(MACON) Mercer University has awarded an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree to Joseph Hillman Harvey Jr., vice chairman emeritus of Harveys supermarkets, in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the grocery industry and dedicated service to his community. The presentation was made during the University's commencement on May 9 in the Macon Coliseum, with an estimated 6,000 graduates and guests in attendance.
Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey presented Mr. Harvey with a diploma, and Mr. James Bishop, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mercer University, assisted with the hooding.
The respected business leader began his career at age five, dispensing iced sodas from atop a stack of empty crates at his father's grocery store. At age nine, he began working daily at the store and did so until high school graduation. Even at this early age, he began building customer relationships that would last a lifetime.
Following his college studies, which included Mercer University, he immersed himself in the family business, joining his father's grocery business full time. Two years later, in 1950, the family's four grocery stores became the J. H. Harvey Company, Incorporated, with Mr. Harvey appointed Secretary, with his father, J. H. Harvey, Sr., serving as President.
As the chain of Harveys supermarkets grew, Mr. Harvey assumed more responsibility, serving in numerous management capacities, including buying, meat operations, data processing, store location, store design and layout, advertising and other special projects. In 1980, he followed in his father's footsteps and was elected President and Chief Executive Officer, and in 1989, he was elected Chairman of the Board of the J. H. Harvey Company.
Known for always going the extra mile, Mr. Harvey embraced change and innovation. He was responsible for the installation of the first company computer, the first mechanized warehouse facility, and the streamlining of store order forms. His dedication to serving others never slowed. He instilled three basic business principles: provide superb customer service, offer low prices and have the best employees in the grocery business. Mr. Harvey's hands-on participation and leadership played an active role in the expansion of the company from four stores in 1948 to 45 stores in Georgia and Florida in 2003.
In October 2003, Mr. Harvey sold the J. H. Harvey Company to Delhaize America through what he calls "the perfect sale.'' Today, Harveys remains intact, along with its operating philosophies and management team. And, the Harveys banner continues to enjoy strong customer loyalty to shopping at the "Friendliest Store in Town."
A native of Nashville, Ga., Mr. Harvey served two terms on the Board of Nashville Elementary School during the 1960s.
Throughout his life and business success, Mr. Harvey has been nurtured by his faith. He joined the Nashville United Methodist Church at age 9. As he grew older, he served his church in leadership positions.
A founding member of Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica on Saint Simons Island, he was elected in 1976 to the Board of Trustees of Epworth by the Sea, a Christian conference and retreat center. A year later, he once again followed in his father's footsteps and began serving as its Treasurer and Financial Chairman. In 1992, he was elected Chairman of the Board and continues in that position today.
Mr. Harvey and his wife, the former Martha Brumley, are residents of Sea Island, where they enjoy time with a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His sister, Iris Harvey Smith, resides in Cairo, Georgia.