GGC memorializes vice president with street name

Harvel family cutting ribbon

Shown are Harvel’s sister in-law, Susan Aenchbacher, daughters Samantha and Emily Harvel and widow, Martha Aenchbacher-Harvel, GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman, Harvel’s sister, Leslie Harvel and brother, Lester Harvel. 

More than 125 friends, associates and family members braved frigid temperatures Feb. 16 for an outdoor ceremony officially opening Lonnie Harvel Boulevard on the Georgia Gwinnett College campus.

Harvel, who passed unexpectedly Nov. 4, 2010, in Athens, was the college’s vice president of Educational Technology, one of its charter cabinet members and an associate professor of technology.

“GGC is Lonnie’s legacy, and it is fitting that the GGC community will forever be reminded of this every time they enter the main entrances into campus,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. Noting that the street bisected the full width of the campus, he added, “Lonnie Harvel Boulevard touches every part of the GGC campus, just as Lonnie did.”

The new street stretches from University Center Lane near the college’s main entrance and connects with Collins Industrial Way near its intersection with Walther Boulevard. A portion of Lonnie Harvel Boulevard was formerly named Tree Creek Boulevard. The street provides a much-needed route through the northern side of campus from Collins Hill to Walther.

“Lonnie had a way of making connections,” said Anthony Rodriguez, Harvel’s college roommate and producing artistic director of Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre. He described how the street would connect students to friends and experiences that would impact the rest of their lives.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Harvel’s widow, Rev. Martha Aenchbacher-Harvel of Athens First United Methodist Church, recounted how he would excitedly describe what the campus would look like.

“He would describe the library, the student center and the dorms,” she said. Then, gesturing at the now-completed street and quoted him, “‘And back here, there will be a street and it will connect that busy road to that other busy road. Can you see it?’ Yes, Lonnie, we can see it.”

In a lighter moment, Aenchbacher-Harvel noted that while future generations of GGC students would not know who Lonnie was, or what impact he had on their lives, “His name will be logged into their GPS.”

As part of the ceremony, Harvel’s mother, widow and two daughters each received a commemorative street sign. After a ribbon-cutting and reception, Harvel’s family members were the first to drive the newly-opened boulevard.

In addition to the street name, Georgia Gwinnett plans to memorialize Harvel through a scholarship fund named in his honor. During Saturday’s ceremony, the family announced a gift to the Lonnie Harvel Memorial Scholarship. Donations are needed to fund the scholarship. Interested parties can contribute by visiting www.ggc.edu and clicking on, “Give to GGC.”

Harvel directed the operations of centralized computing services and support, networking, telecommunications, desktop computing, and academic/classroom/online technologies for the new institution. He also played a major role in the formulation and implementation of programs essential to the innovative mission of the college.

“Lonnie was a visionary leader,” said Kaufman. “He was passionate about using technology, the language of the 21st century, to help students learn. He was a dear friend and mentor to many, and a unique and wonderful blend of heart, faith, technology and the arts. His view of using technology to support active learning was a foundational facet of GGC’s educational philosophy,”

Harvel was a 30-year veteran of the University System of Georgia. He was a senior research scientist in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He later served as director of the Digital Media Lab, associate director of the Center for Distributed Engineering Education, and an affiliate member of the Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center, all at Georgia Tech. His research included the development of distributed education architectures and applications, mobile interaction, telepresence, context analysis systems and context based content filtering.

While at Georgia Tech, Harvel was an integral guiding influence in a task force of faculty charged with evaluating and implementing technologies that would enhance student learning in electrical and computer engineering. The results of the task force’s efforts and publications attracted considerable funding and in 2001, Georgia Tech was granted an endowed center, the Arbutus Center for Distributed Engineering Education.  This work later formed the basis for many of GGC’s innovative learning models.

Harvel was a popular speaker on educational technology issues, and developed a unique partnership between Georgia Gwinnett College and the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), through which all students and faculty will enjoy the full educational, training and networking benefits of TAG membership.

Of his work at GGC, Harvel once said, “The challenge facing many institutions is the difficulty of integrating new educational technology into old and often outdated infrastructures. Georgia Gwinnett College offers an opportunity to implement a 21st century learning environment; built over a new infrastructure designed to respond quickly to the rapid changes demanded by new technologies. It is an exciting challenge.”

Harvel received his Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech in 2005 and his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Georgia in 1990.  He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in theater, and always maintained his interest in theatrical arts.  He was a driving force in the partnership between Georgia Gwinnett College and Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theater.

“We humbly acknowledge Lonnie’s extraordinary contributions to the college and the thousands of students whose lives he touched, whether they knew him or not,” Kaufman said. “Those contributions will be measured in decades of service to this community, this state and this nation by GGC graduates now and in the years to come.”

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