Good afternoon, and thank you for attending this State of the University address. It has been my pleasure and privilege to present this report, required by University Council statute, every January since I arrived here in the summer of 1997. It is a time to reflect on the events of the previous year but, more importantly, focus our gaze on the coming years.
The work of this place is communal, not individual. All successes are mutual accomplishments.
There was much to celebrate in 2012 at the University of Georgia. Once again we enrolled the most qualified class in UGA history, with a GPA of 3.8 and an SAT average of 1,273.
For comparison, the first class of my tenure posted a GPA of 3.52 and an SAT average of 1,182.
The continued elevation in the quality of the UGA student body is one of the things about which I am most proud. These are very good students, drawn here by the quality of the faculty, the strength of the academic programs and the beauty of the physical plant. And some of them come for football tickets, I suppose.
UGA students do very well once they get to campus, as evidenced by the number of national academic scholarships awarded to them in recent years. In November we learned that Elizabeth Allan is our 23rd Rhodes Scholar and the fourth in the past six years. She capped an exceptional year for such honors:
In 2012, UGA students won four Goldwater Scholarships, the maximum allowed per institution; three Udall Scholarships, one of only two institutions to receive that many; five Boren Scholarships; and 17 Fulbright Scholarships. UGA students are competitive with young people anywhere in this country. As I have said to many people and groups around the state, if you are worried about the future of this country, come spend a day with me on this campus—you will feel much better.
Lest there be concern about the monetary value of a UGA degree, in addition to the qualitative value, in September we learned that Smart Money magazine, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, had ranked UGA fourth on a list of salary return on tuition investment.
For the first time, we made the list of Public Ivies, placing fourth, which simply serves to endorse the outcome of a whole range of efforts we have undertaken.
We continued to fare very well in the annual Open Doors ranking of study-abroad experiences for UGA—students, placing 12th among all institutions (up from 15th the previous year). More than 25 percent of the graduating class in 2011 had an international experience. I have long believed in the transformative power of studying outside the comfort zone of the United States, and I am very proud of the progress we have made together in this area.
Together, we have purchased property in England, in Costa Rica and in Italy.
We also have bilateral cooperative agreements with more than 40 of the world’s best universities. Today, a student can come to the University of Georgia and study virtually anywhere in the world.
In early February, we dedicated one of the most beautiful and functional buildings on this campus, the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. Home to the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library; the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies; and the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Collection, the Russell Building tells the story of Georgia in ways no other entity can.
With as much vault space below the ground as square footage above; the modern technology to store documents and artifacts appropriately; and ample gallery space to display the collections, this is the kind of research library a top public university ought to have. Bill Potter was the happiest person on campus that day.
In November, we broke ground for a new Veterinary Medicine Learning Center at the intersection of College Station and Barnett Shoals roads. This building will bring that college’s facilities up to the standards of its exemplary teaching, research and service. I am deeply grateful to the governor and legislature for the level of state funding in this project and equally grateful to the many generous private supporters of the project.
Dean Allen and her staff are due a great deal of credit for the very good work they have done.
I am also grateful to several major donors and many, many others who have made it possible for us to fund privately the first phase of the new Terry College Business Learning Community along Lumpkin Street. That building will bear the name of longtime UGA friend and supporter Pete Correll, who made the anchor gift. We plan to break ground there in the spring, about the same time we begin construction on a new Bolton Dining Hall at the corner of Baxter and Lumpkin streets, financed by the UGA Real Estate Foundation. The Real Estate Foundation is another of the things about which I am quite proud in my 16 years here.
Two significant academic program achievements occurred in 2012. On July 1, following a unanimous spring vote by University Council, the College of Engineering was established, with Dale Threadgill, long a champion of engineering at UGA, as founding dean. And in early August, the Health Sciences Campus, formerly the Navy Supply Corps School in Normaltown, was occupied by the College of Public Health and the Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership. Together, those units will address the challenging state of public health in Georgia, individually and collectively.
Taken together with the other academic units established here in the past 16 years, about which I will say more later, these constitute what is arguably the greatest enhancement of the academic profile of this university in its history.
UGA researchers continued to earn grants and produce results that not only gained recognition worldwide, but, more importantly, stand to improve lives. The formation of the Obesity Initiative, under the direction of professor Cliff Baile, is a perfect example. The initiative brings together the expertise and experience of some 100 faculty from across the university to address one of the most pressing public health challenges facing this state. More than 1 million Georgia children are obese—1 million.
The flagship institution in this state can no longer stand by without organizing against this crisis, and I am proud of the faculty who have stepped forward to address this need.
Among other research and scholarship highlights:
• A method for harnessing bacterial immune systems with far-reaching implications for biotechnology and biomedical research.
• A 15-year study of deaths among high school football players, with recommendations for reducing the risk of such tragedies.
• The use of nanoparticles and alternating magnetic current to kill cancerous cells in certain mouse tumors.
• A partnership with Emory, Georgia Tech and the CDC Foundation to conduct research on malaria.
• The discovery of a genetic mutation in sunflowers that likely produced the flowers in van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” series.
• An effort to revive the great American chestnut tree, which was virtually eliminated from the American landscape following the introduction of a blight in 1900.
• UGA engineers garnered statewide attention for a series of meetings with restaurant and hotel operators on ways to conserve water-and save money in the process.
• A $1 million National Science Foundation grant to study the most important genes in the soybean genome, with an eye toward additional uses of the versatile legume.
• The production of a new map of the human brain.
• A $1.5 million Department of Energy grant to the chemistry department to pursue innovative approaches to more efficient methods of energy transmission, and a $2 million grant to further biofuel development.
• Promising work on a new vaccine for mumps and $1.5 million for research into the molecular mechanisms behind a class of previously unidentified anemias.
• The Georgia Museum of Art received a significant collection of African-American art from our good friends Larry and Brenda Thompson.
• Professor John Inscoe’s book “Writing the South through the Self” was named the best book of Georgia history.
Several of our best internal people were promoted to new positions and are serving this university very well—Michelle Garfield Cook as associate provost for institutional diversity; Jerry Legge as associate provost for academic planning; and Janyce Dawkins as director of the Equal Opportunity Office. Alan Dorsey assumed the position of dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences on July 1, escaping from the University of Florida; Craig Kennedy, a senior administrator at Vanderbilt’s Peabody School, joined us Jan. 1, 2013, as dean of the College of Education.
The year in athletics was highlighted by the London Olympics and Paralympics, where 26 current or former UGA athletes competed in seven events, bringing home seven medals. If UGA were a country, it would have placed 24th.
The women’s swimming team, under the direction of coach Jack Bauerle, set a new NCAA record by winning its 82nd consecutive home meet, a streak which extends back an amazing 16 years.
The most recent NCAA report on graduation rates contained some good news about the academic progress of UGA athletes. The graduation success rate is 81 percent. The football team’s rate is 69 percent, up from 41 percent five years ago. Fourteen of the 17 teams either improved or remained constant.
As you can see, 2012 was another very good year at the University of Georgia, thanks largely to the very good work of the people in this building and faculty, staff and students across this great campus.
A broader view
I would like now to take a few minutes for a broader look at what we have done together for this university the past 16 years, since I stood on the steps of this Chapel and accepted the call to be your president.
Sixteen years is a long time. For me, it is almost half of the time I have been in this profession and, I believe, a significant time in the history of the University of Georgia. The academic standing of this university is much higher than it was 16 years ago, just as it had been strengthened by the good work of my predecessor, Chuck Knapp; I take great pride in that fact and the impact it will have on the strength of this state for decades to come.
I have enjoyed broad support from the board of regents of the University System of Georgia for 16 years. I want especially to thank Chancellor Steve Portch, who offered me this job on behalf of the regents, who were chaired at the time by the late Tom Allgood, and the search committee, which was chaired by Regent Don Leebern. I am also grateful to my friend Dan Amos, who represented the University of Georgia Foundation on the search committee, and to Dr. Betty Whitten, who was the chair of the executive committee of University Council and represented the faculty in the search.
One of the charges given to me by the board of regents when I came here was to raise the national profile of this place and transition it out of the 20th century and into the 21st as one of America’s great public universities. I believe that, working together, we have been successful in doing just that.
Led by increasingly better classes each fall, we have seen a dramatic increase in student academic quality. The quality of the faculty has kept pace, as has the financial support to recruit and retain some of the best teachers in the country. In 1997, there were 92 endowed faculty positions at UGA; this year, there are 227. We probably need twice that many. The people who love this place and support its missions have been generous with their resources, and we are deeply grateful to them for that.
We have also focused on the learning environment, believing a place of the quality to which we have aspired should look the part. Major academic facilities such as the Miller Learning Center, the Coverdell Center, the Pharmacy complex, the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and the Russell Research Library have provided appropriate spaces commensurate with the quality of scholars on this campus. We have honored the great history of this university by renovating more than 2 million square feet of historic and traditional space, including Old College, New College, Moore College, Phi Kappa, Candler, the Administration Building and the first floor of the main library, all to serve the students and faculty better.
We have replaced some 46 acres of asphalt with green-space, making this a more walkable and, frankly, enjoyable campus.
But it’s not just about construction dollars and new buildings and renovated historic spaces. All those are the means to an end, and that end is a university campus that functions as a thriving, vibrant academic entity-a place alive with the mind’s activities. It is about pride and presence, about attention to detail and doing things right, about a university with a great tradition of agriculture and horticulture and forestry looking like it knows how to take care of important outdoor spaces.
It is about improved intellectual discourse and a vitally improved fine arts program.
The renovated Fine Arts Building is now one of my favorite spaces on campus. The new Lamar Dodd School of Art on East Campus, the dramatically expanded Georgia Museum of Art and programmatic improvements at the Performing Arts Center, with additional relationships with the Classic Center, have bolstered the identity of that part of campus as an arts center. It is about arts and music and drama and dance and theater and performance working together and talking together in common spaces. It is that renewed spirit that we celebrated in a weeklong Spotlight on the Arts in November.
At a time when many institutions, particularly private colleges and universities, have cut back on their commitment to the arts and humanities, and during a time when budget constraints made it difficult even to maintain the status quo, we have increased support for the arts and humanities and the cultural offerings that are not only expected but necessary at a great public university. I have worked with the provost to find additional support for The Georgia Review, the UGA Press and the Willson Center, among other units. These efforts have not only improved the overall intellectual enterprise by offering students a fuller range of opportunities, but have also made a strong statement about this university’s commitment to the broadest range of academic, cultural and arts experiences for Georgia’s best young students.
I have said it from this podium before: You cannot be a great public university without a vibrant fine arts program. It is simply impossible.
An improved academic climate is about greatly enhanced research and research productivity-in fiscal year 1997, total federal research expenditures were $54.5 million; in 2011, that number was $137.3 million. In the most recent NSF ranking of federal research expenditures, we rose from 97th in the nation to 84th-a remarkable move. For the first time ever, UGA was ranked in the Shanghai list of the top 200 research universities in the world. With the establishment of the Medical Partnership, the College of Public Health and the College of Engineering, this university now has the tools in place to increase even further its research funding, productivity and profile.
The next phase of UGA’s development needs to focus on graduate and professional education. UGA must become a more aggressively competitive public research university.
I take great satisfaction from the establishment of several new colleges and schools at UGA, some of which I proposed in my second State of the University address in 1999. My philosophy remains that we serve students better in smaller, more focused academic units. With the creation of the School of Public and International Affairs, the College of Public Health, the Odum School of Ecology, the College of Environment and Design and the College of Engineering, we have offered students a broader range of opportunities; expanded research opportunities and synergies; and positioned the university better to serve the needs of the state.
The faculty is due significant credit for sustaining a commitment to a real, meaningful, rigorous core curriculum. In an era of cafeteria course loads at many places, where students are free to choose from an array of courses, this place has remained steadfast in the belief that in the first two years, all students should have a similar liberal arts foundation laid in preparation for the specialization to come. In particular, I believe that our students—and, frankly, all people—need to have an understanding of the history of this nation and some shared vision of where it is headed. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni annually ranks more than 1,000 colleges and universities on the strength of their core curricula.
Last year, UGA was one of only 21 institutions to receive a grade of A in that survey. We can—and should—all be proud of that recognition.
Our public service and outreach efforts are considerably stronger and more accessible to the people of Georgia, the people we are charged with serving as a land-grant university. The Archway Partnership has connected UGA’s considerable resources with the specific needs of communities around the state in the true spirit of the Morrill Act. Enhancements in the programs of the Vinson Institute and the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development have helped serve targeted constituencies in better, more effective ways.
At our core, everything we do here is about serving the people of Georgia, and I am proud of the impact we continue to have on the quality of life in this great state.
The overall effect is that the intellectual climate of the University of Georgia is much improved. We have more serious students with a stronger faculty in improved facilities. Our research agenda is stronger and broader. The cultural and fine arts experience on campus is greatly enhanced. We are serving the state in more and better ways. The place simply feels more academic.
Equally important is that we have done this while at the same time increasing significantly the participation of historically underserved groups.
While there is still progress to be made, I am very proud of the steps we have taken to diversify this campus—in the student body, in the faculty and in the senior administration. The flagship university of the state of Georgia ought to look more like Georgia; it does more so today than it did 16 years ago.
I grew up in the segregated South. As a child, I did not understand the separation. As an adult, I saw that the legacy of that separation lingered in the state’s educational system—K-12 and higher education. I wanted to do something to improve that condition.
We fought the good fight, literally.
Faced with lawsuits over admission practices that allowed us to consider factors such as gender, race, ethnicity and family background for a small percentage of the admitted class, we stood for the principles of access and equity. And while we did not prevail in court, I believe we have prevailed in practice. In 1998, the freshman class was 14 percent minority; in 2011, it was 26.3 percent. The overall student body was 13 percent minority in 1998; today, it is 25 percent.
But this is about more than numbers. It is about people, about opportunity, about the power of education to improve both an individual’s life and the community in which he or she lives. It is about transformation.
So making an effort to include in the student body, the faculty and the administration people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and genders and orientations and languages and experiences makes all of us better.
We can quantify the improvements in the student experience by tracking the results from the National Survey of Student Engagement, the national standard, which we first administered in 2003 and most recently in 2011. According to the NSSE results, 93 percent of UGA first-year students and 91 percent of seniors report that their entire educational experience at this institution is either good or excellent. As in previous surveys, a high percentage of seniors (90 percent in 2011) said they would choose UGA again if they were starting their college career over.
This positive overview is just part of a detailed picture. The results showed that the level of academic challenge at UGA is equal to our peers and Carnegie class institutions, which is good news.
Much of this has been made possible by the dramatic increase in private support. In 1996, UGA raised $33.6 million. Last year, we marked the seventh consecutive year of raising more than $100 million. The endowment then was $249 million; today it is $776 million. In 1997, we had 437 planned gifts on the books; today there are 1,102 with a total value of $245.5 million. This did not happen by accident.
When I arrived, the development operation was understaffed, underfunded and, frankly, less focused than the institution needed it to be.
The simple reality is that you have to spend money to raise money in support of the mission of the institution. Today we have an appropriately staffed development office which is researching, identifying and building relationships with people who are committed to and capable of making significant gifts to UGA.
Together, we have done all of this, unlike at many places, with a very high level of agreement at the senior administrative level and an amazingly high level of rapport with the faculty. I am grateful to each of you for your support, your advice, your counsel and your friendship.
You have heard in each year’s speech, including this one, the review of accomplishments, again important for the historical record and for reminding us of what we have done together for the good of this university. But I have avoided, as much as possible, “What would Mike do?” statements, feeling instead that it was my responsibility to posit a vision and try to bring as many of the university’s multiple constituencies along as possible. But as you might expect, I am feeling a bit less fettered than I did at this time and in this place last year.
So for just a few minutes, I am going to indulge in sharing some more personal opinions than I have in the past, recognizing that come July 1, none of you has to pay a single bit of attention to what I say or think.
1. The state should maintain and even strengthen its commitment to expanded and enhanced public medical education in Georgia, including medical doctors, residencies and increased support for biomedical and biotechnical research. If it does not, this institution, this region, this state and its economy will suffer. We remain dramatically behind in every measurable health-care ranking, from lack of physicians and researchers to lack of biomedical and pharmaceutical companies to disturbingly high levels of diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s, heart trouble, cancer and infant mortality. As the state’s land-grant university, we have an obligation to address these issues and help this state get healthier. The Medical Partnership, College of Public Health and Obesity Initiative are the latest efforts to do just that, adding to the historical contributions of the College of Pharmacy and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The progress that has been made in this area should be built on with even greater efforts.
2. The faculty should consider the creation of a College of Fine Arts, which was one of my proposals in that 1999 speech. I spoke last year with Garnett Stokes, former dean of the Franklin College and now provost at Florida State, and she has a slightly different point of view on this issue now that she has broader responsibility at a university that is home to a College of Visual Arts, Theater and Dance.
Such a college would create better opportunities for synergy among dance and drama and art and music and theater and performance. It would bring the museum and the art school and the Performing Arts Center more fully into the sphere of the students and faculty involved in these creative processes; daily contact with each other would enhance opportunities.
This university needs a new dance and drama building, probably best sited in the East Campus arts complex. Such a building could serve as the headquarters for a dean and his or her staff. And lest there be criticism of the notion of an administrative suite, I would remind my friends on the faculty that most of the expense at the University of Georgia is not embedded in administration—it is in the faculty, which is where it should be. This move would only serve to help the faculty who do their jobs very well, do them even better.
3. UGA needs a viable School of Marine Science. The state of Georgia has done a better job than most Southeastern states of protecting its outer islands, coastline, marshes and estuaries.
The academic effort in that area, however, can be greatly strengthened. We will partner with other system institutions, as we have in our historic relationships with Savannah State and Georgia Tech, in enhancing and furthering the academic work going on at the Skidaway Institute, as we assume additional responsibilities there July 1. Through such efforts, we will fulfill the promise of our historic strength in marine science and longstanding designation as one of this country’s 30 sea-grant institutions (and the only one in Georgia). We have an important role to play in the protection of this crucial natural resource.
Coastal and water issues will become even more critical in the decades to come, and a focused, active School of Marine Science has much to offer both the University of Georgia and the state of Georgia.
4. We have come a long way in improving the undergraduate experience at this institution—I’ll have more to say about that next—but our graduate and professional programs, many of which are world class, deserve higher visibility and more support. As I said in this address last year, they are hidden from public view.
The plan, which has been developed to build a graduate school and research center on Lumpkin Street as part of a new academic precinct there, in plain view of everyone and with the stature and profile that befits the quality of those programs, is a sound one and deserves full support.
While some of that facility would be dedicated to normal administrative space, it would also centralize and improve the grants and contracts process while providing the graduate community its own space to meet, socialize, collaborate and share ideas.
5. This is one of the best places in the country to be an undergraduate student. No person on campus is more responsible for that than the provost, Jere Morehead.
The recommendations of the Task Force on General Education and Student Learning, which he co-chaired several years ago with then-Vice President for Instruction Del Dunn, have largely been implemented and we are today the whole package for the undergraduate student.
The quality of the teaching, the quality of the student body, the intellectual climate, the strength of the Honors Program and the overall commitment to the strength of the curriculum are rarely, if ever, exceeded at a place of this size and breadth.
Some tweaking might yet remain, however. As demand for admission increases, with a concomitant increase in the quality of the student population, we could yet grow the Honors Program, for instance.
And I know I am in the minority on this, but I believe the entire undergraduate academic experience would be strengthened if rush were delayed until spring semester. Simply put, the focus of freshmen ought to be on academics, not social life.
6. While the Athens community and the university have worked together on many laudable efforts—a new fire station, a new water treatment facility, the Oconee River Greenway, Athens Transit, fine and performing arts presentations and a generally tolerant, even accepting, spirit that makes Athens a wonderful home for a wonderful university—there are still some issues to be resolved.
Some have forgotten that the University of Georgia is a charity, not a donor.
This is a nonprofit educational institution, supported by the state and a number of external partners. And while we have supported financially many mutually beneficial projects and programs initiated by the local government, our resources have been more limited in the past three years than at any other period in my 16 years here.
The old and oft-repeated saws about how much land UGA owns and how much UGA doesn’t pay in taxes are not only shortsighted, they are potentially harmful to our state support base. They contribute to a negative feeling in Atlanta, not widely shared by our funding partners, who still believe that sending some $400 million of taxpayer money every year to Athens is a pretty strong level of commitment.
7. Of course, I can’t do this without some mention of athletics.
We have made considerable progress on improving the relationship between the academic mission of the university and the university’s athletic interests, which are increasingly dominated nationally by media and entertainment organizations and their values. We have worked hard to improve the balance, but it is a constant battle.
Even as large as Division I sports is at a place like this, it is only 5 or 6 percent of the total budget—but often commands more than half of the public’s emotional budget.
Academic interests must remain in charge of both the academic and athletic enterprises. Let me say it again:
The academic establishment has to control the athletic establishment, not the other way around. Last year’s troubling news out of Penn State made that quite clear.
I will close this item with a plea. The next, and probably last time, that Sanford Stadium is expanded, it should be done on the east end, taking the capacity to 102,000-104,000, which is frankly all that the roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure can handle.
The west end should remain open. The visible interconnection with and view of the central campus is more than just a pretty scene—it is a powerful statement about the appropriate place of athletics at a great public university.
Despite the logistical challenges it poses, I am glad that our stadium is in the middle of campus, and being able to see the Tate Center, the Miller Learning Center, the Russell Library, the Baxter Street residence halls and, soon, a new Bolton Hall and the Terry College complex reinforces the important idea that athletics at UGA is part of the whole, not an entity unto itself.
I will come back and haunt the president and athletic director who close the west end of the stadium.
8. And finally, and some may think trivially, I still think this university needs a tower with a carillon, a fitting complement to the Chapel Bell and its tradition of celebration.
I would want it to play “Glory, Glory to Old Georgia” and the alma mater about 8 every morning and 6 every night. Preferably, it should be placed in the central precinct of the campus near the Tate Student Center, but positioned so that the sound will “bother” people on North and South campus, as well as the East and West precincts.
I remember the countless nights I trudged down the hill—in 10-degree weather and the snow of Ohio winters—with the sounds of “Carmen Ohio” serenading me from the carillon at Orton Hall.
I have never forgotten that sound and the feeling that came with it; it resonates with me even today.
UGA needs that bonding experience.
Some personal comments
Thank you for allowing me to share those thoughts with you. While my time here as president will come to an end June 30, I will always care deeply about this place, about its mission and about its role in making Georgia stronger.
As I approach my final five months as president, I have begun to think about presidential tenures—my own and those of the other 20 people who have shared this privilege with me.
I am concerned about the growing idea in academe that presidents ought to stay for only six to eight years, as is the average now.
One of the great strengths of this place, I believe, is that in the post-World War II era, O.C. Aderhold, Fred Davison, Chuck Knapp and I have all beaten the average university presidential tenure by a considerable margin. With four presidents serving almost 60 years cumulatively, I don’t know of any major research university that has had fewer presidents during that time span than have we.
In today’s six- to eight-year time frame, there is about a year to get settled in and a year to prepare to leave, with precious little time in between to be transformative and help move an institution to the next level.
The great public universities of our day are very, very large complex ships, resistant to change and, alas, more bureaucratic than ever, especially within systems.
The cliché is true: It takes a long time to turn a big ship even a few degrees, much less 90 degrees or more if necessary. Add to that that we are all floating on troubled waters, and the concept of frequent turnover in the president’s office is a recipe for mediocrity, not excellence.
Like those who came before me, I have had opportunities to go other places; my successor will as well.
But I believe that the combination of a commitment to this cause and the willingness of governing boards to help and support presidents makes the opportunity for a long, fruitful engagement here an important necessity.
None of us are owners of the University of Georgia; we are merely stewards of a legacy entrusted to us by generations.
We are here for a time, serving an enterprise that is owned by the people of this state. As in most instances, the president probably gets too much praise when things go right and too much blame when things go wrong. Over the past 16 years, blame can appropriately be placed on me, but the praise needs to be shared.
I want to close by thanking all the people who have let me stay here for 16 years. I have said to Mary that, in this day and age, when you have survived four governors and five chancellors, you have used up the allotted nine lives.
First of all, I have been extraordinarily blessed to work with four chief academic officers. Bill Prokasy was a steady hand and an adept guide in my first year here, which coincided with his last.
He and Pam have become dear friends of Mary’s and mine, and I thank him for his early help. No provost has been more creative than Karen Holbrook. We remain close to her and Jim. Karen’s indefatigable work ethic and broad view of what this place could and should become coincided in many ways with my own vision for this university.
Arnett Mace provided a level of assistance and support during some of our most difficult financial times that cannot be overstated. He was a great dean and a great provost, and he and Barbara deserve the relaxation that retirement offers. Finally, none have been better than Jere Morehead, beloved by students and faculty. No provost from Bill Pelletier until now has a broader support base or loves the university more than does Jere. I am grateful for his partnership these past three years.
Tom Landrum has served me extremely well for 11 years as chief of staff in the President’s Office and, for the past five, as senior vice president for external affairs. He has been by far the best person to hold this position and has been a constant and regular confidant on major issues and most of the battles this institution has faced.
If one called central casting for a senior vice president for finance and administration, Tim Burgess would appear. Tim is an alumnus who loves this place, is schooled in the art as well as the science of budget management and brings extraordinary benefit to the university through his pragmatic understanding of the way Georgia state government works, a skill honed over many years of service, including directing the state budget office.
There have been many other vice presidents, associate provosts and deans throughout these 16 years, but I believe we have the best group today in senior administrative positions that we have had during my time here. I hope all of them know how deeply grateful I am to them for their service to me and to the university, and how indispensable each has been in the upward trajectory of this place.
I extend my deepest gratitude to Meg Amstutz for the past six years as chief of staff. Meg has been in a staff role with me longer than anyone, dating back to our early days at Centre College. She is extraordinarily bright, always thoughtful and unceasingly helpful. She keeps the university’s academic interests paramount in everything that goes through the President’s Office.
She will challenge me or anyone else if she believes an action does not serve the ultimate teaching, research or service mission of the institution.
Also, I extend deep gratitude to my dear friend Matt Winston, who has traveled with me more than anyone.
He has protected my flanks at times with students, staff and minority groups, but has also provided creative help and suggestions on how to bring all groups—and particularly underserved groups—into the mainstream of the university.
I thank Mary McDonald, who has served as the liaison between my office and the Office of External Affairs, and with whom I have spent innumerable hours.
Mary is the person on my staff who, working with Rita Manning and her staff, makes sure the special events at the President’s House, the box at football games, and a hundred other events a year serve the proper constituency. She has been invaluable in leading me to outstanding alumni and donors, many of whom have helped build this place.
For more than 13 years, many of the words I have spoken have been crafted by Chuck Toney. The ideas are mine, as are the mistakes, but the improvement in the words and the editing to make them succinct have been the provenance of Chuck. He has served me and the university in an extraordinary way.
Danny Sniff has been a 15-year partner in implementing the campus master plan.
I also offer deep gratitude to my personal staff. Donna Ward and Pat Bennett have controlled my life more than Mary or I have for the past 16 years, always with great care for me and for meeting specific university needs.
My gratitude also goes out to Anne Thompson, who would brighten any office; to Jeannie Johnson, Kathleen Pendleton, Janet Lance, Michele Ayers and Sheila Davis, who provide the services that make sure a complex office functions efficiently—processing mail, answering phones, providing exceptional service to the senior staff. They are dedicated and devoted, and I am grateful to all of them. Wayne Peacock and Charles Nicolosi are the IT geniuses who keep the office network running, and train me on each new gadget.
And last, but not least, Sgt. Allan Hatcher of the University Police Department. Allan estimates that he and I have made more than 1,600 trips to Atlanta and back alone.
He has come in at all hours of the day or night to cheerfully see me off on an airplane or to sit in the Hartsfield parking lot, wondering where I am when the plane is three hours late. He has marked time outside innumerable office buildings all across Georgia and beyond. Most important, he has kept anyone from shooting me the past 16 years. Perhaps at times a few of you have entertained that thought. Unfortunately, a few people really have. Allan is always professional, always on duty and always consistent. This job would be impossible without him.
Finally, my eternal gratitude to Mary Adams, who has probably sacrificed more in the past 16 years for my success than anyone else alive. Mere words cannot fully express what she means to me and to the University of Georgia.
She has foregone her own career, spent tens of thousands of hours on behalf of the university’s needs and has been unfailingly cheerful and receptive to groups of every stripe, even when it meant rearranging her life and her schedule in ways that ensured they never knew. No one has ever or ever will be a better university first lady than Mary Adams.
Her gentility, supreme class, taste and graciousness have been recognized by all of you. What you have not seen is her capacity to cut through most of the drivel, as she calls it, and help me focus on what the true needs of the university are.
She has an innate sixth sense about people and about what is important, and what is not.
It is an invaluable skill in a partner. I am forever in her debt.
Many of the places on this campus that may seem to be simply letters on buildings are the names of dear friends now of mine, cemented by the partnerships we forged over a mutual interest in improving this place—D.W. Brooks, Paul Coverdell, Zell Miller, Pete Correll, Joe Frank Harris, Jack Rooker, Rankin Smith, Edgar Rhodes, Mary Virginia and Herman Terry, Charlayne Hunter and the Hamilton Holmes family, and countless others.
These are not just names, not just letters on a plaque; they are the people who have been dear comrades with whom we have plotted and strategized and planned and sacrificed and, sometimes, cried and laughed, all to the benefit of the University of Georgia. I wish there were some way every freshman could know the benefactors who have made their lives so rich today.
It has also been a great pleasure and perk of this job to stimulate the historian in me as I have learned to appreciate deeply and, I hope, through building enhancements, create even more veneration for the great names in Georgia history that were here before me—Candler and Moore and Russell and Sanford and Butts and Mehre and others. I thank the Alumni Association for its partnership in the erecting of the Abraham Baldwin statue on North Campus.
While I can see him from my window, unlike Landrum, I never met him.
I especially want to thank the Foundation chairs with whom I have worked and who all gave great service to the university: Dan Amos, Jim Nalley, Pat Pittard, Jack Rooker, Lynda Courts, Norman Fletcher, Jack Head, Bill Young, Read Morton, Sam Holmes and John Spalding.
In the end, the names are what matter. I value nothing more than the relationships I have established during my time here.
Michelangelo said that the greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we hit it.
To those who say that I have occasionally overreached and tried to do too much, I apologize only if they feel they were not a part of the process.
As I said on the steps of the Chapel my first day on campus, the people of Georgia deserve a flagship institution every bit as good as the people of North Carolina or Michigan or California. I knew the difference between a great liberal arts college, where I had been for nine years, and a great research university, where I am today. The vision here, though, yet needs to be even broader and more comprehensive. This state deserves a flagship as big and bold and grand as Georgia is itself.
To those who believe I cracked too many eggs along the way, I would simply say that it takes an awfully big omelet to feed this animal; cooking that omelet requires cracking the metaphorical eggs.
It is from the penetration of the egg that life springs with great schools and colleges and buildings and students and faculty.
And to those who say I have been too tenacious, I would simply say that there has been competition for every dollar that has come this way—competition for state funds, competition for private money, competition for grant money, competition for tuition money. And by the way, that’s what bulldogs are. They’re tenacious. They latch on. They don’t let go until they win. You should expect no less from a president acting on your behalf.
If people say of me someday, “He was one hell of a bulldog,” that will be good enough for me. I hope it will be for you.