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Beyond Legacy: The Turner Family

This story originally appeared in 2021 Aeolian magazine.

For decades, Georgia Southwestern’s faculty members have passed the academic torch to a multitude of Hurricanes from all walks of life, but few can claim that they have simultaneously stirred the same GSW storm within their own families. Terrell Turner is one of the rare few who has been able to do so. After completing four years of service in the United States Air Force and multiple years of teaching in Dekalb County, Terrell brought his teaching skills to GSW’s Department of Mathematics. His presence, along with that of his wife Janie Turner (’74), was the catalyst that would sow the seeds for future generations of Hurricanes, both kin and colleague.

Terrell, affectionately dubbed “Grandaddy” of the Turner clan, joined the GSW family in 1967 as an Instructor of Mathematics. In 1974, Terrell and his department cohorts worked together to create the University’s annual math tournament which, in the present day, is known as the Jay Cliett and Bill Kipp High School Math Tournament and endures as the longest running math competition in Georgia.

Janie, Terrell’s wife of 67 years and “Granny,” also made her mark on GSW’s timeline as a member of the first class to graduate from GSW’s Master of Education program in 1974.

The Turner presence on GSW’s campus extends far beyond Terrell and Janie. The couple’s three children graduated from GSW, two of which have now spread Hurricane pride to other states. Dr. Jim Turner (’83) followed in his father’s footsteps, serving in the Air Force for four years before attending college. He has since retired from the College of Osteopathic Medicine at William Carey University and resides in Arkansas with his wife, Dr. Sherry Turner. Jim’s younger brother, Dr. Bobby Turner (’79), is a retired dentist and now resides in Georgia with his wife, Lisa Turner (’80).

Their sister Cheryl (Turner) Fletcher (’82, ’91), described by Terrell as his “heartbeat,” reached an unspoken resolution that it would be best for one’s heart to avoid straying too far away. As a result, Cheryl and her husband Mike Fletcher (’78) continue to reside in Americus. When attending GSW, Cheryl followed her mother’s path, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Cheryl and Mike’s two children, Michael Fletcher (’08) and Maggie (Fletcher) Moore (’12, ’20) received their undergraduate degrees from GSW with Maggie also earning her Specialist of Education.

With a university bloodline three generations strong and an academic lineage even longer than that, Terrell admits that he is “very fortunate.” And while his 1991 Assistant Professor Emeriti Award is certainly a statement of influence, Terrell finds ultimate joy in his family: Janie, who he joked as “brave to have stayed with me so long,” Jim and Bobby, the medical minds who will forever be his boys, Cheryl, the lifeblood of his heart, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When Terrell retired as the Department Chair in Mathematics in 1991, he and Janie had undoubtedly lit a fire within the storm zone, one that is sure to keep the Hurricane clouds swirling for many years to come.