Since 1933, a strong yet graceful woman supported, guided, nourished and thoroughly loved Young Harris College in every way possible. Often referred to as the beloved “Guardian Angel” of YHC, Fay Harmon Clegg Hoag, ’33, was a central member of the local community for more than 80 years.
Mrs. Hoag was born in Maysville, Ga., and grew up the daughter of a cotton farmer in Unadilla, Ga. She enrolled at YHC during some of the nation’s toughest economic times. She captured the heart of a distinguished educator and YHC alumnus, Dr. Charles Clegg, ’27, and the pair wed soon after she graduated from YHC with an associate of arts degree.
Dr. Clegg was appointed president of Young Harris College in 1950. Mrs. Hoag wrote of her homecoming to Young Harris: “It was the good fortune of the Unadilla girl to return to the campus, this time as wife of the president.” She served as the gracious “first lady” of the campus until Dr. Clegg died in 1963, and the couple raised three children, George “Bud” Clegg, ’55, Mary “Jean” Dickinson Minus, ’52, and Charles Parks Clegg, ’67, who passed away in 2005.
“She acted as a surrogate parent to YHC students, guiding and nurturing them, sewing clothes and prom dresses for them, even washing laundry for them,” said YHC President Cathy Cox. “Faculty members regularly took coffee breaks in her home, including her good friend and noted poet Byron Herbert Reece.”
Mrs. Hoag served as the first full-time director of the Young Harris College Alumni Association, guiding the organization through its formative years. She also served in other capacities at the College, including director of public relations, assistant to the president, manager of the dining hall and instructor of music.
Mrs. Hoag played the piano and organ during her studies at YHC, and was also involved in the Music Club as a student. In 1975, YHC alumni established the “Fay Harmon Clegg Hoag Concert Series” to honor her commitment to the arts and devotion to the College.
In 1971, Mrs. Hoag went on to marry Dr. Merritt E. “Scotty” Hoag, who had previously served as president of the University of North Georgia and became mayor of Young Harris. Throughout her life, she remained fond of her stepson, John “Randy” Hoag, who currently resides in Brussels, Belgium.
Until recently, Mrs. Hoag remained around the corner from the YHC campus in her home on Maple Street and was affectionately referred to as “Mama Clegg” by students, faculty and friends. When asked by her friends why she stayed in the area, she always simply replied, “Because I like it here.”
Mrs. Hoag was awarded YHC’s first honorary bachelor of arts degree on her 96th birthday at the College’s 2009 commencement ceremony. She also received the Susan B. Harris Award at Homecoming in 2005 and the Young Harris College Medallion in 1986.
“Ms. Fay kept up with every activity, every faculty and staff event, and all of the progress on this campus for more than 80 years,” said President Cox. “She was a wonderful friend and advisor to me, and willingly shared her insights on the rich history of YHC and what has made it the great place it is today. She touched so many lives, both at YHC and beyond, and she will be deeply missed.”
Mrs. Fay Harmon Clegg Hoag peacefully died early Wednesday morning, Feb. 20, of natural causes in Dahlonega, Ga.