roles and becoming known throughout the state. Fanning’s efforts and continued involvement with the University led to the creation in 1961 of the Institute of Community and Area Development, which he was named to direct. In 1965, UGA President O.C. Aderhold appointed Fanning as Vice President for Services, a position he held until his retirement in 1971.
But Fanning was not done with service. In accord with his motto, “may you stay alive as long as you live”, Fanning was instrumental in fulfilling developer Pat Pattillo’s vision for Leadership Georgia. The program, formed in 1972, was inspired by and modeled after a Leadership Savannah program that Fanning had helped establish in the 1950s. Leadership Georgia has since evolved into one of the most respected—and diverse—leadership programs of its type in the country. At Leadership Georgia’s fifteenth anniversary celebration, Fanning was recognized as advisor-emeritus.
Throughout his career he enjoyed the strong support of Cora Lee, his partner of 61 years, who promoted the idea that married couples should work as a team in community service and who persuaded Leadership Georgia to include spouses as full participants.